Taming the other red meat venison Deer: Lean and tender cuts now come from farm-raised animals, and the taste is more delicate. The world's biggest exporter is New Zealand.

February 12, 1997|By Meryle Evans | Meryle Evans,EATING WELL

In the battle to cut down on fatty foods, I've won some and lost some. I've been able to let go of French fries with no problem; I can watch the dessert cart sail by without jumping out of my seat. But I still find it hard to fight my craving for a succulent, juicy, rosy-rare filet or chop.

So, I've been searching for the meat-lover's holy grail: a red meat that's lean and tender, high in protein, low in fat and delicious whether simply grilled or embellished with an elaborate sauce.

Though it took a trip halfway around the world, I finally found it: venison. An excellent source of protein and iron, venison has about half the fat and calories of most cuts of beef, pork and lamb. And today's venison is rich but delicately flavored.

It was on a visit to New Zealand that I discovered Cervena, farm-raised, additive-free, premium-quality New Zealand venison. Cervena -- the name combines cervidae (Latin for "deer") and venison -- demonstrates how far this meat has come from the gamy, hit-or-miss meal of hunting camps, and the butcher-paper-wrapped surprises that always seem to settle to the back of the freezer and stay there.

Cervena from New Zealand

Ariane Daguin, co-owner of Jersey City, N.J.-based D'Artagnan, which ships large quantities of venison across the United States, explains, "The Cervena appellation -- like Champagne (as opposed to sparkling wine) -- is used to differentiate New Zealand venison from others available throughout the world."

New Zealand is now the world's No. 1 exporter of venison, and delivers more than 85 percent of the deer meat served in the United States. The rest is American farm-raised or imported from Scotland during the winter.

Executive chef Waldy Malouf, who presides over the kitchen at the Rainbow Room in New York, prefers the more strongly flavored Scottish wild venison in season.

"The rest of the year," he says, "I order customized farm-raised venison from Millbrook Venison Products in Millbrook, N.Y. They feed it specially for me with juniper and herbs, and age it an extra nine days."

If your local butcher or supermarket doesn't carry venison, you can order it by mail through D'Artagnan ([800] 327-8246) or Millbrook Venison ([914] 677-8457).

The recipes are by Susanne A. Davis.

Venison medallions with cognac sauce

Makes 4 servings

4 4-ounce venison medallions, trimmed of fat

1 clove garlic, cut in half

2 teaspoons canola oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots

1/2 cup cognac

1 cup quick venison stock (below) or defatted, reduced-sodium beef or chicken broth

1 1/2 tablespoons red currant jelly

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon chopped, fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon cold water

Rub all sides of venison medallions with garlic. Brush with 1/2 teaspoon oil and season with salt and pepper.

Heat a large, heavy skillet (preferably cast-iron) over high heat until very hot. Add venison and cook until seared on all sides, 3 to 4 minutes for medium-rare; be careful not to overcook. Set aside on a plate and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. Reduce heat to low.

Add remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil and shallots to skillet. Cook, stirring, until shallots soften, about 1 minute. Add cognac and cook, stirring, until most of the liquid has evaporated, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in stock (or broth), jelly, mustard and thyme. Cook, whisking, until jelly melts, 1 to 2 minutes more.

In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water; slowly whisk into simmering sauce until slightly thickened. Strain through a fine sieve. Discard solids. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.

Slice venison and fan onto a warmed plate. Serve with the sauce.

Per serving: 250 calories, 26 grams protein, 7 grams fat (0.4 gram saturated fat), 7 grams carbohydrate, 210 mg sodium, 1 mg cholesterol, 0 grams fiber.

Roast venison with dried-cranberry gravy

2 1/2 teaspoons olive oil

1/4 cup finely chopped shallots

2 cloves garlic, minced (2 teaspoons)

2 cups dry red wine

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

10 juniper berries, crushed

1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

1/2 teaspoon crushed black pepper, plus more to taste

1 3-pound boneless leg of venison, preferably fallow deer, trimmed of fat and tied into a roast

1 cup quick venison stock (below) or defatted reduced-sodium beef broth

1 cup cranberry-juice cocktail

1/3 cup dried cranberries

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon water

pinch of sugar, or to taste

In a medium saucepan, heat 1 1/2 teaspoons oil over medium-low heat. Add shallots and garlic; cook, stirring, until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add wine, vinegar, juniper berries, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

Bring to a boil and simmer until reduced by half, 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Place venison in a shallow nonreactive dish just large enough to hold the roast. Pour cooled marinade over venison and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate, turning occasionally, for 2 to 4 hours or overnight.

Heat oven to 425 degrees.

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