Sunday, May 3, 2009

Venison Virgin

There's something about looking an animal in the eye before taking its life for food that really appeals to me. Michael Pollan wrote about a meal that he cooked for a group of friends that entailed not only foraging for wild mushrooms, but also stalking and killing a wild boar. What a terrific essay. Pollan explored the conflicting feelings he had as a hunter of excitement, disgust, guilt, and satisfaction. I'm pretty sure the essay was included in his larger work, The Omnivore's Dilemma, but it also appeared in the New York Times ( I don't know if I'll ever be a hunter, but D has a friend who is, and this friend hunts deer with a bow and arrow for meat that lasts him through the year. He generously gave us a pound of venison tender loin. Neither D nor I have ever had venison before, so we decided to prepare it as a tagine with north African spices. I rooted around on the internet and adapted this recipe from the a website in the UK: Seriously Good Venison:

Venison Tagine with Apricots

1 lb cubed venison
1 large onion, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground ginger
1 teasp turmeric
½ tsp ground coriander seed
½ tsp cinnamon
a few threads of saffron
½ tsp ground black pepper
1 bell pepper, de-seeded & cut into chunks
½ head of garlic cloves, peeled & halved
12 dried apricots--the French ones are better than the Turkish ones for this dish
Few slices of chopped salted lime
Handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
1 cup whole wheat couscous
1 tbsp oil
2 cups vegetable stock
1 1/4 cup water

Heat the oil an a pan and toss the onion, garlic and meat in it till a little brown. Add the spices and fry them too for a minute. Add the bell pepper. Place the meat, onion, and vegetable mixture into the base of a tagine and add apricots, cut in half. Cover with 1 cup of vegetable stock, and pop in the oven at 400 degrees. Let stew for about an hour. Add preserved lime slices 20 minutes before serving. To cook the couscous, stir olive oil into one cup of couscous in a medium bowl and season with salt and pepper. Boil 1 1/4 cup of water and pour over the couscous. Cover and let stand for 15 minutes, or until the couscous has absorbed all of the water. Stir in fresh cilantro and fluff with a fork. Spoon the tagine over the couscous and enjoy!

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