Leg of Venison with Mushroom Spaetzle and Pear Brandy Braised Cabbage
- 1 pound Denver leg of venison, cleaned and left in muscle groups, or a 1 pound portion of a loin, see cook's note
- 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
- 2 tablespoons juniper berries
- 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
- 2 tablespoons dried thyme
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
- Mushroom Spaetzle:
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 tablespoons ground dried mushrooms (use a spice mill)
- 1 cup flour
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 2 tablespoons minced mixed fresh thyme, flat leaf parsley, and chives
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 1/4 pound fresh chanterelles, cleaned, dried, and halved or quartered to be roughly the same size
- Pear Brandy Braised Red Cabbage:
- 2 whole cloves
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon juniper berries
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus 2 tablespoons
- 1 small yellow onion, halved vertically and cut into half moons
- 1 small head red cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
- 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 2 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup pear brandy
- 1/2 cup pear or apple cider
- 1 large anjou, French butter or bosc pear, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
To prepare the venison: In a spice grinder or food processor, grind the peppercorns, juniper berries, fennel seeds, and thyme together. Mix with the olive oil and rub the venison. Cover and let stand in the refrigerator for 4 to 12 hours. Remove the venison from the refrigerator 1 hour before cooking to come to room temperature.
To make the spaetzle: In a small saucepan, heat the milk over low heat just until it simmers. Remove from heat, stir in the ground mushrooms, and let stand for 15 minutes. In a large bowl, combine the milk mixture, flour, egg, herbs, salt and pepper. Mix the batter until smooth, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Place a colander or perforated pan over (not touching) the boiling water. Pour the batter into the colander or pan. Using a rubber spatula or your hand, quickly press the batter through the holes into the boiling water. Once all of the batter has been forced through the holes, remove the colander or pan. Stir the spaetzle and cook for 1 minute. Drain well and toss with a little olive oil; set aside.
To make the cabbage: In a spice mill, grind the cloves, fennel, and juniper; set aside. In a 4-quart pot, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. And the onion and saute for 3 minutes, or until translucent. Mix in the cabbage, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and 1 teaspoon of the pepper, and cook until the cabbage begins to wilt. Stir in the brandy, cider, and spices. Add the diced pear, cover, and cook, stirring frequently, for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the cabbage is tender. Cover and keep warm until serving.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and brown the venison on all sides. Place on a rack in a roasting pan and roast in the oven for 15 minutes for medium rare. For medium done, roast 6 to 7 minutes longer. Remove the venison from the oven, cover loosely with aluminum foil, and let stand for 5 minutes before slicing.
Using a 10-inch nonstick skillet, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter over medium high heat. Add the chanterelle mushrooms and saute for 2 to 3 minutes until they begin to brown lightly and then add the spaetzle, season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper, and cook until brown and crispy.
To serve, portion the braised cabbage and spaetzle onto each plate. Thinly slice each piece of venison and place on top.
Cook's Note: Venison is rarely found in retail stores and usually must be ordered by mail or from a wholesale meat company. It comes in standard cuts, similar to those for lamb, veal, or beef. The leg is one of my favorite cuts because it offers great flavor with little waste. Any tender cut of venison, such as the loin, leg, or saddle, may be used in the following recipe. Part of the current popularity of game and fowl is the natural leanness of the meat. Because it lacks fat, the meat does not have a built-in basting method to help keep it moist during cooking. For this reason, it is particularly important that game and fowl not be overcooked. This is certainly the case with venison, as even the most tender or carefully braised pieces can become dry if not handled carefully. Medium rare to rare is the most desirable degree of doneness. I like to use a marinade that enhances the flavor of venison without overpowering it. A few hours before cooking, I rub the meat with a mixture of equal parts freshly ground black pepper, juniper berries, and fennel seeds mixed with a little dried thyme and olive oil. Spaetzle is a classic Austrian noodle. The batter is passed through a perforated pan into boiling water to produce the noodles, which are then cooked in hot butter until golden brown and crispy. By introducing vegetable purees or ground spices into the mix, you can transform this somewhat uneventful white noodle into an innovative starch. This recipe adds dried mushrooms to the spaetzle dough and is a great game accompaniment.
This recipe was provided by professional chefs and has been scaled down from a bulk recipe provided by a restaurant. The FN chefs have not tested this recipe, in the proportions indicated, and therefore, we cannot make any representation as to the results.
Cory Schreiber, Wildwood Restaurant, Portland, Oregon
Recipe courtesy of Emeril Lagasse