Venison, encased in savory granola
A friend's divorce.
Another friend's broken engagement.
Two colleagues diagnosed with cancer; one of them dying just days after being diagnosed.
A third friend's cancer rages back, forcing her to be admitted to hospice care.
Work frustrations and humiliations that in light of everything else are so minor, and yet kicked me while I was already down.
It's been a hellish three weeks since I last logged onto this blog and, as a result, on Saturday I needed to cook. I needed to do something tactile and productive that didn't require a lot of thinking. I needed to make my kitchen smell like someone actually cooks in it. I needed to feel the weight of my knife in my hand. I needed to follow my instincts. I needed to feel like I could do something right. I needed to focus on something other than the outside world. I needed to have my friends around my dining room table. And, I know this sounds strange, but I needed to hear the comforting white noise the dishwasher makes as it's doing its thing. All of this brought be back to center -- or at least as close to center as I ever get -- and set the tone for one of the most relaxing Sundays I've ever had.
Here's to good health, comfort, friends, support, and sanity. All things I'm incredibly lucky to have.
* * * * *
When I originally planned to make this dish, I hoped I'd be able to go hunting with a friend of mine and bring home a nice deer loin to use in this dish. Sadly, the timing didn't work, and I had to look elsewhere for a loin. If I didn't live in such an uptight, hippified town, I'd just shoot one of the dozens of deer that stroll through my yard every night. But alas, I cannot.
Thankfully, Wegmans carries D'Artagnan products, so I didn't have to look very far.
I covered the venison pieces with a wet paper towel and stored them in the fridge while I prepped everything else.
The granola the venison gets encased in made me drool just by looking at the recipe. Onions and celery root and cherries and pistachios and rice? Aaaaaahhhhhh....
I puffed (a.k.a. deep-fried) some rice:
Then, I peeled and thiiiiiinly sliced some celery root:
Oh, and by the way? This dog of mine? LOVES VEGETABLES. As I started slicing the celery root, he darted out from under the pile of blankets he likes to burrow and gave me this face:
So, of course I gave him a few slices of the celery root (which he gobbled down in no time). The rest got tossed in cornstarch and deep fried in canola oil at 275F degrees for a few minutes:
This onion got the same treatment:
I roasted some oats in the oven for 10 minutes, chopped some pistachios and dried cherries, and tossed them in a bowl with the celery root, onion, and rice. Then, I added some salt, pepper, allspice, and a mixture of melted glucose and honey, and ended up with this:
I let it sit out at room temperature while I made the celery root purée. I peeled and cubed a medium-sized celery root, and simmered it in heavy cream for about 30 minutes. Then, I poured everything into the blender and puréed the heck out of it:
I pushed it through a fine-mesh strainer. You'll see the final purée in the plating photo at the end of the post.
The last prep step I had to take was making the cherry sauce to spoon over the celery root purée. This lovely small saucepan contains dried cherries, ruby port, and cabernet sauvignon. I brought it to a boil, then simmered it, then added veal stock, brought it up to a boil, then reduced, strained, and reduced further. You guys? I kind of want to marry this sauce.
Preheated the oven to 400F degrees and started to get the venison prepared. Into 2" ring molds went some granola:
Then, the venison:
Then, more granola:
I put it in the oven for three minutes, then flipped each cylinder using an offset spatula and cooked it for another three minutes. I could tell it wasn't going to hold up like the one in the photo in the cookbook, but I really didn't care. You know why? 'Cause this smelled amazing. Really and truly. I couldn't wait to eat it... I didn't care what it looked like, 'cause I knew it would make me really, really happy as soon as it was in my mouth.
One little note before we get to the money shot: there's a "toasted oat bubbles" component to this dish that I failed pretty miserably at. I roasted the oats, steeped them in milk and water, then strained them. When I went to add the salt and soy lecithin (it's what makes it bubble), I couldn't find it in the pantry, and realized I'd ordered more agar agar instead of soy lecithin (duh), so I couldn't make it foam. I put it into a siphon canister and discharged an NO2 cartridge, thinking I might be able to rescue it that way, but you'll see in the photo that it just looks like milk that someone blew bubbles into using a straw.
But everything else is pretty......
The green garnishes are chives and micro sage leaves.
You'll see the venison is not 100% encased in the granola. You'll also note that I 100% don't care.
This was really, really good. Everytime I have celery root purée in a restaurant, I'm reminded of how much I love it, and yet I never make it at home. That's stupid. It's so good, and so freakin' easy to do. I need to make it more often. The cherry-wine-veal stock sauce was ridiculous. The venison was tender, and the granola? Wow-effing-zers. I have leftovers and plan to eat it with some duck I've got ready to roast later in the week. Even the oaty milk was good, and bolstered the light heartiness of this plate of food.
It was a lovely dish on a chilly night with my dearest neighbor friends, and it made everything in the world alright again.
Exactly what I needed.
Up Next: Goose, blood orange, sage, roasting goose aromas
Resources: Venison from D'Artagnan; veal stock from my freezer; Lundberg rice; 365 canola oil; produce and aromatics from Wegmans; Hodgson Mill cornstarch; David's kosher salt; Bob's Red Mill oats; allspice, pistachios, and dried cherries from the TPSS Co-op; Toigo Orchards honey; Natural by Nature heavy cream and milk; Sandeman ruby port; Jericho Canyon 2006 cabernet sauvignon.
Music to Cook By: Duran Duran; All You Need is Now. It's almost better than Rio. I'm not even kidding. I love this album so much. Though, I caution against listening to it whilst driving on the highway, 'cause it makes you wanna go kinda fast, which might mean a speeding ticket. (damn it)
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