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Friday, June 22, 2018

Eat Your Vegetables

Come summer, I long for the smell of my grandmother's  floral cotton dresses. Almost threadbare from wear, they smelled of powder, lavender, love, and hard work. Draped across her belly with miss-matched aprons adorned with large patchwork pockets,  those faded cotton dresses were the summer uniforms she donned to take care of the homestead and tend to the garden. Just steps from the back door and enclosed with barbed wire fencing covered in grape vines to keep the cattle at bay, the garden always needed tending. Apple trees edged the garden like watchtowers , providing shade from the sun and respite from the heat. It was my secret garden. Her secret garden. Lush. Private. Safe.

Although every summer day seemed like high season on the farm, midsummer upped the garden ante. Warm sun-kissed tomatoes hung heavy form their vines or fell to the ground begging to be gathered, sliced, salted, and eaten. Greens beans always needed snapping. Carrots and onions had to be pulled. All the while, endless meandering vines of summer squash and cucumbers twisted their way through everything. Gardening. Country work. Hard work. Armed with her curious aprons (the tools of her trade), my grandmother methodically worked the rows of the garden, filling her pockets with whatever was ripe for the picking. When she wasn't gathering, she was cooking. No the matter the hits and misses along the way, she plodded on and cooked with crazed abandon. Her fried green tomatoes and  marinated cucumbers  were the stuff of dreams. When the corn rolled in,  her fresh pan fried corn could make farm hands weep.  That said, there were times when she drowned boiled carrots in off brand margarine, obliterated summer squash before smothering them in black pepper, and hammered green beans until they became one with her bacon grease. Either too young to care or too naive to know better, I loved every single bite. Like a good farm boy, I ate my vegetables. I adored my vegetables. I still do. And while I don't much obliterate or boil them to death these days, I still enjoy a bit of heat and char.


Pan Roasted Chili Glazed  Carrots And Radishes.

Heat.
Not my grandmother's heavy handed back pepper.
After blooming 1 tablespoon smoked paprika in 2 tablespoons unsalted butter over a medium flame, I added 3/4 cup Cracklin' Hen hot pepper sauce, 1/4 cup local honey, and 2 tablespoons brown sugar. When the honey melted into the sweetened buttery hot sauce, I pulled it from the heat and set it aside.

The roots of the matter. 
What grows together goes together.
Even banged up with dirt and soil, French breakfast radishes are stunners. When bunched together, they explode from their feathery greens to steal the show. I'm a sucker for showstoppers. Tossed in salads or swiped through butter with a dab of salt, raw radishes bring peppery spice to the party.When cooked, they transform into sweet translucent jewels with surprisingly mild turnip-like undertones.
Game on.

I simply snipped the greens off a hearty large bunch of Stonehedge Farm French radishes, gave them a quick wash, and set them aside.

Bunched up as stubs or bundled up as slender beauties, locally gown tender sweet carrots have no comparison. Beauty plays second fiddle to taste. Without much fuss, I sliced the carrot tops from 1 pound Stonehedge pencil thin carrots. Leaving the fragile skins intact, I gently rinsed the unpeeled carrots, and set them aside.

My grandmother knew her way around a cast iron skillet. Most farm folks did and still do. Count me in. These days, they might seem old fashioned in the age of sous vide and high performance cookware, but they've endured for a reason. They're workhorses. For the lucky few, our hand-me- down cast iron  skillets are tangible tactile legacies seasoned with time and love.

After sliding a large cast iron skillet over a medium high flame, I add 2 tablespoons bacon grease (from my stash) and 1 tablespoon butter. Just before the butter took on color, I tumbled the carrots and radishes (reserving a few radishes) into the pan and let them rip, undisturbed, for about 5 minutes. When they started to caramelize just a bit, I turned the vegetables over, shook the skillet to settle them down into the oil, and let them go for another 5 minutes before adding 1/4 cup of the chili sauce.  After cranking the heat to medium high, I let the chili sauce reduce until the carrots and radishes were draped in a light spicy sweet glaze.

I pulled the skillet from the heat, splashed the vegetables with fresh lemon juice, and  hit them with kosher salt before finishing with Mercer County micro greens, Elmwood pea shoots,  and the reserved fresh radishes.

Painted with blistered spice, the earthy sweetness of the tender carrots and cooked radishes tempered the muted fire of the brick colored glaze. While the greens added pokes of freshness, the perky raw radishes provided bright peppery crunch.
Fabulous.

I  have one of my grandmother's tattered aprons.
And I store bacon fat in the fridge.

And like a good urban farm boy,
I eat my vegetables.






Friday, May 25, 2018

Hot Potato


Sliding into summer, the warmer weather teases, tugs, and pulls us outside for backyard barbecues and outdoor cookouts. We make big plans,  hit our farmers markets for local produce, and  dream of the beautifully smoked meats, caramelized char, and aromatic smoke poofs that signal summer has arrived. Lost in the wafts of scented smoke, the thrill of the grill is real. Even then, it's good to know  that grill fests don't always have to be about the big guns.  Almost anything can be slapped over burning coals or fire. Local fruits, vegetables, and the all important sides sing when kissed with hints of smoke and char.

Sides Matter.

I'm a potato salad junkie. I have a pinky-swear relationship with any and all kinds of potato salads. Mustard based. Mayo based. Egged. Baconed. Mashed. Cubed. Chunked.  Hot. Warm. Cold. Been there, love them all. While I'm a total sucker for southern creamy potato salads, my German heritage inherently sparks my  fondness for German versions,  served warmish enveloped with a bacony sweet/tart dressing. Creamy, tangy, tart, or sweet, I'm an easy to please bi-coastal, tri-coastal, intercontinental potato salad loving  Kentucky boy.

Grilled Potato Salad With A Fresh Herb Vinaigrette.
A simple salad meets the thrill of the grill.

Dressed.
Taking advantage of the abundance of fresh herbs, I went full throttle with an herb forward vinaigrette.

After whisking together 12 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons Wallace Station Bourbon Mustard, and 1 tablespoon Oberholtser's Sorghum, I added  2 cloves minced garlic, 1 minced Casey County baby leek (white part only, about 3"), 2 tablespoons snipped fresh garden chives, 1 tablespoon diced Fresno chili pepper, 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley, 2 tablespoons minced fresh dill, and 2 tablespoons capers. Using a wooden spoon, I gently folded the herbs into the vinaigrette and set it aside.


Fire.
With a little prep, potatoes are fabulous on the grill.
I  halved 2 pounds baby new potatoes and tumbled them into a large pot of heavily salted cold water
before  bringing the water to a gentle simmer and letting the potatoes rip until they were knife tender without falling apart, about 6 minutes. After scooping them out onto a clean dish towel to drain, I patted them dry, and let them hang out to quasi dry.

When the potatoes were cool enough to handle, I drizzled them with olive oil, dusted them with salt, and placed the potatoes cut side down on an oiled grill over hot coals (alongside a few baby leek remnants) for 6 to 7 minutes until they cooked through and developed a slight char.

After pulling the hot potatoes from the grill, I tossed them with  fresh dill fronds, Casey County baby swiss chard leaves, and the reserved vinaigrette. When the chard wilted from the residual heat of the potatoes, I finished with flaked sea salt , cracked black Tellicherry pepper, and tiny sliced shards of  chard stems.

Creamy on the inside with a smoky grilled crust, the warm potatoes absorbed the bright grassy punch of the herb vinaigrette. While the wilted greens and dill fronds added delicate contrast to the briny capers and hints of peppery heat, the chard shards provided pops of wet crunch.

Hot Potatoes.

Simple.
Fresh.
Fabulous.


.




Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Sip

My mother's wheat pattern bone china  has  logged quite a few miles over the years. Purchased in Stuttgart, Germany sometime during the 50's after marrying my father and moving to Germany, her precious china filled the very modern  Danish teak buffet that my father apparently couldn't live without. Neatly stacked and arranged, entree plates, dessert plates, bread plates, finger bowls, serving bowls, serving platters, crystal glassware, teacups, coffee cups, and individual salt and pepper shakers rounded out the complete service for 12. I imagine it made quite a statement in their army base apartment. Shortly after I was born, our stint in Stuttgart ended and we were on the move, china in tow. Over a 60 year stretch, the china crossed oceans and continents several times, following my family from Germany to Washington D.C. , Austria , Africa, and back to Virginia before landing in my father's farm house in western Kentucky. Sometime between moves, my mother passed away. She vanished. Left in the dark at the time, I was told years later that I was too young to fully understand. That's how families rolled back in the day. I wasn't sad. Didn't  miss her absence. You can't miss something that you don't remember losing. Day by day, I guess I just went with the flow. We were always on the move. Without much thought,  I went from waiting for the ice cream truck on a curb in suburban D.C. to staring out the window of a cold apartment on a busy Vienna strasse. Normal life. Not skipping a beat, we simply kept going and going like nothing had ever happened.

To ease his load and maybe some guilt, my father secured nannies and housekeepers to fill what he thought was my missing void. Despite navigating a few cultural and language barriers, I held fast to my German, Czech, Swedish, and African caretakers. They were all that I knew to love. They formed me. Loved me. Molded me. Still, as much as I counted on them, they changed as often as our addresses,  vanishing as my family moved on.  As an innocent Buster Brown-clad kid, I grew  accustomed to constant change and frequent good-byes. Even then, one thing never changed. Throughout all the moves and rotating surrogate stand-ins, my mother's china was a constant. Pieces of her were always present. Delicate. Pristine. Familiar. An unknown connection.

Years later, when my father passed away, her china made one last journey to our home here in Lexington. Although a bit too matchy-matchy and over the top for most folks, Michael and I adore it.  And while all the previous caretakers of the china handled it with kit gloves for special occasions, we drag it out and manhandle it all the time. It's too precious to be precious. Stacked and arranged in what is now considered  a noteworthy mid-century modern Danish teak buffet, the well traveled china endures. Dinged up somewhat from years of use and bumpy journeys, her delicate whisper thin china mysteriously haunts me, reassures me, and comforts me. A tangible lost memory I can touch.

Mothers are the storytellers and keepers of our secrets.
My mother's china is my story.

Teacup Carrot Soup With Chilled Crab
A simple soup.

After peeling and chopping 2 pounds of carrots, I diced 1 medium sweet onion, minced 5 Bath County spring green garlic bulbs, and set them aside.

After heating 2 tablespoons olive oil in a larger dutch oven over a medium high flame, I tumbled the carrots, onions, and garlic into the sizzling hot oil before adding salt, ground white pepper, and 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger. When the carrots and onions softened (without taking on color), I added 2 cups water, 3 cups chicken stock, and 2 fresh bay leaves. I brought the soup to a boil, reduced it to a simmer, covered the pot, and let it rip for 45 minutes.



Gilding the lily.
While I'm a sucker for crunchy deep fried or baked croutons as soup toppers, I took a softer route.

I carefully separated and flaked 4 ounces chilled crab claw meat before gently tossing it with lemon
zest, fresh lemon juice, olive oil, snipped chives, slivered red bell pepper, a pinch of salt, and a dusting of ground white pepper. After a quick taste to adjust the seasoning, I slid the crab into the refrigerator to chill.

The silk road.
When the carrots were knife tender, I removed the bay leaves, transferred the soup to a blender,  pureed the soup in batches until it was silky smooth, and let it cool just a tad  before tumbling the chilled crab salad into the vibrant puree and finishing flaked sea salt, a drizzle of olive oil, and Elmwood Stock Farm spicy micro greens.

Clean and fresh, hints of ginger and spring garlic poked through the inherent earthy sweetness of the carrots, giving the simple puree a subtle spicy warmth and depth of flavor. While the delicate flaked crab brought understated briny lux to the party, the punchy lemon, slivered peppers, and micro greens provided acidic fresh crunch.


Pureed carrot soup.
Chilled crab.
Precious worn china.

Hold fast to the storytellers.










Thursday, March 22, 2018

Tomato-Land



Grow them and I will come.

As we leave winter behind and slowly segue into spring, I dream of tomato-land. With my token seedlings planted and tucked away, I dream of  the endless sea of sun-kissed heirlooms that will flood our markets during midsummer's high season. Even now, knowing they're still months and months away, I close my eyes and can taste the warm sweet acidity  that only just picked vine-ripened summer tomatoes can bring to the table.



Last season was spectacular. Almost like no other. Almost overkill. Almost. Before I sensed my crazy, I'd already morphed into an obsessed tomato addict. Peeled. Unpeeled. Sliced. Chunked. Salted. Marinated. Roasted. Broiled. Sandwiched. Any way and every way possible to get my fix. I almost maxed out when popping tiny sweet sun golds like candy replaced gummies as my go to snack. I was in it to win it from the very first moment tomatoes arrived.
Because of the rains and weather, tomatoes were prolific. They kept coming and coming and coming. By late summer into early fall, the jewels of summer started to wane. Fewer in number with lesser intensity (but no less gorgeous), the late season tomatoes played second fiddle to the stalwarts of autumn. Even then, I wasn't quite ready to let them go. I needed to preserve the bounty.

I

Never much of a canning pro, I gave up it a while back. Even though I watched and helped my grandmother put up hundreds of jars of canned tomato during my summers on the farm, I found that through years of trial and error I lacked the stamina, fortitude, and dimly lit cobweb-swathed cellar to live out her legacy. Canning simply didn't work out for for me and in lieu of the homespun sentimentality of mason jars, I turned to the freezer.




All Varieties. All sizes. All shapes.
A mishmash of late season tomatoes.
Sliced. Salted. Peppered. Herbed. Roasted. Bagged.
Frozen.







To capture a hint of summer and thwart the early spring chill, I pulled my stash from the freezer for an ode to tomato-land.

Braised Fennel With Roasted Tomatoes.
A simple braise.

After pulling my frozen roasted tomatoes from the freezer to thaw, I trimmed the stalks from 2 large fennel bulbs (fronds reserved) before quartering and coring the bulbs while being mindful to leave the root ends intact. After heating 2 tablespoon vegetable oil in a medium sized skillet until smoking hot, I sauteed the fennel quarters on all sides, seasoning them with salt and pepper after every turn. Just a hair before the fennel started to caramelize, I removed it to a side plate and tumbled 3 thinly sliced garlic cloves and 1 thinly sliced purple onion into the sizzling oil. When the garlic teetered on the brink of browning, I deglazed the skillet with 1 cup white wine, reduced it by half, and added 3 cups roasted tomatoes.



I brought the tomatoes to a gentle simmer, tossed a few fennel seeds into the mix to up the anise factor, and seasoned them with salt and cracked black pepper before nestling the reserve sauteed fennel quarters into the sauce. After raising the heat for a brisk simmer, I pulled the skillet from the heat and slid it into a preheated 350 oven.

Without fussing with the fennel, I let the quarters stew in the bubbling tomatoes for roughly 1 hour until they softened, caramelized around the edges, and melted into the sauce.

With the kitchen windows fogged over with the sweet scent of candied fennel, I pulled the braise from the oven and let it rest before finishing with a splash of fresh lemon juice, crunchy flaked sea salt, crumbled feta, and the reserved feathery fennel fronds.

Dolled up with the perky tang of  feta, the slight acidity of lemon, and the mellow sultry braised fennel, the roasted summer tomatoes poked through the glam to blow a wistful kiss to tomato-land.


Sunday, February 18, 2018

Coddled

Chasing shamrocks.

From the misty green fields of Ireland to the windswept bluegrass of Kentucky, we're all a wee bit Irish on St. Patrick's Day. Carpe deum. When Lexington rolls out the green carpet to celebrate the patron saint of Ireland, there's something Irish for just about everyone in every restaurant, on every corner, and in every bar throughout town.  Green beer, Guinness Stout, and Irish whiskey flows freely from indoor, outdoor, and curbside bars. Whether strictly authentic or riffs on authenticity, Irish fare stands front and center. Variations of Shepherd's Pie, Colcannon, Lamb Stew, Corned Beef and Cabbage, Irish Stew, Boxty, and Guinness-infused anything are plentiful.  Fancy a parade?  Grab a drink and stake claim to a curb on Main Street to soak in the familiar sound of bagpipes echoing  through the downtown buildings to usher in the throngs of Irish dancers, horses, cars, and clowns happily meandering down Main Street. Go ahead, raise a glass, kiss the Blarney Stone, or forage for clovers. Eat, drink, and be merry. When the frivolity wanes, the festivities ebb, the parade passes by, and it's time to retreat, cuddle up with a comforting bowl of  Dublin Coddle.

Dublin coddle, in its purist form, is a humble Irish stew containing only chopped potatoes, sliced onions, Irish pork sausages, bacon (rashers) and parsley layered in a pot with enough stock or water to cover and left to simmer (coddle) low and slow for 2 to 4 hours. Variations (considered sacrilege  by some folks) might include carrots, parsnips, or pearl barley. Staying true to the spirit of a traditional Dublin Coddle, I brought the  Emerald Isle to the bluegrass with the local flavors of Kentucky.

Dublin Coddle.

Porked.
After drizzling 1/4 cup vegetable oil into the bottom of a cast iron dutch oven set over medium heat, I fried 1/2 pound sliced Foothills Meats fresh bacon for 5-6 minutes until crisped before scooping the pieces out onto paper towels to drain. While the oil was still sizzling hot, I placed 1 1/2 pounds Stonecross Farm pork sausages into the pot and let them rip, turning occasionally, until they were deeply caramelized on all sides.

After removing the sausages to drain, I tumbled 10 peeled whole shallots into the steaming pork fat. When the shallots softened and started to brown, I added 4 whole (peeled and smashed) garlic cloves along with  2 sliced leeks. Just before the leeks took on color, I deglazed the pot with 3/4 cup Kentucky Ale Bourbon Barrel Stout and let it reduce by half before pulling it from the heat.


Layered.
Off the heat, I scattered 5 sliced carrots over the shallots followed by a layer of chopped yukon gold potatoes, chopped Casey County white sweet potatoes, salt, pepper, and minced fresh parsley. After nestling the sausages into the potatoes, I showered them with additional parsley and topped everything off with overlapping 1/2" thick sliced potatoes.

After adding enough chicken stock to cover the sausages, (about 2 1/2 cups), I brought the stock to a boil, reduced it to a simmer, covered the pot, and slid it into a low preheated 325 degree oven to coddle in its juices for 2 1/2 hours.

I pulled the stew from the oven and brushed the top layer of potatoes with melted unsalted butter. After spooning the tender pork sausages and softened sweet vegetables over seasoned plumped pearl barley, I finished with the unctuous drinkable broth, Celtic grey
sea salt, cracked black pepper, and fresh parsley.



Rustic.
Simple.
Warming.

Coddled.



Friday, January 26, 2018

Butter Bomb

If making fresh pasta is a labor of love, consider scratch made angel hair pasta  a full on love fest. When fresh, the feathery dough strands slip through your fingers like soft satiny ribbons. When kissed with heat, the ribbons morph into gossamer wisps of  edible air.

 Like any fresh pasta, angel hair dough needs pampering. Its all in the feel. Too dry, add a splash of water. Too wet, hit it with  flour. Kneading, like a great massage, should be a rough and gentle tumble. Kneading is the backbone of any good pasta. It takes time. You know you've hit the mark when it's firm, yet pliable. While it's a wee bit of a commitment,  making fresh is pasta is so worth the effort and clouds of flour dust. Sure, there are fantastic store-bought pastas out there, but scratch made pasta ups the wow factor and begs to be in everyone's wheelhouse. Whether it's whipped up for a weeknight affair or dolled up for a special tryst, gather a few simple ingredients and feel the dough.

Angel Hair Pasta With Pan Seared Shrimp And Lemon Beurre Blanc.

Pasta.
Although a food processor or stand mixer (with dough hook)  can expedite the process,
hand mixed dough lets you get down and dirty.

Mix.
After sifting 2 cups 00 flour  onto a floured board, I made a well in the center of the flour and cracked 3 large eggs into the well before drizzling the eggs with 1 tablespoon olive oil and a dash of salt. I broke the eggs with a fork, gently mixed them together, and carefully incorporated the flour from the wall into eggs bit by bit until the flour and eggs formed a shaggy loose dough. After gathering the dough into a ragged ball, I kneading it for 15-20 minutes, constantly turning and flipping the dough until the the flour was completely absorbed and was smooth to the touch without being tacky. I formed the dough into a ball, wrapped it in plastic wrap, and set it aside to rest.



Roll.
When the dough was thoroughly relaxed, about 20 minutes, I used a bench scraper to divide the dough into thirds. Working with one third at a time, while keeping the remaining dough covered, I flattened the dough into a rough rectangle and rolled it through the lowest setting of a pasta roller. After folding two sides of the dough into the center, I rolled the dough through the lowest setting 2 additional times before passing the dough through each setting (from lowest to highest), changing the setting after every pass and flouring the pasta between passes until I reached the last (thinnest) setting of the pasta roller. I floured the delicate sheets of pasta on both sides, cut them into workable lengths, placed them onto floured parchment paper, and repeated the process with the remaining dough.




Cut.
The fun part.
Feeding the pasta sheets through the cutter side of the roller, I used one hand to crank the pasta  and my other hand to catch the strands as they fell from the cutter before flouring them and curling them into nests.





Beurre Blanc.
White Butter Sauce.
Beurre blanc is a glorious and simple emulsified sauce similar to hollandaise or bearnaise (minus the eggs and anxiety). Infused with shallots (with the occasional addition of fresh herbs)  and fortified with acid before being slowly emulsified with cold butter, beurre blanc should be thrown up there with the mother sauces. Great with fish, chicken, or vegetables, its versatility rivals its simplicity.

Embrace the butter.
I sliced 3 sticks of butter (yes 3) into 8 pieces and slid them into the refrigerator to chill.

After tumbling 2 tablespoons minced shallots into a sauce pan, I added 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, 1/4 cup dry white wine, and lemon zest. I brought the mix to a low boil and let it reduce to a syrupy consistency, about 2 tablespoons.

The heat dance.
Again, much like a hollandaise or bearnaise, beurre blanc needs gentle regulated heat. Working over a medium flame, I added 2 pieces of butter to the concentrated lemon/wine combo. Whisking constantly, I slowly added the remaining butter 2 tablespoons at a time until the butter emulsified with the acid and thickened into a creamy butter sauce. Magic. After straining the sauce through a chinois, I added a salt and white pepper to taste, slipped the sauce onto a double boiler over a low flame to hold, poured myself a glass of wine, and moved on.

I dropped the fresh pasta into a pot of heavily salted boiling water for 2 minutes, scooped it into a bowl, tossed it with 1/4 fresh grated parmigiano reggiano, and twirled the pasta into buttered 6 ounce ramekins before sliding them into a preheated 350 degree oven for 4 minutes to  set the pasta.

Sear
After tossing 1 pound peeled and deviened  16-20 count shrimp with olive oil, salt, and pepper. I
dropped the shrimp onto a screaming hot grill pan, let them rip until they just turned pink, about 2 minutes per side.

I nestled the pan seared shrimp into the pasta nests, tucked ribbons of black pepper-flecked coppa ham alongside the shrimp, and slipped the nests onto pools of beurre blanc before napping the shrimp with additional sauce and finishing with red lumpfish roe, slivered fresno pepper, fresh lemon, and micro greens.

Cupped inside the nests, the plump firm shrimp played off the delicate threads of angel hair pasta.Light, bright, and airy, the beurre blanc belied the copious amount of butter. Draped over the shrimp and through the pasta, the lemon-spiked butter sauce brought acid to the party. While the coppa added a hint of silky pig, the  roe provided pops of salty crunch.

Shrimp and pasta.
Buttered up.




Fabulous.




Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Deer Crossing

I was never much of a hunter. Even growing up on a farm in rural western Kentucky surrounded by a family of hunters, I was odd man out. Oh sure, I had frog gigging and trout fishing down pat, but wielding a shotgun to shoot things simply wasn't my cup of tea. The closest I came to bagging a deer was from the passenger seat of an old Volkswagon involved in an unfortunate late night incident with a darting deer. Hardly a feat to hang a hat on. Hunting, in general,  was a big deal for my hometown folks. While there seemed to be a hunting season for just about everything and anything, deer season was the Super Bowl in my neck of the woods. When it finally rolled around, the release of anticipation catapulted  the boys in my family into hunter frenzy. They played hard ball. Kills and points were badges of honor. Trophies were strapped onto dusty old trucks for display. Photos were taken and shared. Camouflage was the norm at most family gatherings. It's what we did. They did. As a misfit country boy, I was more amused than bothered by the madness. As a venison lover, I certainly wasn't taking a moral high road. I got  what the all fuss was about.. It's just that hunting wasn't my thing and camo wasn't my color.

Years and years later,  after moving away from the family farm, Michael and I dutifully returned home for family gatherings. Most often than not, it was during deer season. Not much changed over the years. Why would it? Driving through the winding roads and hills of those rural counties during deer season was precarious at best. The typical serene drives through the countryside were shattered by invisible gunshots echoing through the damp misty valleys. Duck, cover, and drive. Home. Pass the camo.


Yeah, I was never much of a hunter, but I always loved the spoils. I still do. When real hunters hunt and want to share their bounty, count me in as one very lucky boy.

Pan Seared Venison Tenderloin With Green Peppercorn Sauce.
Venison tenderloin is leaner than lean. It simply needs a kiss of heat for medium rare, added fat, and tender care.

Sear.
I trimmed a 3/4 pound Woodford County venison tenderloin and seasoned the meat with salt, black pepper, and smoked paprika before slipping it into a screaming hot cast iron skillet drizzled with 1 tablespoon olive oil. After adding 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, 2 whole garlic cloves, and fresh thyme sprigs, I seared the tenderloin 3 to 4 minutes per side (mounting the steak with the sizzling butter after each turn) until a gorgeous crust formed and slid it into a preheated 400 degree oven.  When the internal temperature reached 120 degrees, I pulled the tenderloin from the oven, removed it to a cutting board, and tented it for 10 minutes to rest and  allow the internal temp to reach 125 degrees for medium rare.

Sauce.
After removing the spent thyme, I returned the skillet to the heat, added 2 tablespoons unsalted butter,1 chopped shallot, 1 minced garlic clove, and 2 tablespoons brined green peppercorns. When the shallots turned translucent, I splashed the skillet with 1/3 cup Makers Mark bourbon, tipped the skillet to ignite the alcohol, took a quick shot of bourbon, and let the flames taper off before adding 1 heaping tablespoon dijon mustard, 1/4 cup heavily reduced beef stock (almost a demi glace), a pinch of salt, pepper,  and 3/4 cup heavy cream. When the sauced reduced and thickened, I pulled it from the heat and set it aside.

I sliced the venison tenderloin on the bias, overlapped the medallions onto toasted Bluegrass Bakery ciabatta croutons, and plated the sauce  before finishing with flaked sea salt, cracked black pepper, fresh slivered scallions, and flash fried parsnip ribbons.

Flecked with pops of briny heat, the dijon-infused cream sauce tempered the slight gaminess of the tender deer meat. While the slivered scallions provided grassy freshness, the fried parsnips added an earthy delicate crunch. Total win.

Respect the hunt.
Respect the bounty.
Fabulous.