It’s not too early in the season to think about venison, one of our favorite fall and winter meats. And for families who don’t like turkey, it’s an excellent alternative for Thanksgiving.
Our friend Rowann grew up in a house with no poultry. Her father hated it. On Thanksgiving, beef replaced the traditional turkey.
But Rowann’s mom could have considered a historically accurate protein for the Thanksgiving menu: venison. Yes, deer abounded in the Pilgrims’ new land. Here’s how Edward Winslow, a senior leader on the Mayflower and one of the original Plymouth Colonists, described the first Thanksgiving feast in a letter to a friend:
“Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruits of our labor. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which we brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.”
Five deer, in addition to the fowl! Yes, venison belongs in a Thanksgiving repast. Not to mention, it’s delicious meat year-round—and better for you than beef.
Why is deer meat called venison instead of deer? Chicken is chicken and fish is fish, after all†.
The reason we call deer meat venison has to do with the Norman Invasion of England in 1066. “Deer” in French is cerf…which doesn’t sound like venison.
Rather, “venison” derives from the Latin word venor, meaning to hunt or pursue.
Following the Norman Invasion and the establishment of the royal forests by the Norman kings, the meat of any hunted animal (game) was called venison. Because more deer were hunted than any other animal, the venison became the word for deer meat.
Thanks to New Zealand Venison for this recipe. In addition to rack of venison, the meat is available in boneless loin, chops, shoulder and other cuts, from stew meat to ground meat.
Prep time is 10 minutes. Cook time, for a rack of 2.5 pounds, is about 45 minutes.
Ingredients For 6 Servings
1. RUB the venison rack with the spices and a bit of sunflower oil, and sear over medium-high heat in a skillet large enough that the meat doesn’t touch the sides. Lightly sear all surfaces, using tongs to turn the rack and to hold it in place while searing.
2. PLACE the skillet in a 350°F oven. To achieve a medium-rare roast, cook at 350°F for 15 minutes per pound (45 minutes for a 2.5-pound rack).
3. REMOVE from the oven and rest under aluminum foil in a warm place for at least 8 minutes.
Prep time 15 minutes, cook time 15 minutes
1. SAUTÉ the onions, bacon, and apples in 1 ounce of butter. Add the herbs and garlic. Add chopped mushrooms. Cook for approximately 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Allow to cool completely.
Making strudel dough can be tricky, so unless you’re skilled with it or want the experience, it may be best to purchase an alternative like puff pastry. They’re not the same‡‡, but the substitution works.
Pastry prep time is 15 minutes, cook time is 25-30 minutes.
1. MIX the egg, salt, water and oil with a whisk. Place the flour in a mixing bowl with a dough hook. On low-speed, pour in the egg mixture and beat or knead for 5 minutes. The mixture should be soft and not too wet.
2. REST for 1/2 hour, and preheat the oven to 425°F.
3. MAKE the egg wash. Crack an egg into a bowl and beat it thoroughly with a fork or whisk. Add 2 tablespoons of water and a pinch of salt. Stir to combine.
4. ROLL the dough out thin. Place the dough on a linen cloth and stretch until almost transparent. It should meeasure 40 cm by 30 cm.
5. SPREAD the filling onto the pastry and roll up. Glaze with egg wash. Sprinkle with dried oregano.
6. BAKE in a 425°F oven until it has a golden crust, 25-30 minutes.
*Wild deer taste more gamey and their flesh is less tender.
†As to why pig is called pork and cow is called beef, here’s an explanation.
‡The Norman Conquest was the 11th-century invasion and occupation of England by an army made up of thousands of troops from French provinces: Normans, Bretons, Flemish, and others. They were led by the Duke of Normandy, later called William the Conqueror. Here’s more about it.
‡‡In puff pastry the butter is folded in. In strudel, the butter is added from the beginning.
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