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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A few minutes later, all ingredients for the pie and the gravy base were done simultaneously.
With all of the layers prepped, they all headed into a casserole dish for baking.
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.
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.
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.