If you only have a cursory understanding of German foods then “braten” only means many sausages. Braten means so much more than that. As a verb it means to roast or bake, as in meats. As a noun Der Braten can refer to any cut of meat or type of food that is roasted.
- Beef roast; Rinderbraten
- pork roast; Schweinenbraten
- roast chicken; Hühnerbraten
- roasted rabbit; kanichenbraten
- venison roast: Hirschbraten
And just to throw everything off a bit, if you are only roasting veggies the term is gebratenes Gemüse. Today we are looking at Hirschbraten, the venison roast.
It isn’t so much that venison is a typical German food, or that Fall game hunting is a typical German past time that makes me intrigued by the challenges of venison. It is the method of preparing game roasts that I find so interesting. Germans tend to be in it for the long haul. Any wild game roast dinner is going to be planned well before consumption of the actual meal. I learned this with the Hassenpfeffer from last year. Game foods, to reduce the “gaminess” in the flavors and textures, requires longer marination times than domesticated or farm raised animals.
The marinade is going to be highly acidic. The acidity retards bacterial growth, breaks down the muscle fibers to make it more tender and also slightly reduces the cooking time through the heat exchange in the chemical reaction between the acids in the marinade and the enzymes in the meat. Most German marinades are going to have a vinegar and wine base, as opposed to the singly noted wine based marinades in American cooking. German red wines tend to be a little more robust in flavor; some wine snobs would say German wines bludgeon the taste buds. In the use of a red wine for a marinade the bludgeoning aspect is not a bad one.
This particular venison roast came from Michigan, fresh caught. As it was my first venison preparation I was a bit restrained in my approach. Consequently the first bite of deer meat tasted a lot more like I had bit into a beef liver. And honestly… if meat were not so expensive I would have thrown the whole thing away. There was waaayyyyy too much iron in the flavors than I thought possible. Definitely more than I had bargained for in this deal. When I explored the Landküche article on the subject I learned why.
I should have marinated the 6 pound roast for 30 hours minimum. 48 would probably have been preferable. The marinade, in addition to the spices and herbs, should have been equal parts dark vinegar and red wine. A Balsamic would have been good. A balsamic with a flavor (Fig or blackberry, I think) would have been better. And the red wine was too weak. I used an Italian vino Rosso, which I had on hand. It is a wonderful table wine. But it was no good for cutting through the taste of iron.
The final product was edible, and once the gravy came on it was actually quite good. The other trick to making a venison roast is to let it rest before cutting.
- 1 Cup robust red wine
- 1 Cup flavored or regular balsamic vinegar
- 3 cloves garlic crushed
- 1 leafy cluster of celery
- 1 tsp crushed marjoram
- salt and pepper
Bag the roast with the marinade ingredients. Squeeze out the air and seal. Refrigerate for 30-48 hours, turning every 4-6 hours.
Sear the roast in olive oil in a pan that can go from stove to oven. I used a crofton pan from ALDI and it was perfect for the application. Roast at 400° for 15 minutes. Add veggies, more salt and pepper, marjoram and roast for another 40 minutes. Reduce heat to 325° after veggies get a bit of heat and some flame, add ½-1 Cup of beef stock to the pan, place the lid and cook until the veggies are tender.
When everything is cooked, remove veggies & roast to serving pieces while leaving the brownings in the pan. Add more red wine, salt, pepper, marjoram, a splash of balsamic vinegar to punch up the flavor, beef stock and a bit of beef bouillon if the flavors are not quite rich enough. Reduce the liquid to intensify the flavors.
At this point, I added in more garlic and pepper and used almost an entire package of beef stock. If you have to thicken it at this point, I suggest a corn starch slurry. Now is not the time to mess with a roux. Not only that, I don’t think the nutty flavor of a brown butter and flour mixture needs to compete with the iron flavor of the meat. In the end…
This was really quite remarkable for a first attempt.