Weird Crap I Cook: Hunters Pie with Roasted Bone Marrow Gravy

I wrote this entire post and wordpress reverted back to only the first sentence despite saving often.  I don’t think the original was brilliant, but my rage in the aftermath didn’t lend itself to good writing.  My apologies in advance.

Every once in a while I get stir crazy to use some of the awesome things I keep in my freezer.  This post is about one of the meals that came out of those fits.

I pulled a pound and a half of ground venison and a stick of beef marrow out of the freezer to thaw for a few days and thought about what to make.

Didn't bother showing a shot of the marrow since I covered that a couple posts ago

Ground venison is extremely lean which makes it dry and chewy when cooked.  A variation on shepherds pie seemed like the best way to hide some of the texture issues.

Before I dive into the cooking, my friend Annie is selling pies to raise money for charity through the Pie in the Sky program.  It’s an awesome cause, pie is delicious, and… pie is delicious.  Click here to buy yerself a pie.

I started out with the ingredients that would take the longest to cook.  In this case, the celery root that would become the top layer of what I decided to call “hunters pie”.

Won't dwell on the celery root prep process too much, it's been well covered in my recent celery root blitz

Along with a peeled yukon gold potato and a half onion, the cubed celery root went into a pot of boiling half milk/half water and salt to cook for thirty minutes.  I was hoping that the celery root puree would be smoother than the traditional mashed potato layer but also thicker than the layer I added to the moussaka.

While that cooked, I started working on the middle layer of the pie that would have been corn in a normal shepherds pie.  With the top and bottom layers featuring strong savory flavors, I needed a solid contrasting sweetness.  Cooked carrots seemed up to the challenge.

I had an extremely random Danity Kane reference in the previous sentence before I decided I was trying too hard to be funny. So, that actually does happen occasionally, but obviously not enough

The plan was to dice the carrots small, season them with salt, pepper and equal parts maple syrup and olive oil, then oven roast over high heat.  My goal was to have the carrots cook completely with a crispy outside to give an additional contrasting texture to the pie.

Hate using tin foil like this, but you can destroy a pan when maple syrup is involved

With the carrots ready to go, I prepped the ingredients for what would eventually become the gravy.  Pretty simple really, just tossed some thick sliced mushrooms with olive oil, salt and pepper and placed them in a pan with the stick of bone marrow.

To clarify the Danity Kane comment (thus eliminating any trace of humor from the reference) I had a former coworker that sang parts of the song constantly, particularly an upstate New York accent take on the line, "Baby, are you up to the challenge?". Danity Kane was a group created on a P. Diddy reality show. I really have no easy out from this caption

Both pans headed into a 425F oven on the top rack to cook for 20 minutes, including five minutes under the broiler to add some color.

Will never get used to sending a whole frying pan into the oven. Not because of the cooking, but just because I am pretty stupid and forgetful so I will try to remove it from the oven by the handle without a towel

With the carrots and the gravy base almost complete, I began work on the ground venison base for the hunters pie.  Sticking to all that I know about venison and how well it goes with onions, I started off with caramelizing a medium chopped yellow onion in a little bacon fat and butter.  Once the onions had some nice color, I added a little more butter and 3/4 pound of the ground venison.

Never ceases to amaze me how deep red in color raw venison is. I love this meat, thank god I am friends with people who choose to hunt in their spare time instead of spending a majority of their Saturday trying to remember who the winner, runner-up, and sneaky stars were on each of the first 7 seasons of American Idol

A few minutes later, all ingredients for the pie and the gravy base were done simultaneously.

When I saw this I sounded like Dr. Dre at the start of "Dre Day". Way too many stupid music references in this post but this one is incredibly accurate

That crazy char bubble on the front side is why the foil was necessary. That pan was going to end up in the trash otherwise

This obsession will end soon, but celery root puree is really the bee's knees

The fat had rendered out of the marrow and that remaining lump in the center is actually hollow. Smelled awesome

With all of the layers prepped, they all headed into a casserole dish for baking.

Easily one of the most boring fully assembled final dish shots I've ever taken. Completely anonymous pile of food. That could be an iced carrot cake under there

The whole dish went into a 350F oven to cook for 20 minutes together.  While that was going on, I pulled the mushrooms and remaining marrow solids out of the pan and transferred them to a cutting board.   The remaining fat and juices went over medium heat on the stove top with a hearty sprinkle of flour to cook for 6-8 minutes stirring regularly.

Gravy making is impossible to photo document as a one man crew; too much whisking involved. Kristi was exempt from action shots due to a fussy Janet

Once the color of the flour and drippings had darkened a little bit, I poured in a good splash of dry sherry, probably around a half cup, whisking constantly.  After the clumpy remaining mixture cooked for another minute or so, I whisked in an additional half cup of beef broth and added the chopped mushrooms and marrow solids back in with salt and pepper.

That's a nice looking gravy. Gravy is the friggin' best

And, sadly, with that the photos are done for this blog post.  I somehow never took the time to snap a shot as I spooned out each bowl.  In a bowl, the components were all clearly visible, with the ribbon of bright orange carrots clearly dividing the celery root mash from the ground venison mixture.  Wasn’t visually stunning or anything, just nicer looking than the white on white contrast of the last picture in the blog.

The pie was one of the best things I’ve made in a long time.  The ground venison had just the right amount of caramelized onions and saltiness to make sure it stood out among the other ingredients.  The carrots didn’t have quite as much texture as I had hoped, but the sweetness and carrot flavor was a a great contrast to the salty layers.  The celery root was like creamy mashed potatoes with a strong black pepper and celery flavor.

Despite being the most balanced dish I had ever made, the true hero was the roasted bone marrow and mushroom gravy.  The sherry flavor was rich, sweet, and wine-y, and the mushrooms had taken on a flavor that was close to truffles during the roasting process.  A perfect topping to the dish.

Thanks for reading, will share my first experience with slow roasted bolognese next week.

3 thoughts on “Weird Crap I Cook: Hunters Pie with Roasted Bone Marrow Gravy

  1. In all fairness to the bone marrow, I think YOU were the hero here Peter. I had a nice portion of this dish and it was excellent. And from a fussy eater like me that is saying something! I have pretty much had every dish covered on this blog and this one was one of my faves.

  2. Thanks for the shout out, Pete! Only a couple more days to buy pies! Also, I obviously appreciated the Danity Kane reference. Do, do you got a first-aid kit handy? Do, do you know how to patch up a wound? Bad lyrics. Good song. Great post.

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