The steakhouse value proposition is simple: You drop a lot of cash on a large amount of something you already know you love and you have a nice night. There's nothing wrong with that, but at chef Michael Lomonaco's upscale steakhouse Porter House New York, which overlooks Central Park from the Time Warner Center, waiters may persuade you to try something else. Goodbye cows. Hello deer.
Given that Lomonaco's prancers are sustainably harvested, the only reason not to order venison is taste. Why spend $50 on funky deer instead of a fatty ribeye? That's the question answered by the chef's spice-roasted venison, which has leaner meat that takes on the piquant flavor of the chef's rub. It's a delicious, healthier steak alternative.
Lomonaco, who grew up in Italian-American family that ate food procured from hunting expeditions, first learned game-cookery at Le Cirque from revered French chef Alain Sailhac. The trick, of course, is to not overcook. He recalls a day when, "we were preparing venison chops for Vice President Bush," and he had been ordered to grill the chops to mid-rare. He had no idea how quickly lean meat would finish, and the dry cut he turned around didn't make the grade. "I took a major tongue-lashing from our Swiss [head] chef," Lomonaco says. "So, to this day, I teach others how to cook game patiently."
As for serving venison with chanterelles and blueberries, well, the practice is baked into Lomonaco's upbringing. "It's crazy sounding, but as a teenager, I learned some wild foraging in the Boy Scouts, and outdoor cooking has since remained important to me," he says. "Wild herbs, berries, nuts, and seeds all find their way into dishes like this; they represent to me the natural environment in which deer or game birds thrive."
Spice Roasted Venison Chops with Chanterelles and Blackberries
Ingredients for Venison (Serves Four):
- ½ lb. Smoked bacon
- 2 garlic cloves
- Fresh thyme sprigs
- 1 Cervena venison Rack – whole 8-bone rack, cut into 8 chops
- ½ cup Brown sugar
- 2 Tablespoons Each: ancho chili powder, coriander seed, cumin, toasted and ground cardamom, celery salt, dry rosemary, thyme, and ground garlic.
- 1 Tablespoon Each: crushed red pepper, nutmeg, clove
- ½ cup blackberries
Heat a heavy skillet, add 1 or 2 tablespoons bacon drippings.
Add the garlic cloves and thyme sprigs, and sear the venison chops on both sides, adding the bacon lardons to the pan.
Continue cooking the chops, 5 – 6 minutes total.
When the chops are seared and cooked (rare or medium-rare preferred), assemble the plate with 2 chops and bacon lardons along with chanterelles to the side; drizzle some red-wine/blackberry reduction around the plate and sprinkle some roasted garlic cloves and thyme over the venison. Finish with some whole fresh blackberries.
Ingredients for Chanterelles:
- 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- ½ lb. Chanterelles mushrooms, cleaned, stems lightly peeled, fresh preferred-but rehydrated dry may be substituted
- 1 small shallot, peeled and finely minced
- ¼ cup flat leaf parsley leaves
- 1 tbsp. butter
Heat the oil in a sauté pan over medium heat, 30 seconds, add the mushrooms cook for 3 minutes.
Add the shallots and cook 1 minute more before adding the parsley and several grates of nutmeg.
Season with salt and pepper, add the butter and remove from the flame. Reserve warm.
Ingredients for the Red Wine and Blackberry Reduction:
- 2 tbsp grape seed oil
- 1 vidalia or other sweet onion, chopped
- 1 small carrot, chopped
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2-3 cloves
- 2-3 hot fresh chili peppers
- ½ cup blackberries
- 2 cups stock made from venison bones
- 1-750 ml California cabernet sauvignon
Put the oil and onion into a saucepan and over low heat cook until lightly caramelized, about 15 minutes.
Add the carrot, cinnamon and chili pepper and blackberries and cook until softened, about 12 minutes.
Add the venison stock and cook until reduced by half.
Add the cabernet, cook till reduced by 75%.
Strain and season with salt and black pepper, hold warm.