Venison Recipe

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Seared Venison with Mushroom Ragu
By Charlie Burke

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For the last two years the New Hampshire Farm to Restaurant Connection  has
sponsored Growers’ dinners, featuring the finest New Hampshire products at
leading restaurants in the state.

The first was held at the Bedford Village Inn, and the Inn’s former Chef, Joe
Brenner, served fabulous roasted venison from
Bonnie Brae Farm in Plymouth,
New Hampshire. The entire meal was excellent, but the venison was clearly the
consensus favorite, with diners’ commenting on the tenderness and rich flavor
which had none of the strong “gamey” taste so often found in venison which is
improperly handle or cooked. This year, Chef Sebastian Carosi featured Bonnie
Brae venison in a carpaccio at a Growers’ Dinner held at The Shaker Table in
Canterbury. It was so popular he kept it on his menu for the rest of the summer!

Since 1994, Henry and Cindy Ahern have raised deer on their 200 acre family
farm, improving their breeding stock of Red Deer descended from German,
Scottish and Yugoslavian herds and producing meat of the highest quality.
Their venison is served in high end restaurants throughout New England, and
Bonnie Brae Farm was featured on Food Finds on The Food Network. Henry is
a tireless promoter of farm raised venison and elk, as well as all locally
produced agricultural products, and he is seen at agricultural meetings
throughout New Hampshire.

We were discussing the high demand for loin and rib sections which are very
tender and are easily cooked for steaks and roasts, and I asked Henry and
Cindy for a less popular cut, believing we could adapt recipes for these, as
well. We knew the shanks work well like lamb or veal shanks in osso buco type
braises, but I wondered if the leaner, less tender cuts could be cooked like
similar cuts of beef, such as flank steak.

Henry brought me a beautiful bottom round piece – deep red and free of fat
and silver skin. The grain was easily seen, and I could tell it would be tender if
cut into thin strips across the grain and seared at high heat. I fired up the sauté
pan and cooked a few strips which had been lightly seasoned with only salt
and pepper. Cooked to a medium pink, they were tender and flavorful, so it
was clear they could be cooked without marinades or sauces and served like
any red meat.

Like lamb or beef, however, this cut obviously would work with favorite
seasonings, limited only by the cook’s imagination. I decided to make a red
wine reduction as a sauce and serve the venison with a rich mushroom ragu. I
also set aside some of the slices to marinate in one of our favorite oriental style
flank steak marinades using soy sauce, chopped ginger and garlic. We cooked
both and sampled them for dinner last night and found the meat to be tender
and flavorful, perfectly adapted to both preparations.

Four servings venison:

1 – 1 ½ pounds bottom round venison, sliced across the grain in 1/8 inch slices
2 shallots, chopped
½ cup chicken stock
½ cup red wine such as Shiraz or Zinfandel
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil

Mushroom ragu:

1 pound mixed mushrooms, such as button, portabella and shitake, roughly
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon tomato paste (when using small amounts of tomato paste, buy it
in tubes and store in refrigerator)
1/3 cup red wine
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary (substitute 1 teaspoon dried oregano or
herbes de Provence)
2 teaspoons salt, freshly ground pepper to taste

Prepare mushrooms:

Put sauté pan over high heat and add olive oil. Add mushrooms, salt, pepper
and herbs. Cook over high heat, tossing and stirring. When liquid evaporates
and mushrooms start to brown, add tomato paste and garlic, stirring for 2 – 3
more minutes. Add wine and cook until it evaporates. Correct seasoning and
set aside. Reheat over medium heat as venison finishes.

Sauté venison:

Heat second pan over high heat, add oil. Salt and pepper venison and add to
pan when oil is shimmering. Do not crowd; if the pan is not large enough to
hold the meat easily in 1 layer, do it in two batches because the moisture must
evaporate if the meat is to brown. Watch closely, and turn the pieces as the
edges turn light. Cook until slightly browned with pink interior. Remove
venison from pan and add chopped shallots. Cook shallots for a minute or so
until soft, add wine and chicken stock and reduce until slightly thickened –
about half original volume. Turn heat off, swirl in butter and return meat to the
pan. Quickly toss the venison so that it is well coated and serve with the
mushrooms. Roasted potatoes or a
potato pancakes would go well, as would a
salad with balsamic dressing. Serve the same fruity red wine used in the recipe.

Check out Bonnie Brae’s website or find a source in your area for farm raised
venison and see why leading chefs are so eager to serve this flavorful and
healthy meat. The more tender cuts can be prepared just as you prepare lamb
and beef, and, as this recipe shows, outstanding dishes can be had with bottom
round and other less popular cuts of venison. This venison is of the highest
quality, raised without hormones and other additives and is another great
example of the healthy advantages of buying locally.

About the author: An organic farmer and avid cook, writer Charlie Burke is the
vice president of the New Hampshire Farmer’s Market Association (
www. and helps run the Sanbornton Farmers' Market. Along with his wife,
Joanne, he grows certified organic herbs, greens and berriesat Weather Hill
Farm in Sanbornton, NH.  
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