Page 37 - The Valley Table - January/February 2021
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                                 distributes venison through eight regional food banks in New York State, at no cost to the hunter.
Venison may be versatile, organic and lean, but how
do you keep it from tasting gamey, tough and bland? “It’s
a tricky protein to deal with,” says Executive Chef Jesse Frederick of Butterfield at Hasbrouck House in Stone Ridge. “It’s easily overcooked if not handled properly. It’s super lean; there’s not much marbling throughout the meat. Chefs try to cook [it to a lower temperature than what’s] normal for rare beef. Err on the side of not overcooking.”
While it’s “excellent” as a tartare, Frederick also recommends a slow, longer cook for cuts like shank, neck and chuck, so that it’s tender for inclusion in chili, Italian ragù, stroganoff or goulash. Popular among Frederick’s repertoire of venison entrées at Butterfield is “What a Deer Eats,” featuring venison from Highland Farm, spiced black trumpet crust, greens, parsnips, fruit and nuts. “The idea is: You-are-what-you-eat eats. What grows together, goes together,” says Frederick.
Game meat, like venison, is part of the cultural experience at Bia in Rhinebeck, too. “We’re an Irish-inspired restaurant, and game is a big part of the menu,” says Executive Chef Rich Reeve. “We want to incorporate game as often as possible. I think people think of game as high-scale,
like venison medallions or venison sausage croquettes.”
On the dinner menu Reeve gives venison a more casual
interpretation as a schnitzel, accompanied by a creamy dill potato salad and house-made cranberry chutney.
Both Frederick and Reeve serve venison year-round from local, farm-raised deer. At Highland Farm in Germantown, Claire MacNamara and her husband are the on-site managers of the family-owned, 55-acre farm started by her parents, Mark and Martha MacNamara. The family has been supplying the Northeast with farm-raised venison for more than 30 years.
“We mostly started with venison,” says Claire. “It continues to be at the heart of what we do. We raise a couple different species of deer. We process right here
on the farm. You want your farmer to care and love
their animals.” In addition to supplying venison to local restaurants, Highland Farm offers their own fresh cuts, smoked products, and jerky for sale directly to consumers.
At Butterfield, Frederick expects to continue serving venison this winter. “I enjoy cooking with venison. It represents not only American cuisine, but regional also,” he says. “This has been a really tricky year for everyone. We’re going back to the old ways, things we did so we could sustain the winter.” 
Traditionally, guylas, or Hungarian sheepherders, would put mutton in a large pot in the morning, spice it with paprika, and let it cook while they worked the flock. At the end of the day, their meal was warm and waiting. Cuts of venison suited for stews and braises, such as shoulder, neck, and shank, work well here.
2 tablespoons butter
2 lbs venison, cut into 1⁄4-inch cubes 1 medium carrot, cut into small dice 1 medium onion, cut into small dice 1⁄4 cup paprika
2 cups beef broth
1 lb fresh pasta or spaetzle
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1⁄2 cup sour cream
1. In a heavy-bottomed pot, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add venison and sear until well browned. Remove meat;
add the carrot and onion; and cook until the vegetables are softened and browned.
2. Add venison back to the pot, along with the broth and paprika. Simmer over medium heat until the meat is tender, about 45 minutes.
3. Bring 1 gallon of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta or spaetzle until al dente. Divide cooked pasta among four bowls and top with venison guylas. Garnish with chopped chives and finish each bowl with a dollop of sour cream.
 photos courtesy of highland farm (top); by ashley ruprecht (right)
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