Dead Man’s Corner is a great place to find ingredients that nobody knows how to handle. Dead Man’s Corner is that bit of the supermarket where the staff put stuff on knockdown because it is about to go out of date. In the UK, Dead Man’s Corners are most often stocked with savoury pies, marinated meats and deli counter produce. Occasionally, however, you can get lucky. Here are my four rules of shopping from Dead Man’s Corner:
- If there is cheese, buy it. If it is out of date for a supermarket, it may actually be ripe.
- If there are fresh, live oysters, run away.
- If there are other, whole fish, then get those. If you want to freeze them, gut them first.
- If there is any kind of unusual, unmolested meat, then buy it. For us, this usually means duck and venison. It will freeze just fine.
And so it was some weeks ago that I ran across two vac-packed trays of cubed braising venison languishing unloved on the top shelf of Dead Man’s Corner in Tesco, Whaley Bridge. A quick toot at The Silver Spoon, and we had yet another recipe for deer under our belts.
In Italy, deer runs around all over the place, which is not surprising for a country with a substantial part of the Alps in it. The larger, red deer are known as ‘cervo,’ while the smaller roe and muntjac deer are known as ‘capriolo.’ The dish on this page was named for capriolo, but it is very likely that my Dead Man’s Corner venison was actually cervo. ‘Salmì’ is an Italianate way of saying the French ‘salmis.’ In its true form, a salmis is a two-stage method of game preparation involving partial roasting, followed by a finish in a rich sauce. This dish is not quite so complicated as that, and we are simply cooking the venison fully and adding it back to its sauce.
For the sauce, this dish uses a method I have encountered before in Italian meat cooking whereby the meat and vegetables are cooked together, the meat is fished out, the veg are blended, and the meat is added back. This is how a brasato alla Barolo is done. My father has commented that it can result in a sauce that looks like very loose stools, and he may be right, but it is a really easy way to get a rich, meaty sauce. For this dish, you end up fishing the meat out of the vegetables not once, but twice, and that is, so be honest, a bit of a faff, but it is worth it for the result.
Happy hunting in your local Dead Man’s Corner.
Capriolo in salmì
- 1 bottle red wine
- 2 pinches of nutmeg
- 2 pinches of cinnamon
- 4 cloves
- 1 stick of celery, chopped
- 2 carrots, sliced
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 clove of garlic, chopped
- 4 fresh sage leaves
- 2 bay leaves
- 2kg stewing venison
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 50g butter
- 1 thick slice of pancetta (or 20g unsliced streaky bacon)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Mix the wine with half the spices, vegetables, garlic, herbs and venison. Season, cover and marinade overnight.
Remove the venison with a slotted spoon and pat dry with kitchen paper. Strain the marinade into a bowl and reserve the marinade and the vegetables separately. Discard the cloves and the herb leaves.
Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven and fry the pancetta until just crispy. Add the venison and brown all over.
Add the remaining spices, season and put the vegetables back in. Cook for about 10 minutes to soften the veg, and then add the marinade back in. Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 2 hours. Note that there are a couple of ways of dealing with this differently. One is to transfer the covered pan to an oven at 150˚C, and the other is to tip the whole shebang in an automatic slow cooker set to auto. Regardless, you need at least 2h of slow cooking.
Transfer the meat to a warm dish. Discard the remaining cloves, and then put the vegetables and liquor in a blender and whizz smooth. Serve the venison with the sauce poured over, with any extra in a gravy boat.
The Silver Spoon suggests serving this with sliced polenta. That might be great and all that, but among the very few things that The Nosey Chef does not really like, polenta is right up there. And grits. And papa. They are all essentially the same thing. We like to serve venison stews with a good mash.