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.