Medallions of venison au poivre

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Serves

    2

Appears in

Soho Cooking

Soho Cooking

By Alastair Little

Published 1999

  • About

This type of dish absolutely reeks of restaurants and, in particular, rather grand restaurants of a certain age which certainly describes L’Escargot in Greek Street. Originally called L’Escargot Bienvenue, this famous place has been around for most of this century, but by the late 1970s it was so run down that the Health Inspector shut it down due to literally hundreds of violations. It was bought by a young Manchester businessman called Nick Lander, who was convinced that Soho had a future when everyone else had written it off. He spent a fortune renovating it and brought in the first wine list that was all New World. He also hired a young and very inexperienced chef – me. It was quite a big place, seating about 200. I’d never cooked for more than about 40 people before. I believe the modern term for this is ‘a steep learning curve’; bloody precipitous, more like it.

This particular incarnation of venison comes from Restaurant Troisgros in Roanne in central France. Along with Michel Guérard, Paul Bocuse and Alain Chapel, the Troisgros brothers enlightened an entire generation of chefs all over the world. The first time this dish went on the menu, it sold out immediately and it has continued to do-so ever since. I called it a quintessentially restaurant dish because it is expensive, requires stock and is a little daunting to a domestic cook. Do not be put off by this, it is a quick and easy main course to prepare, though I can’t deny the expense. You will need to find a butcher who will cut and trim the medallions for you; ask him to chop up the trimmings if you want to have a go at making the stock.

Ingredients

  • 4 medallions of venison, cut from the eye of the saddle, 60-80 g each, plus trimmings for enriching the stock (optional)
  • 400 ml stock (veal, beef or tinned consommé, bought in will do just fine)
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns, coarsely ground
  • salt
  • 75 g butter
  • 50 ml tawny port
  • 1 tbsp redcurrant jelly

Method

Enriching the Stock

Put the stock of your choice in a saucepan, add the same quantity of water to it, along with the venison trimmings, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat low and simmer for 1½ hours, skimming often until reduced; don’t add any salt at this stage. Pass through a sieve into a clean pan, discard the solids, and boil again to reduce it to 200 ml.

Cooking the Medallions

Spread the ground pepper on a plate and lightly press the pieces of venison into this on both sides. Season with salt. Melt a third of the butter in a frying pan over a high heat, and as soon as it starts to foam, add the medallions. Sauté for 2 minutes on each face, then remove to rest on a warm plate in a warm place. Do not rinse the frying pan out, it is needed for the sauce.

Making the Sauce

This type of sauce is known in professional kitchens as a déglace, in more simple terms, a pan gravy, quick and easy to make providing you have everything to hand. Return the frying pan to the flame, add the port and the redcurrant jelly, stir and add the stock. Boil vigorously, scraping and stirring, until the jelly is dissolved and the stock has reduced by half. This will probably take a few minutes. When the liquid in the pan begins to look syrupy, remove from the flame and add the remaining butter in small pieces. Swirl the pan to incorporate the butter as it melts. The butter will thicken the sauce and give it a rather appetising gloss.

Finishing and Serving

Tip the medallions into the frying pan with the sauce. Be sure to also tip in any juices that have run out of the meat. Over a very low heat, warm the meat and sauce for a few seconds. Do not boil the sauce with the venison in it, or the flesh will toughen. Remove the medallions to two serving plates and coat with the sauce. The venison is best with chips and a green salad.