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Sunday, January 4, 2009

Sunday Night Suppers

"[Nothing] could change the color of Sunday from that of...buttermilk, toothpaste, Camembert cheese."--Tom Robbins

My friend Bethany and I share one thing in common: we loathe Sundays. Even if I am very good all day long--go to church, do my chores, wash behind my ears--I am still coated in a layer of anxiety come around five o'clock on Sunday evening. So, to combat the Sunday-funk, Bethany and I have instituted Sunday Night Suppers.

These suppers are the one night each week when I will try at least one new recipe, and Bethany (also known as The Official Taste Tester, or "Tott" for short) will half-heartedly chop things and keep me company while I cook. Drew usually has homework that he diligently does Sunday nights, so he just shows up to eat. And, if you aren't busy and you've got the Sunday-funk, you're welcome to swing by around six or so to show up and eat, too.

Tonight, Don and Tott showed up to witness an amazing sight: I decided to tackle cooking meat on my own. Drew is usually the meat-man, while I am the sauce-lady. But if we're going to have any meat other than boneless chicken breasts, bacon, or sausage on Sundays, then I have to get over my fear. The meat I chose for tonight's Sunday Night Supper? Venison tenderloin. Or, as we say in my house, deer meat.

Why deer meat? First, because my father is a prolific deer hunter, as you can see from the picture above of his garage. Now, some of you may have a problem with that, but if I couldn't convince him when I was an adorable child with tears in my eyes to please not shoot Bambi, I never will. The meat might as well not go to waste. And second, the meat is free, and we are broke.

I first soak my deer meat in milk to take the gaminess out. Then I followed a recipe from Romeo Salta's Pleasures of Italian Cooking. (I'll spare you another amateurish cookbook picture--clearly Drew is the photographer of the family). The recipe is actually for beef tenderloin, so if you don't have deer meat, you could just use beef instead.

(Don't you love this plate? Drew made it in Vacation Bible School in 1985. The others were, needless to say, dirty, or else this beauty would not be making its blog debut. )

Venison Tenderloin with Shallot Sauce
(as adapted from Romeo Salta's Pleasures of Italian Cooking)

2 venison tenderloins, soaked in milk for at least 2 hours and rinsed
1/2 cup olive oil
Juice of four lemons
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter
3 shallots, thinly sliced
splash of white wine

Split each tenderloin lengthwise. Marinate in the oil, lemon juice, and salt for several hours, turning meat often.

Place opened meat on a rack in a broiling pan (I don't own a "broiling pan"--I just used a cookie sheet and a cooling rack placed on top of the cookie sheet). Broil 3 minutes on each side. (This turned out to be about medium rare). Let meat rest. Remove rack, and pour the drippings (carefully!) into a small pan. Add the butter, the shallots, a dash of white wine, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Place over high heat, bring to a boil and pour over the meat.

I served this meat with another Romeo Salta recipe, Risoverdi (in English, green risotto).

Green Risotto
1 cup chopped parsley
1 cup chopped green onions
2 cups chopped spinach
2 cups Parmesan
lots of butter
3 cans chicken stock (about 6 cups)
1 cup white wine
sprinkle of garlic salt
sprinkle of nutmeg
2 cups arborio rice

Melt around 3 tablespoons of butter in a big pan. Add the green ingredients and saute for around 4-5 minutes. Add the rice and saute until translucent. Put the chicken stock and the white wine in another sauce pan and get good and hot. Add around 2 cups of liquid to the rice at a time, and stir until the rice absorbs it. Keep adding liquid until the rice won't take any more, then cover and simmer. Keep the heat about medium-low the whole time. Taste as you go--this took around thirty minutes or so. Once the rice isn't chewy any more, add the cheese and stir. Add more butter if you want (I always do). Add the garlic salt and just a dash of nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper.

So, the verdict? I actually had to adjust Mr. Salta's recipes a lot to make them work, but everyone enjoyed the meal. I didn't marinate my deer meat long enough--Mr. Salta says 30 minutes, and that probably works for beef, but not for deer. So the meat was a little less tender than I like it (okay, so it was pretty chewy). But the flavor was great.

The risotto is really rich, and probably made around 10 servings--I'd cut the recipe in half next time, at least. But it's a cross between creamed spinach and rice. I might throw a handful of mushrooms in there as well. I also served a salad with a homemade pomegranate vinaigrette (forgot to buy salad dressing at the store). I might post that recipe tomorrow, but for now, I'm ready to be done with this Sunday and go to bed.

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