I have been following and participating in Battle YUM! since the beginning. I didn’t have choice, considering it started in my house. In its infancy, Battle Yum! was a challenge between my wife and my son. I was always a judge. As it grew to what it is now, I was referred to as “the husband” in many a write-up. When the most recent challenge included game meat (something that “the wife” doesn’t particularly care for), I knew it would be up to me to rise up to the challenge, get off my keester and enter the battle arena.
It is extremely difficult to find game meat in NJ. I guess Wegmans might sell Buffalo steaks, but I wanted to go bolder than that. Enter John’s Meat Market in Scotch Plains. John’s has been reported to sell Buffalo, Elk, Venison, Rabbit, Kangaroo and Alligator. John’s is also next door to Little Shop of Comics, where I journey monthly to get my fix of “words and pictures”. This looked to be a great day of travel for me. Unfortunately, I arrived at John’s after Christmas and before New Years, and most of the specialty items I craved were sold out. However, with some help from Brian Kirpan who was working behind the counter, I was able to find the last package of venison medallions so my challenge could continue. I also left with a rabbit, but that is another recipe for another day.
Between my wife and I, I am the talker and the schmoozer. This is an important fact for when you need something. I discovered that Brian is also a chef. His card says he is the Chef de Cuisine at Flannery’s Pub in nearby Fanwood. When Brian questioned why I had to have game meat, I explained Battle: YUM! to him and described the ingredients. He smiled and suggested a menu. Who am I to say no? While he wrote an outline on wrapping paper for meat, I did my best to remember everything he said.
You must know your audience in order to make them happy when serving food. I already knew that it might be “hit or miss” with the venison with the boy and the girl, but I know if I paired it with Chef Brian’s idea of a yucca salad with apple and fennel, the dish would be a complete loss. So instead, I chose to go with yucca fries, which were being eaten before I could even plate them.
So what did I learn? Many things besides “what the heck is a yucca”. I would not have pan fried the yucca fries. Instead, I would have made my life easier and used the deep fryer. More oil, yes, but less work on my part more consistently crispy.
The sweet potato puree was really a hit all around, and the addition of the cayenne pepper gave it a nice zing. I thought that would help to counter the sweetness of the cherry sauce. However, with everything on the plate, I could no longer taste the zing.
Always remember to check your ingredient list! After making the champagne cherry sauce and trying to get it to the correct consistency, I was supposed add some butter to help thin it out so it would spread better on the plate. You can see from the pictures that the sauce didn’t quite make a good presentation. I’m just not a good sauce guy.
I do think that I am good at cooking meat. I was going to crank up the grill to 500+ degrees and grill the medallions, but for a total cook time of 5 minutes, it didn’t seem worth it. Instead, I pan-seared per Brian’s recommendation. After 3 minutes on the first side, I only allowed for 1½ minutes on the second side. With such a lean cut of meat, the difference between medium rare and shoe leather could be just 30 seconds. I should have trusted myself and let it go another minute, though. After resting the meat while the foie gras cooked, the thicker pieces of venison were still on the rare side. Good for me, but not for everyone. Speaking of foie gras: It was nice, but not necessary. I think I let it shrink down too far before flipping it over.
So how did it go?
Vension – thumbs up from me and the boy. Just OK to rather not finish it from the wife and the girl.
Yucca fries with mushrooms & onions – the wife, the girl and I all gave it a thumbs up. The boy… well, the boy doesn’t eat ANY type of french fries (?!?), so him leaving them on the plate was no surprise.
Sweet potato puree – four thumbs up!
Champagne cherry sauce – heard no complaints, but didn’t necessarily get an official thumbs up from anyone but the wife (who added water to hers to thin it out).
Vension Medallions with Sweet Potato Puree, Cherry Champagne Reduction and Yucca Fries
For the Sweet Potato Puree
- 3 pounds sweet potatoes
- 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400°F.
Prick each potato once with a fork, then bake potatoes in a foil-lined shallow baking pan until tender, about 1 hour. When cool enough to handle, peel, then cut away any eyes or dark spots. Purée potatoes with butter, cream, salt, and cayenne in a food processor until smooth.
For the Yucca Fries with Mushroom and Onions
- 1 long yucca root
- 4 tbsp of oil
- 1/4 cup mixed sliced mushrooms
- ½ cup sliced red onions
- 4 cups boiling water
Cut off ends of the yucca and depending how long your piece is cut into 4" legnths. Peel outer bark and half lengthwise. Remove the inside "bark" which can appear as a dark line in the middle of the yucca. Add to pot of boiling water and cook for 15 minutes, until yucca is soft. Remove from water and dry on paper towels. When cool enough to handle, slice into french fry size portions and set aside
In frying pan, heat 3 tbsp oil very hot and cook the yucca till they are golden and crispy. Remove and drain on paper towels.
Add remaining 1 tbsp of oil to pan. When hot, add onions and mushrooms, then cook for 1-2 minutes until onions begin to soften. Add french fried yucca back in and mix all together for another minute.
For the Foie Gras-Covered Venison Medallions with Cherry Champagne glaze
- 1/4-inch-thick venison medallions (about 3 ounces each)
- Enough flour to dredge the medallions
- 1/2 " pieces of Foie Gras approx 3" x 1 1/2" in size
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 cup cherries, pitted and quartered
- 1/2 cup champagne
- 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
Pat the venison dry with paper towels. Dredge the venison in the flour, coating both sides. In a large skillet add olive oil and heat very hot. Sear the venison over high heat for 3 minutes on each side (for medium rare), until brown. Remove the venison from the pan. Reserve and keep warm.
Deglaze the pan with champagne and add red wine vinegar, sugar, cherries. Lower heat and reduce till the glaze coats the back of a spoon. Add butter to finish. Remove contents from pan leaving enough to coat pan and reheat to high heat.
Drop foie gras in pan for 1 to 1-1/2 min until it shrinks in size. Flip over to cook on the other side for another 30 seconds and remove.
In the middle of the plate, set down sweet potato puree in an area slightly bigger than the medallions. Top the puree with a venison medallion and cover with cherry champagne sauce on top. Place foie gras on top of the sauce-covered medallion. Place yucca fries on the plate on one side of the venision, and circle the plate with extra sauce.