He doesn’t know much about sitting on stand for five hours, but Chef Daniel Boulud knows everything there is to know about cooking venison. Miles and miles from your favorite hunting ground, Boulud prepares one of the finest plates of venison you’ll find in the world. But he says you don’t need to come to one of his New York restaurants and pay $82 for a meal this good. You have what you need right in your freezer-assuming you’re a good shot.
“The most important thing about cooking game is not the sort of avant-garde discovery of taste,” he says. “It’s more about getting back, deep down into the very basic, classical flavor. The key is balance.”
Coming from a three-generation family of chefs in a country village near Lyon, France, he has a deep appreciation for working with the land and sharing its rewards with others.
“For me, it’s something you can give your friends-an offering you can make,” he explains. “It’s nice to think when someone shoots a deer: Who would I like to share this with?”
Boulud suggests never cooking your venison past medium rare; the key to the best texture is letting the deer age for at least a week. And a good marinade for preparing the meal will ensure that the meat stays tender and is full of flavor. At his flagship restaurant, Daniel, the chef uses this marinade for his chestnut-crusted venison:
2 to 4 pounds venison
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground star anise
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 sprig thyme
Boulud serves farm-raised venison loin in his restaurant but tells me he would not change a thing for wild deer, and he uses this recipe for all cuts, from leg to loin. Blending the earthy flavors of chestnuts with the meat, he says, adds a rich fall- and winter-harvest accent. Preparation is key: Start with 3/4 pound of peeled chestnuts, break into smaller pieces, and spread onto a baking sheet. Age the nuts overnight in a warm place. Pulse into 1/4-inch chunks in a food processor; discard smaller pieces and any powder. After marinating your venison for at least 4 hours, pat dry and season with salt and pepper. Beat one large egg in a large bowl. Dust venison with flour; dip it through the egg; and firmly press the chestnut pieces around the meat, covering thoroughly. Cook in a preheated 425-degree oven to your liking, or until the chestnuts are a deep, golden brown.
And finally, in keeping with his French heritage-always knowing the perfect wine-Boulud urges you to complement the dish with the oldest Rioja wine you can find.