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February 14, 2011

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.

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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:

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Then, I peeled and thiiiiiinly sliced some celery root:

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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:

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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:

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This onion got the same treatment:

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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:

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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:

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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.

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Preheated the oven to 400F degrees and started to get the venison prepared.  Into 2" ring molds went some granola:

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Then, the venison:

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Then, more granola:

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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.

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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......

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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)

Read My Previous Post: Salsify, smoked salmon, dill, caper -- casserole-style

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You're back! And this looks like the first Alinea At Home recipe I feel brave enough to try. Welcome back!

I made this same dish about six months ago, but one the members of my dinner party had an allergy to stone fruits. Thus, to accomodate, I made a version of the sauce with cranberries (and subbed cranberries in the granola). Much to my surprise, the cranberry version of the sauce was waaay better. The tartness of the cranberries brightened up the sauce and gave the dish a little more depth and vibrancy that the cherry sauce was missing. It made the cherry sauce seem one note in comparison. So next time you make the dish, I strongly suggest substituting cranberries for the cherries. It really improves the dish. (no offense Chef Achatz)

And I'm very sorry to hear about your rough couple of weeks. My condolences.

Cooking is such wonderful therapy, isn't it? Hope things start looking up for you!

Wow, what a few weeks! Sorry to hear about all the stress and trauma.

Like this others, this was one of the few recipes in the book I decided to try. Mine looks soooooo different! :)

Carol, I'm so sorry about your week. Truly. Those weeks...well, you know.

This recipe is amazing, and as we have our very own Red Deer Farm right here in Lyme, I am heading over there TODAY to get a loin, and this dish WILL be on the menu this week.

Lots of love directed down toward your neck of the woods from NH,

Jess

Where do you get your micro greens? I've had a hard time finding them in the DC/NoVA area.

[I grow them myself. :) --CB]

I was wondering why I had to wait so long for a post (how's that for sounding entitled?). So sorry for your last few weeks. Amazing the solace that being focused on cooking can bring, no? Thoughts and prayers for your friends.....

That dish looks amazing and I'm not sure how you restrained yourself from just shoving the granola into your mouth all by itself. Dex is adorable. So very sorry about your friends and hideous times lately. The kitchen can truly be our zen place and there is nothing like good food enjoyed with good friends to lift the spirits.

You think your last few weeks sucked? Ask the deer that provided the venison for your carnivorous desires about the last two weeks. I have often been tempted to wrestle one of my lawn crossing Bambis to the ground in a display of fair-play meat harvesting. I fear that they would win. It is good to see that you can make your situation a little better by screwing with the life of another one of God's cute and tasty critters. D'Artagnan is pretty good about harvesting and using as much of the carcass as they can, are they not? Thanks for the post. I am always a little heart-broken when I see road-kill deer that will not be fully appreciated for their sacrifice. The crows and other carrion-munching neighbors let too much of it go to waste.

Welcome back! We missed you!

My daughter brought me a venison leg the last time she stopped in (I should have her come by more often, right?). I plan to use most of it for sausage, but perhaps the nicest, tenderest parts could be used for this, eh?

I'm with you on the celery root. Why have I never thought to make it at home?

It's been a rough few weeks here as well. Doing something sure beats brooding over it. I've been gardening, baking and cleaning. Glad to have you back, again.

Gorgeous! There's celery root puree in my near future.

Sorry about the hellaciousness. I have immersed myself in cooking during such times, too.

I'm sorry to hear about your rough time. I've also had a rough few months, though nowhere near what you've gone through. Seeing a new post on your blog made it all just a tad better. :-)
Thank you for doing it and doing such a great job with the cooking and the writing.

Ugh, I am heartsick for you and your friends... what a crap month. I'm so sorry.

On the positive side: a dog that cute who also loves vegetables? You win. (My dogs like veggies, too -- total omnivores.)

And the oat bubbles? Totally wouldn't have known you'd messed it up if you hadn't said something. Looks totally pro to me.

I'm so sorry to hear about all the bad news, but I am thrilled to see you are back with a great post. Looking forward to the Goose.

I am so sorry to hear about all your friends! I'll be saying a prayer for their recovery and one for you as well! Hang in there Carol! Hugs

Hah! My last dog Shayna, may she rest in peace, was a total vegetable freak. One time when my back was turned she got a whole head of broccoli and was ripping it up with great gusto.

Meanwhile my cat stole some pork liver pate from me on valentine's day. Clearly a food snob. (to be fair it looked and almost the same texture as his catfood but he sure did enjoy it)

Oh man. This post was excellent in so many ways.

I just found out this afternoon that my grandmother passed away. Thank you for putting into words why you cook when you're coping with something terrible... that's exactly how I'm feeling right now. And reading through your post, cooking vicariously, has made me feel a bit better.

You've inspired me to put down the Kleenex and hit the kitchen for my own culinary therapy session. I wish I had a dog as adorable as yours to keep me company!

Going into the kitchen and producing something useful and/or beautiful and/or delicious helped me through the hardest time in my life. I am glad cooking has provided solace and sustenance for you during this very rough patch as well.

Of course, you have taken it a step farther than I did by producing a blog that inspires others to get into the kitchen. And I know this because your French Laundry blog was there for me during my own tough time and helped me get off the couch or out of bed and into the kitchen or off to the grocery store.

So thank you and take care.

I completely know what you mean about the dishwasher in the background. My partner is going through chemotherapy and while I'm grateful to have friends bringing over food & groceries, I really can't stand to be out of my kitchen very long; I feel rootless. There's something about being competent in one's own space that does restore sanity.

I am sorry to hear that things have been so stinkin' hard. Thank you for posting this dish--it sounds fantastic.

[Sending good thoughts your way..... --CB]

I'm sorry you're having/have had a rough time. So many things all at once. Overwhelming. Sounds like you've got a handle on it, but it doesn't sound easy.

This dish, however, sounds really wonderful. I raised European fallow deer for venison for ten years and cooked it aplenty. However, I only ever had the "trim" - legs and lots of ground meat, never the loin, which went to local restaurants.

I like venison a lot and think I might get the gumption to try an abbreviated version of this.

I made this dish for the first time 2 weekends ago and it turned out much like yours. The savory granola is a revelation and the way it pairs with the venison is brilliant. I also couldn't get the toasted oat bubbles to work (what's up with that?) but I found a great way to use all that toasted oat-infused milk. Here's what I did, I took 2 cups of heavy cream and brought it to a simmer. I added about a half cup of sugar and a tablespoon of vanilla extract to 5 egg yolks and whisked to dissolve. I tempered the eggs with the cream, then added two cups of the oat milk, put it back on the stove and got it to 180F, cooled it off and put it in the ice cream maker. Right before it was done I drizzled a few tablespoon of maple syrup in and voila - toasted oat and maple ice cream. It is absolutely awesome, like breakfast for dessert.

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