Monday, January 08, 2007

Come Here, My Deer

When Homey flew in from Iowa, he brought more goodies than just a couple of bass guitars.

He also smuggled in some fresh-kill venison for me. His buddy had shot the deer -- with a permit -- and then had it cleaned, packaged, and delivered to Homey frozen solid. Solid enough to survive the journey from Des Moines to LaGuardia without breaking a sweat. So now Margy and I had two venison round steaks (not the best cut, admittedly, but what's he gonna do, give us the loin?), plus some ground deer to boot. It was exciting to have a little contraband, not to mention a little venison, which I'd never cooked before, in our house.

When I defrosted the steaks, their deep purple color freaked Margy out. But she's a toughie, and she's enjoyed eating venison before. She'd just never seen it raw. Me, I was still humming with the thrill of discovery.

I seasoned the steaks with salt and a mixture of toasted, cracked peppercorns (black, white, Szechuan), then slathered them with chive butter and tossed them on a hot grill. Now, everybody tells you to be careful not to overcook venison, which can happen easily due to its low fat content. I am here to tell you they're right. Our steaks were thin, and I figured I'd cook them for two minutes per side... but I knew that if they were even remotely undercooked I might lose Margy completely. I went to lift them off the grill, and I flinched, thinking I could see a visibly underdone portion. I waited another minute.

Oops. Overdone.

But not badly. Still, I didn't have a second chance -- no one else is bringing me deer meat -- and it was tempting to sink into the depths of despair. Margy, though, who'd been suspicious enough not to mind the lack of perfect pinkness, kept my spirits up by telling me the steak was delicious, which I admit it was, just a little tougher than I'd wanted it. Deep purple hue aside, I could tell by looking at the raw steaks that they were good specimens, and I knew they were about as fresh as frozen meat can be. Once cooked, the venison looked a lot like beef, and it didn't taste wildly different. I did not detect any kind of distinct gaminess, which I doubt I'd have minded anyway, since I love eating things like lamb and game birds. And my consolation was that the part closest to the bone was the right shade of pink.

Next up, venison chili.

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