November 18, 2020
Hunting season in Texas has begun, and on a recent visit to Mary’s Ranch in nearby Navasota, I was presented with the leg of a young deer shot hours before on the ranch. If one must eat meat, this is the best way to do it — an animal in the wild, not held captive in some factory farm like many of the animals we eat on a normal basis. Though I have reduced my meat consumption tremendously, when I do indulge, I pay close attention to the provenance of the meat.
In an effort to honor the deer’s life, I went on to marinate it in a medieval spice — kalonji — that adds a subtly smoky flavor to roasted meats. Kalonji pairs beautifully with warm aromatic spices such as cinnamon and cardamom, which in turn create a delicious marinade for slow-cooked meats. This recipe also works beautifully with a leg of lamb.
Serves 6 to 8
5 to 6 pounds bone-in leg of venison
8 to 10 cups root vegetables (onions, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, carrots, etc.)
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
2 tablespoons sea salt
2 tablespoons amchur
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons ground nigella seeds (kalonji)
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon bark
1/4 cup butter (or olive oil)
Marinate the venison leg with yogurt, salt, and amchur for 2 to 3 hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the venison leg in a large and deep baking pan and rub the masala ingredients over it. Roast in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes until the top parts start to brown.
Take the venison out of the oven and wrap tightly in foil. Add thickly sliced onions to the bottom of the baking pan. Reduce the temperature to 250°F and return the venison to the oven. Cook for 2 to 3 hours or until the meat is tender.
Thirty minutes before the venison is done, add big wedges or chunks of root vegetables.
Turn the temperature back up to 400°F and finish cooking the venison for 10 more minutes. The meat should be tender and roasted brown on the outside and the vegetables golden brown. Take the baking pan out of the oven and let the meat rest for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
Amchur is dried green mango — the enzymes in mango work as a meat tenderizer during marination. The venison can rest in the marinade for up to 24 hours.
Kalonji, or nigella seeds, have an incredible smoky flavor that works really well with slow-cooked meats.
The cooking times of the meat will vary depending on how young the animal is — the older the animal, the tougher the meat and the longer it will take to cook.
Serve the venison with cranberry or mango chutney.
December 02, 2022