Cooking with venison…and other random thoughts
Well, it’s that time of the year again–NPR is off and running with their annual winter campaign for funding. After listening to the prompts all week, I finally broke down and bought a “sustaining membership” for $12.50/month. It goes to a good cause and I get a sweet mug so I can walk around Madison and act like the pretentious East Coast ass I know I am. It’ll be great!
Anyways, last week on WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi Show, renowned food critic Corby Kummer talked extensively about the tasting menus offered by chefs throughout the country at high end dining venues. In the segment, Kummer spoke about how he felt that chefs were becoming increasingly tyrannical with their cooking by offering their way (the tasting menu) or no way at all. What happened, he argued, to trying to please the customer?
You can listen to the segment right here (don’t forget to donate!).
On a personal level, I love tasting menus. If I’m ever feeling particularly spend-happy, I’ll get the tasting menu rather than a specific entree. It gives the chef an opportunity to really showcase their skills, and the consumer gets to experience some pretty spectacular flavors and dishes they otherwise wouldn’t be able to have.
How does this relate to venison and my blog title? Well, I used to think that wild game was food reserved for uncultured yokels who hunted in their backyard and then roasted the animal over a makeshift fire with a stick. However, higher end restaurants are increasingly turning out spectacular dishes made with wild game–whether it’s an incredible rabbit terrine or braised venison shank, wild game is becoming more and more a part of the fine dining scene in the US.
So, last semester I went with my roommate to Madison’s excellent Forequarter, a rather pretentious new hipster restaurant that serves unbelievable food. They’ve also been nominated for a James Beard award–and I hope they win! When I went there, I had a delicious veal meatball with escarole. My thinking with this recipe was that, with a pound of venison to kill, I could make something similar. Needless to say, it was a success. Recipe after the break!
Spinach and Venison Meatball Soup (adapted from The Midnight Baker)
- 8 cups chicken broth
- 1lb ground venison
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan (I prefer the sharper romano or locatelli cheeses)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tblsp breadcrumbs (get some day-old bread from your local bakery)
- tablespoon parsley
- 1tsp crushed red pepper
- 3-4 cloves garlic
- Pinch of oregano
- Fresh spinach (5-7oz or so)
Before you do anything, beat together the eggs and the cheese. Set aside.
Mix together the meatballs–add the venison, parsley, garlic, crushed red pepper, oregano, breadcrumbs and a couple of tablespoons of the egg mixture. Roll the meatballs into jawbreaker-sized balls…it should make quite a few meatballs! See the picture below for an example
Now, let’s start on the soup! In a large pot, bring the chicken broth to a boil and add the spinach. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook it for 5-7 minutes or until fully wilted.
Add the meatballs and simmer for another 10-15 minutes–mine took the full 15 minutes to cook all the way through, but you can feel free to check them ahead of time to see how they’re doing. Once that’s complete, add in the remainder of the egg and cheese mixture and bring the soup to a full boil. Cook for a couple more minutes and season with salt and pepper.
Serve with crusty bread and a salad. Enjoy!