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   A HEARTY WINTER BUFFET
 
 
 
2011 - Volume 1 Issue 2
¡Comidas Sabrosas!
Entertaining at Home
 
Article: Bob Skolnick
Photos: Jesse Ramirez,
             and Bill Faulkner
 
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When entertaining during cold weather months, I always think of traditional and hearty fare. In the early founding of our country, hunting and wild game was the staple of many family and community dinner tables. While hunting is still popular here in the Southwest, the enjoyment of game meats can be more easily accessible and enjoyed through purchasing the venison and goose from ranches and farms that raise the deer, antelope and wild birds in a controlled environment.

    We rounded out our winter buffet menu with an assortment of bite-size appetizers, a selection of cheeses, crackers and fruits to start. When the buffet opened, we led with an assortment of hearth breads, and a spinach salad with red-pepper vinaigrette dressing. Our roast venison and goose were carved on the buffet and we matched them with several hearty asides: roast onions filled with saffron orzo, pumpkin and sweet potato puree in mini pumpkin shells, oven roast baby new potatoes with rosemary and fresh broccoli with cheese sauce. For dessert, we featured orange and Marsala-flavored yogurt with fresh fruit topping to clean our palate.
This is not to say the venison is fed a diet other than what they find in the wild, but on a ranch that has boundaries reducing natural predators and conservation programs to make sure the natural foods the game would feed on are more abundant. This produces a healthier and natural product often referred to as “Farm to table” or “Natural Raised” game. The entrées are the centerpieces of a buffet menu and we chose venison and goose as the stars of our buffet table.

We purchased the venison from Broken Arrow Ranch in Ingram, Texas. Broken Arrow Ranch works with many ranchers in Central Texas to field harvest only truly wild animals as part of a range population control program. Venison is a broad term and can come from a variety of wild animals, most often from a variety of native deer and antelope. Venison meat is both nutritional and very tasty when properly prepared. We chose a chop-ready rack of venison which we slow roasted with fresh herbs and served with a zinfandel wine and natural au jus wild mushroom sauce. This cut will serve six to eight people and should be carved on the buffet just before serving. Visit www.brokenarrowranch.com to see the wide variety of venison products they offer. Overnight shipping is a standard service.

We purchased our goose from Schiltz Farms in Sisseton, South Dakota. They are one of the largest producers of geese in the country. Geese, unlike venison, are now more domesticated, though early pioneers found them abundantly in the wild. Over the last half-century, they worked for their feed, assisting farmers with wild grass control as their sustenance. They were used in agriculture fields for cotton, strawberries and asparagus. Our local pecan growers, Stahmann’s and Salopek Farms of Southern New Mexico, used geese extensively at one time for grass control in the pecan groves. Today the geese are raised in a farm environment with well-balanced feed and have developed a heavier meat production due to a better balanced diet. We received several whole goose options from Schiltz Farms – an uncooked All American Holiday Goose, a Celebration Pre-Roasted Goose (partially roasted) and a Smoked Goose. We tried and liked them all but featured the Pre-Roasted Goose product on our winter buffet. We served our roasted goose with a Cumberland sauce. Visit www.roastgoose.com to see their product line, suggested recipes and secure overnight shipping for your choices.

Appetizers and Starters

With a sumptuous winter buffet to follow, the appetizers and starter course should be light and taste stimulating. We elected to prepare a few bite-size cold hors d’oeuvres and an international cheese, cracker and fruit board to satisfy our guests while talking and enjoying the selection of wines.

The cold hors d’oeuvres included pencil asparagus spears poached in a lemon infused stock and wrapped in prosciutto. We took the leaves of Belgian endive and filled them with puree of artichoke hearts bound with horseradish flavored mayonnaise and topped with poached shrimp. Sweet mini red peppers always are popular and we split and cleaned them and filled them with wasabi flavored cream cheese. The finishing items were a bowl of garlic-stuffed olives and Greek dried olives and fresh radishes. This was a simple but diverse group of taste sensations.

    A glass of wine, a piece
of cheese, asparagus and
prosciutto and Belgian
endive leaves— what can
be a more stimulating
international starting point
for our casual winter party?

Everybody likes cheeses and especially when the cheeses are different in texture and depth of flavor. I had to select two of my favorites; Brie and Manchego. Brie is well known from France and cheese lovers will relish the Manchego, which is the leading cheese of Spain. It is a hard cheese with a beautiful flavor. We then matched an English Stilton cheese (similar to blue cheese but a little milder). Next came the Jarlsberg and then we finished with the Mimolette which has a smoky cross between Gouda and English Cheddar and has a firm texture and a vibrant orange color. We surrounded our cheeses with a selection of crackers, apple and pear wedges and concord grapes.

As a starter course, we prepared a bowl of fresh spinach leaves with red onion and red pepper garnish and served with sweet pimiento vinaigrette. A large basket of different hearth breads and unsalted butter matched well. By the time the hot buffet was opened, everyone’s taste buds were ready to experience the game menu to follow.
   
  Click on any "Winter Buffet" course below to reveal or hide its cooresponding recipe.
 

• Roast Venison with Wild Mushroom Sauce - Serves 8

  One chop-ready venison rack will average in weight from six to seven pounds and when carved will provide eight (8) chops with bone (similar to a prime rib with bone portion, but half the size in diameter)
  1   each   chop-ready rack of venison (6 to 7 lbs in weight, fully thawed)
  ½   cup   olive oil
  8   each   cloves of fresh garlic – roughly chopped
  1   each   larger Spanish onion – medium diced
  4   each   fresh rosemary sprigs
  4   each   fresh thyme sprigs
  ¼   cup   black pepper – ground coarse
  ¼   cup   sea salt – ground coarse
  3   cups   Zinfandel wine
  3   cups   fat-free beef broth
  2   cups   wild dried mushroom mix (woods ear, shitake, morels, cepes)
  ¼   cup   Wondra flour
  To Prepare Roast Venison with Wild Mushroom Sauce
  1.   Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2.   Rub the whole venison rack with olive oil and season with the sea salt and black pepper.
  3.   Place the venison rack in a shallow roast pan with a raised wire rack on the bottom of the roast pan. The venison rack should be roasted with bone side down.
  4.   Spread the rough chopped garlic and onion evenly over the top of the venison roast.
  5.   Lay the sprigs of rosemary and thyme intermittently over the top of the venison roast.
  6.   Combine the red Zinfandel and fat-free beef stock and place half of this mixture into the bottom of the roast pan.
  7.   Place the dried mushrooms in the other half of the wine and stock mix so they reconstitute and become soft. Set aside.
  8.   Place the roast in the preheated oven and roast for approximately two hours. Use a meat thermometer to assure doneness. Venison is best when served medium rare to medium in internal temperature. Remove when at 125 to 130 degrees and it will rise to 130 to 140 degrees internal temperature as it rests.
  9.   Remove the venison from the oven, carefully scrape off the onion, garlic mixture into the roasting pan. Transfer the roasted venison to only a warm serving platter that will catch any juices and drippings while the venison is resting.
  10.   Take the roast pan, remove the wire roasting rack and place the roast pan on the stovetop to simmer. Drain (squeezing) the dried mushrooms and set them aside. Take liquid from the mushrooms and add it to liquid in the bottom of the roast pan.
  11.   Bring the au jus in the bottom of the roast pan to a boil, then pour through a fine strainer, placing the liquid in a sauce pot and discarding the onion-garlic-herb mixture.
  12.   Bring the venison au jus to a simmer and thicken the au jus lightly using Wondra flour. Chop the reconstituted dry mushrooms and add them to the slightly thickened au jus. Add in any drippings from the resting roast and you are ready to serve. ¡Buen provecho!
           

• Roast Goose with Cumberland Sauce - Serves 8

  Our recipe considers the purchase of a whole holiday goose, frozen and uncooked. It will take two full days to thaw under refrigeration. A goose has a layer of fat just under the skin and this fat layer needs to be rendered and then the roasting of the goose meat can proceed. Rendering the fat can be accomplished by poaching the whole goose in court bouillon or roasting the goose in a very hot oven.
  1   each   holiday goose – uncooked (12 to 14 lbs in weight)
  4   each   cloves of fresh garlic – roughly chopped
  1   each   medium Spanish onion – medium diced
  3   each   apples – peeled, cored and cut into quarters
  4   each   oranges – peeled and cut into quarters
  1   cup   red currant jelly
  2   cups   white Zinfandel wine
  3   cups   fat-free chicken stock
  2   cups   dried fruit (mix dried apricots, apples, cranberries and cherries)
  ¼   cup   Wondra flour
  1   tbsp   ground ginger
  1   tbsp   salt and pepper
  To Prepare Roast Goose with Cumberland Sauce
  1.   Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees.
  2.   Take the thawed goose and pierce the skin all over the goose with a kitchen fork. This will allow the fat layer to render out in the initial roasting phase.
  3.   Season the outside of the goose with a light rub of salt, pepper and ground ginger.
  4.   Place the whole goose breast side up in a shallow roast pan with a raised wire rack on the bottom of the roast pan. Add 2 cups of water to catch the fat and keep the bottom of the roast pan from burning.
  5.   Place the goose in the oven preheated to 400 degrees and roast for approximately 1 and 1/4 hours uncovered. During roasting, spoon or siphon off the fat that will be rendered to the bottom of the pan.
  6.   After the rendering process occurs, turn the oven down to 325 degrees, pour out all of the rendered fat in the bottom of the roast pan and place the rough chopped garlic, onion, peeled apple and peeled orange quarters into the bottom of the roast pan.
  7.   Combine the red Zinfandel and fat-free chicken stock and place half of this mixture into the
roast pan.
  8.   Place the dried fruits in the other half of the wine and stock mix so they reconstitute and become soft. Set aside.
  9.   Use a meat thermometer to assure doneness. Place the thermometer into the inside thigh muscle and return the goose to the reduced heat oven. Roast for an additional 2 and 1/2 hours at 325 degrees until the thermometer registers 185 degrees. During roasting continue to spoon off the fat in the bottom of the roast pan periodically.
  10.   When the goose temperature reaches 185 degrees, remove it from the oven and place on a platter covered to rest.
  11.   Take the roast pan and remove the wire roasting rack and place the roast pan on the stove top to simmer. Bring the stock and apple, orange and onion mixture in the bottom of the roast pan to a boil, then pour through a conical strainer, pressing the cooked orange and apple mixture, forcing the pulp through the strainer. Place the stock and pureed fruits in a sauce pot; discard any orange/apple mixture that does not go through the strainer.
  12.   Drain (squeezing) the dried fruits and dice them. Take liquid from the dried fruits and add it to liquid in the sauce pan along with the liquid from the roast pan and the pureed orange apple mixture.
  13.   Bring the Cumberland Sauce to a simmer, add the red current jelly and return to a simmer. Thicken the sauce lightly using Wondra flour. Add in any drippings from the resting roast goose and you are ready to serve. ¡Buen provecho!
           

• Sweet Marsala Yogurt with Citrus and Berries - Serves 8

  After enjoying a hearty roast game and winter vegetable buffet, the dessert we selected needed to fill the role of palate cleanser and refresher to bring everyone’s taste buds back down. A frozen yogurt dessert infused with a little spirits did the job.
           
  64   oz   orange-flavored yogurt
  8   tbsp   sweet Marsala wine
  8   tbsp   Grand Marnier
  1   cup   fresh raspberries
  1   cup   fresh strawberries
  24   each   orange slices
  12   oz   raspberry or strawberry syrup
  To Prepare Sweet Marsala Yougurt with Citrus and Berries
  1.   Place the orange yogurt into a stainless steel bowl and blend. Slowly whisk in the sweet Marsala wine and the Grand Marnier liqueur until fully blended. Cover the bowl with clear wrap and place into the freezer to congeal the mixture.
  2.   Peel and cut your oranges into wheels. If the oranges are a little tart, sprinkle the wheels with a little Equal® flavored sweetener.
  3.   Clean your raspberries and strawberries and toss them gently in the raspberry or strawberry syrup.
  4.   Chill eight open-mouth wine or champagne glasses.
  5.   To serve, spoon eight ounces of the frozen “drunken” yogurt into your chilled glasses. Top with orange slices and fresh berries. Dust with a little powdered sugar and colored coarse sugar sprinkles and enjoy.
           
   
  Complementing Your Winter Game Buffet

When serving a buffet, the hostess or host has a good deal of flexibility in matching the side dishes to the entrees, which are the focal point of the buffet. When selecting the roast venison and roast goose as entrees, I wanted to show hearty and creative side dishes. Here are a few ideas:

Roast Onions with Saffron Orzo - Roasting a whole onion can be a fun vegetable when you scoop out the center and fill it with contrasting texture and flavor. A saffron orzo provided complimentary color and flavor. To roast the onions, just season and oil the onion and trim the top and bottom so it will sit flat. Wrap in aluminum foil and place in a hot oven for about an hour. Remove from the foil and brown under high heat. Let them rest, scoop the center out and stuff the center of the onion with the saffron orzo. Reheat and serve.

Pumpkin & Sweet Potato Puree - The combination of roasted sweet potatoes and roasted pumpkin, combined with good quality maple syrup is always a nice mate for any meat entrée. We chose smaller baby pumpkins and scooped out the flesh, which we lightly seasoned and roasted. We selected several good size sweet potatoes and roasted them skin on. We combined the cooked flesh and added a little butter and maple syrup and blended all together – a simple and delicious preparation.

Oven Roast Baby New Potatoes - Baby new potatoes are the perfect compliment to any roast. Wash the potatoes and remove any blemishes, coat with good quality olive oil blended with garlic salt, fine ground pepper and ground thyme and marjoram. They can be prepared a day in advance and reheated as the oven space will be tied up with the games roasts which are best done the day of service.

Broccoli Flourettes with Cheddar Cheese Sauce - Broccoli is one of my favorite green vegetables. Broccoli can also be cooked a day in advance and reheated. The key to broccoli is not over cooking the flowers. Prepare a hot seasoned light chicken stock and add a dash of baking soda to keep the green color vibrant. Just dip your broccoli into the hot stock and steep for just a few minutes until tender. Toss with melted butter and serve with thinned cheddar cheese sauce. ///
 
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