Wednesday, December 7, 2011

gnocchi with venison and rosemary

This one is one of the dishes that presented me with an interesting challenge. Sure, i could buy venison somehow. But when people eat venison, isn't it usually venison they hunted themselves? With this -- one of two venison dishes in the book -- and a wild boar dish, I wondered if i shouldn't be going out and harvesting a wild animal. And part of me still thinks I should.

Here's the thing: I know nothing about hunting. I've shot a gun about three times in my life, and I was probably pre-teen last time it happened. And it was never at anything more animated than a beer can.

So there was a little bit of talk about me going hunting while I was in Texas. It was deer season. I was intrigued. Then I heard that it was going to cost me at least $300 to get an out-of-state license. I needed like a pound of venison (actually, about three pounds for the two venison dishes I have to do.) That seemed extreme.

Then I heard our Texas friend Tam already had plenty of venison in the freezer from a previous hunting season, and while I was in Texas, I could use that meat and Tam's kitchen. Done and done. 

The meat was sooo lean. I've never seen meat with no fat on it before. I mean none. I was a little unsure how it would stand up to long cooking. But I did what I was told and assumed the best.

For the rest of the dish, I got to go shopping at a farmers market in San Antonio and at Central Market, a store I really wish was here. 

Oh, and the rosemary. Well, I sort of didn't buy that. At home, I'd just go outside and pick some rosemary. I sort of did that in Texas, too. Except in Texas, I picked the rosemary from a plant that was technically landscaping outside the Culinary Institute of America. Shhhhh.

Once I got the meat, this dish was pretty easy. It just simmers in red wine for a couple of hours. 

And the gnocchi go together fast. Just boil the potatoes, mix in a little flour and egg and shape and boil them. To get the potatoes ready for the other ingredients, you'd usually pass them through a ricer. I didn't bring my ricer. So my potatoes were meticulously mashed with the back of a fork. Here is what one gigantic, uncooked gnocchi looks like:

That got separated into about 60 individual gnocchi, then boiled.

Then toss them with the ragu and it's done.

I added a little but of micro arugula on top because they had it at Central Market. And I thought it looked cool. Not in the recipe. I went a little nuts.

Once the meat was cooked and shredded, it was still totally … I don't know if "tender" is the word, because it's all shredded up. There's really nothing there to be tender. But it was a really nice texture, and seemed to soak up a lot of the reduced wine sauce and tasted great with the gnocchi. I get a little testy about gnocchi if they aren't the right texture, but these stayed pretty light. I'd do this again anytime.

Particularly if I have access to venison again, I guess.

Up next: Christmas baking.


Gina Melton said...

Hey Jim:

I'm curious where you would get venison in Florida. As you now know after the bloggers' dinner, my hubby is from texas and he is always requesting venison chili. I'm not really a hunter-- more the gathering sort.

As an aside, isn't central market the most amazing grocery ever?

These gnocci look pretty great.

Anonymous said...

As one of the attendees to that dinner, I can attest that it was DELICIOUS.


Tamfish said...

I guess I am behind the times because I am just now seeing this post! Yes, it was delicious. My kitchen has wept for you ever since. Jimmy & I are happy to supply you with fresh venison (altho now its all gone save for a couple of packages of breakfast sausage) as soon as the season rolls around again. Can you ship fresh meat in the mail? :)