Could I possibly be alone in the desperation to hide my greed in the cloak of magnanimity? Do only I say Thanksgiving--with its generosity, and not Christmas--with its gimme, is my favorite holiday?
But I do enjoy once a year feeling as though my peritoneum needs sutures to hold in the grist of overeating; once a year seeing the family hazed in an aerosol of unctuous abandon--too eager before the fact to dwell long in the formality of that prayer, too corked-up during and after the fact to speak a word of wingnut horseshit.
Of course we get the whole grand sleepy feast again at Christmas, but for my liking once is sufficient.
I am disinclined to contribute to the clamor of helpful holiday tips. And I know no foolproof recipes involving cranberries. No witless tutorials--mine anyway concern Nabokov, and are conducted in private, with one eye half open, when my own aroma belongs nowhere near a gas stove. No, I am preoccupied with the distracting and distracted, something my family might look at as it steams on the table, and wonder, when did he lose his soul--for if not in these little ventures, when?
The ensuing recipes--I'm offering them in a ribbon-cutting gesture for the inaugural holiday season of FOOD & WhIskEy, involve some of the marquee cliches of holiday cooking. Some of them are merely sentiments familiar to the season, others incorporate seasonal ingredients. Ideally each will prevail upon you without my getting too explicit.
Sunday November, 22nd 2009 Sage Rubbed Venison Strip Steak with Butter and Browned Roquefort Polenta.
I would rather not begin with the finale--and in truth it cannot get more climactic, but sometimes circumstance prevails and adherence compels.
Last week, with a compound bow in his hand and his young son at his side Quint Weaver, hunting for the first time in his life, bagged himself a nine-point 24-inch antler span buck. First shot. I cannot in good faith to either Quint or the animal let the ruby tri-tips he gave me sit another day. All as well, the first tenet of Thanksgiving ought not rest on a single ingredient so much as a sentiment: simplicity.
Venison, like all game, disagrees with some palates because of its earthiness. The primary asset of any game animal for that matter is that the terroir has not been farmed out of the muscle and blood. You can taste grass, wood and minerals. So it must go with the preparation of venison that its complements show similar earthy--if somewhat decadent, minimalism.
This preparation will feed two.
If you want a fresh stock for the polenta start that now. For me I find two chopped onions (skins included), roasted garlic and a few shots of soy sauce make for an apt base--you're not making a soup, so the musky singularity of these few things will more than suffice as both a base and a complement to the bleu cheese you'll admit in short turn . Cover with about five cups of cold water and bring to a simmer, reducing by nearly half.
The polenta starts with a coarsely ground corn meal. Toast in a dry saute pan til lightly browned--the fact is cereals are kindred to spices in that their essences don't truly emerge til dry heat is applied. Or if you can find it, try Brinser's Best Yellow Cornmeal, a nutty, readymade tan cornmeal that requires no additional toasting. Salt and pepper immediately. Add simmering stock to the browned cornmeal, stirring as you do to incorporate. Once you have achieved a consistency you like--actually, stop short, it'll firm up once the heat is off, add a 1/4 stick of unsalted butter and crumble in bleu cheese til the polenta is well-colored with the penicilium marble--in this instance I chose the Fourme D'Ambert, which lends the prevailing richness.
The rest is monastically basic" salt and pepper the venison, browning in searing hot skillet til to your liking. I suspect with the slightly smaller tips I went about two minutes per side.
Deglaze the pan while the meat rests; I used the leftover stock, a splash of calvados and a tablespoon of butter. Get it to demiglace consistency--think honey.
I served it with grilled romaine lettuce in olive oil and a little lemon juice. The venison got a rolld coin of butter--again, unsalted. Let thems speak for themselves.