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Hunting season has arrived and hunters head for the mountains in search for deer, elk and mountain goat. The hunting season is only about 3 weeks or the time that is needed to meet the culling goals of the herds. Hunters deliver their game to the local butchers who prepare them and sell the meat. Hirsch, Reh (venison and elk) are prepared into steaks, racks, sausage, Hirsch Peffer (marinated venison in wine) and Hirsch Bündner Fleisch (air dried meat a Graubünden speciality. The meat is rubbed with a mixture of pepper, juniper berries, herbs and salt and hung to dry in small barns in the mountains about 5,500 ft. for several month. During this time the meat loses about 50% of the water content. The Bündner Fleisch is then sliced into razor thin slices and served with cornichons (sour pickles), rye bread, small pickled onions and tomatoes. It is a Bündner specialty, although it is also made in the Ticino (Italian part of Switzerland). Veltliner wine is often consumed with Bündner Fleisch. Veltliner is a blend of Ciavennasca, Pinot Noir and Merlot grapes, produced in Graubünden and Lombardy, Italy. Veltliner is mostly sold in Switzerland and Northern Italy.
Today some factories reduce the drying process using air blowers. The product made internationally does not compare to the one made in Switzerland. In Graubünden it is offered in every restaurant and served on rustic wooden pallets.
We put our order in for Reh and Hirsch medallions, racks and steaks with our local butcher and have it frozen so that we can have local venison during the winter months. Grilling it over an open wood fire adds a slightly smoky rustic flavor. Traditionally Spätzli (a dumpling made by making a batter and scraping small pieces off into boiling water), wine poached pears with cranberry sauce and glazed chestnuts are served with venison. But I have created a chestnut fettuccine that I think compliments grilled venison.
Cervo alla Griglia
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 2-3 minutes on each size depending on the weight
Yield: 2 servings
2-6 oz. venison medallions
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
Bring the venison to room temperature. Rub each one with olive oil, salt and pepper on both sides.
Allow the fire to burn down to red coals, but it should be just a little smokey. Place the medallions on the grill and cook them on the wood fire until the meat slightly springs back to your touch. If it is resistant it is over done. This usually takes a few minutes on each side. The venison should be a deep rose color in the middle.
Venison can be grilled on an electric or coal grill, but the woody, smoky flavor when grilled over a wood fire gives the venison a wonderful rustic flavor.
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 7 minutes for the sauce and 3 minutes for the fettuccine
Yield: 4 Servings
1 1/2 cups flour 00, (if you can’t find 00 use all purpose flour)
1/2 cup chestnut flour
Pinch of salt
2 medium sized eggs
2 tablespoons tepid water
In a food processor, place all the dry ingredients except for the water. Add the eggs. Start the mixer allowing the ingredients to blend for 30 seconds, then add the water. As soon as it starts to look like it is a heavy corn meal, stop the processor and feel the dough. It should be very dry, but when pinched between your fingers, it should stick together. Don’t add additional water unless the dough is not sticking together. Remove the mixture and knead for 10-15 minutes by hand. The amount of water may be needed.
If you are making the dough by hand, place the flour on a board and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs in the well and mix the wet ingredients into the flour with a fork. Knead the dough for 10-15 minutes. Form the dough into a ball, cover it with a clean kitchen towel to prevent it from drying out.
Using a pasta machine, roll a piece of the dough through each level. Once you have rolled it through the last level the dough will be ready to roll through the noodle cutter of the pasta machine. Rolling the dough through these levels also kneads it. Using the noodle cutter, roll a piece of dough through and take half the noodles and roll them around your hand to form a little nest. Put them on a kitchen towel and let them dry. If you have a pasta hanger, don’t make nests, but hang them to dry. You can also roll the dough into a cylinder and cut it with a knife about 1/4″. Toss with a little flour.
Drop the fettuccine in a large amount of lightly boiling salted water and test after a few minutes. They should take only about 3 minutes to cook.
Note:. Chestnut flour may be found in specialty stores
Sage & Pine Nut Sauce
Prep Time: 3 minutes
Cook Time: 6-7 minutes
Yield: 4 Servings
1 lb pasta
12 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
6 tablespoons of butter
1/2 cup pine nuts
Several leaves of fresh sage
Salt to taste
In a deep pan, boil salted water and cook the fettuccini. If the pasta is boxed, cook according to directions. If the pasta is fresh, it will take less than 3 minutes to cook.
While the water is heating up, prepare the sauce. In a saucepan, melt the butter and the oil. Cut the sage leaves lengthwise and place them in the saucepan along with the pine nuts. Sauté it in the butter and oil, watch the pine nuts very carefully as they will brown very quickly. Remove from the stove as soon as they start to turn golden brown and allow them to finish browning in the hot butter. If the sauce needs more liquid, add a little boiling water from the pasta.