How to roast a haunch of venison? This is how: salt, brine and a few rashers of. It takes time to season and soak but the cooking time is surprisingly short: just nine minutes per pound.
Research recently shows we should eat a little red meat after all, for iron and vitamin B. Venison is lean, super flavoursome and not bank-breaking. It is available most of the year apart from spring plus it is free range, happy meat.
But venison is just so awfully tough isn’t it?
Venison can be tough. I have had once a marvellous roast of the eye fillet of venison in a crushingly expensive restaurant (the dish was that too) and it was, obviously, tender like butter. But most of the time it is haunch that we buy and a lot of the time it is quite tough.
This recipe is a game changer
Indeed it is a game changer, or even game transformer: it is a foolproof albeit lengthy method for tenderising venison. It can apply to game birds too: pheasants or partridges that look like they are tough old birds.
How to cook a haunch of venison?
The method is threefold: salt, brine and short roasting time. It all takes place over three days but it is certainly worth it. Simply buy your meat well in advance: anyhow game is not usually something you pull from the back of the freezer an hour before dinner time, is it?
How to cook venison: salt it first
Salting is incredibly important as I kind of knew before but was decisively reaffirmed in the knowledge by Samin Nosrat. She recommends salting the meat as soon as you’ve brought it back from the butcher’s, and at the very least an hour before cooking. She, like me, abhors those who apply salt to their food only on their plate and she, like me, points out we are usually scared of salt in home cooking.
That is not to say that ultra-processed food has got it right, the amount of salt and sugar in those ready meals and fast food would scare the saltiest dog of a chef. But at home we usually err on the side of undersalting, believing you can always top it up on the plate.
That’s wrong because salt, like seasoning, needs to penetrate the product and that is relevant with meat more than other things. Plus – and that’s what people really have known for centuries – salt tenderises.
So grab your venison haunch as soon as you’ve unwrapped it and sprinkle, rub and repeat with about twice as much salt as you would think fit.
How and why to brine venison?
Brining means soaking the meat in salty liquid with aromatics. The difference between the effect of brining vs. marinating is distinct: marinating imparts flavour while brining tenderises and retains moisture. Marinating tough cuts might actually have the opposite effect as tissue will relax to the point of turning mushy but then contract and toughen again. Lose-lose situation.
Soaking in brine will deliver the result but caution here: we have already salted our meat so in spite of what I said about over-cautious salting, we don’t want to over salt the game. Thus the brine will be made with just aromatics and a little sugar, and we’ll scrape in the salt that has already been working on the meat. Off to fridge for another 24 hours.
How long to roast venison haunch?
After the brining the meat will look a bit sad: greyish and sodden. Ideally, it should now dry up in the fridge for another night or so but if that isn’t possible just pat it dry and let it sit uncovered as long as you can.
All it needs now is a bit of bacon to wrap around but if you skip that bit, it will still be excellent. The secret now is in the timing: and I got that on Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s authority.
The haunch, wrapped in bacon or not, needs an initial heat blast of 20 minutes at 220C. That provides browning; you can sear it in a hot pan but I’m sure you’ll agree it’s cleaner, easier and less smoky to let it happen in the oven. Then the temperature needs to go down as rapidly as possible to 170C – let the oven door open for a while on an electric oven – and the venison cooking time is 10 minutes per 500g (9 minutes per pound). That’s it – it will produce medium rare meat which is always tenderer than medium, which is tenderer than well done.
Rest before serving
After all the ordeals by water, salt and fire, the roast needs a rest. After twenty minutes it will still be warm, fear not, and taste absolutely amazing, like a good beef topside roast.
Did I mention the chocolate sauce? Oh well, it really deserves a whole post on its own…