It’s dusk on a dying summer’s evening and the doorbell rings. Our local chasseur (hunter) is on the doorstep, wreathed in smiles. He’s just been out in the woods checking up on the deer and wild boar population (as he is contracted to do by our commune) and he’s shot a roe deer. It will take him a little while to butcher the beast, but would I like him to set aside the liver for me?
I love game and I’m very partial to the Fifth Quarter (aka offal or organ meats), but I’ve never tasted venison liver. What’s clear from his body language (he’s wriggling and grinning like a delighted spaniel with a prize bone) is that this is quite an honour, and that the liver constitutes something of a trophy. After the merest moment’s hesitation, I tell him yesssss, I’d love it. He disappears to do his butchery, giving me just enough time to pull down from the shelf my fave book on game, Nichola Fletcher’s Ultimate Venison Cookery. On page 199 I read: “Venison liver is one of life’s great gastronomic treats.”
Ten minutes later, back he comes, proffering not just the beautifully cleaned liver but the kidneys AND the heart too. After profuse and somewhat confused thanks, I rush back again to Ultimate Venison Cookery, where I learn that if venison liver is a rare treat (“goes awfully well with chanterelles, should you be lucky enough to find any lurking around you“), venison kidneys are a-m-az-ing (“served rosy-pink on toast, or with a salad”). And as for heart… well, the heart is the bee’s gastronomic knees. With these three, confirmed Nichola later in an email, I’d got “the crown jewels”.
I can’t quite handle my crown jewels all in one week, so I’ve frozen the heart and kidneys for a later feast. This morning I went out into the woods and by happy chance stumbled upon some chanterelles and pieds de mouton mushrooms. Here’s what I did with my trophy liver:
Venison liver with potato galettes and wild mushrooms
300g thin-skinned, firm potatoes or new potatoes (5-6 medium), scrubbed but not peeled
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
Chopped lovage leaves, about 1 teaspoon
a handful of wild mushrooms (chanterelles, pieds de mouton, horns of plenty, ceps etc.) or cultivated mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 spring onions, finely chopped
250g venison liver, trimmed and cut in 6 slices about 1 cm thick
flour, salt, pepper
sprigs of thyme to garnish
- Slice the potatoes very thinly and put them in a bowl
- Add salt and pepper, 1 tablespoon oil and chopped lovage and mix well
- Pack the slices tightly into 2 small baking tins ca. 10cm diameter, pressing them down to settle them in. You can get fancy and arrange them decoratively in concentric circles, or just throw them in – just make sure the top is flat and they’re nicely snuggled in
- Heat the oven to 190 C and bake for about 45 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked through and the top golden brown. When they are done, leave them in the turned off oven; use the residual heat to warm some plates.
- For the mushrooms, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a heavy frying pan and soften the chopped onions without allowing them to brown. Add the sliced mushrooms and salt and pepper to taste. Cover the pan and leave them to stew gently and render some of their juice. Uncover, raise the heat and cook till the juices are evaporated. Remove mushrooms and keep them warm. Wipe out the pan and use it to cook the liver.
- Put a handful of flour with some salt and pepper in a plastic bag and shake well to mix. Add the liver slices and toss them in the flour till lightly coated. Shake off any excess.
- Heat the butter with 1 tablespoon oil over steady heat till the butter is foaming. Toss in the liver slices and fry very briefly – a few seconds each side – till lightly golden and just firm to the touch.
- To serve, lift the potato galette(s) out onto heated plates, top with liver slices set at an angle (add any pan juices), garnish with thyme sprigs and arrange mushrooms on the side.