Monday, July 13, 2009

Venison Pie

I am working out some recipes for a party I'm hosting next weekend. A couple of weeks ago, I worked out the pork pie recipe. Next on my list was refining the venison pie recipe. This one had a major challenge: I had a very limited supply of venison, so I didn't want to use it up perfecting the recipe.

I decided to try this recipe on beef and was quite underwhelmed. Then I gave it a shot with venison. This is definitely a recipe where beef is decidedly inferior to venison. While they share some elements in their flavor profile (to the point that they can often be substituted for one another), they are not identical. Ginger brings out much more complexity in venison than it does in beef.

Venison Pie
As stated in the pork pie recipe, recreating medieval recipes pose some challenges. Even English recipes do. Middle English is not Modern English; there are words in Middle English that no longer are used in Modern English, especially cooking terms.

Original Recipe
Two Fifteenth Century Cookery Books, Page 51, Recipe xix (this source is available through Google Books)
Venyson y-bake. Take hogħes of Venyson, & parboyle hem in fayre Water an Salt; & whan Þe Fleyssche is fayre y-boylid, make fayre past, & cast Þin Venyson Þer-on; & caste a-boue an be-neÞe, pouder Pepir, Gyngere, & Salt, & Þan sette it on Þe ouyn, & lat bake, & serue forth.

Take hocks of venison and parboil in fair water and salt and when the flesh is well boiled, make a good past and put the venison in and put powdered pepper, powdered ginger, and salt above and beneath it. Set it in the oven and let bake and serve forth.

1 lb Venison (ground)
1 cup Beef broth containing:
4 juniper berries
12 peppercorns
1-1/2 teaspoon Powdered Pepper
3 teaspoon Powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
Single batch of Pie Dough (use the same recipe as in the pork tart)

Boil the venison in the beef broth. Once the venison is mostly cooked, add spices and mix well. Let cool. Once the venison is cooled, add the 1/2 cup of water to ensure the filling is moist (but doesn't have standing fluids).

Roll pie dough out. Cut rounds about 4" in diameter (I used a mini-Bundt pan for a pattern). Put a tablespoonful or so of venison mixture in the center of each pie, fold over, moisten half the circumference of the circle, and seal. If you need more pie dough (I was working with much larger quantities of filling and pie dough) Bake on cookie sheet in 350° oven for 25 minutes.

Deviations from the Original Recipe
I started with beef broth, mostly because I didn't have any venison bones to make broth from. I added the peppercorns and juniper berries to the broth to create a little more depth of flavor.

I used ground venison instead of boiling the venison then chopping it small. It was a lot faster and easier, especially since I was making 40 of these things.

The recipe is actually for venison in a free-standing shell called a coffin. In medieval times, this is one way food was cooked and served. The coffin was not eaten; instead it was placed in an alms-basket for the poor. I wanted a pie that could be eaten by hand, so I made the half-circle pies.

I originally wasn't going to boil the venison, but it really does help the flavor by providing a nice vehicle for the spices and keeps the venison moist. Venison is naturally low in fat, so it responds very well to a moist cooking method. I kept the fluid to a minimum because I didn't want soggy pies.

These pies are really lovely eaten cold (which is how I had planned to serve them). As a result they are a great picnic or camping food.

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