* One of the coolest, and simplest, things I learned from The French Laundry Cookbook was that Chef Keller rarely has a lid on a pan in his kitchen. On page 190, there are instructions for how to make a parchment paper lid, which allows for some evaporation/concentration of the braising liquid, but keeps the meat from becoming too caramelized. Simple, yet effective. If it is good enough for Keller, it is good enough for Food Night, so that's how we roll - parchment lids.
The potatoes were done ahead of time as well. Thursday I gently poached them in olive oil and garlic, and stored them in the oil and garlic and a couple dried chiles until Food Night. Then Saturday night, I tossed them in a cast iron pan to put a nice sear on them. This was a quality, and painfully simple, do ahead preparation that I'll definitely use again. In fact I can't believe I haven't done this before. Plus I like saying "confit" potatoes. Sounds so regal and impressive, when it's actually easy as falling off a log. Can you simmer olive oil in a pan? Of course you can - and therefore you can make these potatoes, the inspiration for which I got here. Confit'ing is gonna become more common in my kitchen, I can tell. I wish I had done the venison that way, actually.
So, while I put together the first three courses of the evening, the venison was back in a really low oven, in the braising sauce had since been buzzed up with an immersion blender. When it was time to "slice" the roast, a small wave of panic passed over me. After poking and prodding the roast a bit, I could tell this thing wasn't going to be quite as succulent and tender like a lot of other braise-friendly cuts of meat I had worked with before. When I finally did take a knife to it, it flaked apart. Kind of like pulled pork, only without the moisture provided by fat (which as we've discussed, was nowhere to be seen here). It was indeed fairly dry, yet still tender, if that makes any sense. It certainly did not slice, so I did the only thing I could think of; I tossed the now "pulled venison" with plenty of that delicious sauce. Have another glance at the finished product... (there is venison in there, trust me, it's just being a little bashful)...
Finally, I'm really excited to announce that I have managed to convince a VERY special guest to attend a future Food Night! This guest is truly a gifted chef, not just some yahoo with a house, a couple cookbooks, a knife and an internet connection like yours truly. No, when this mystery guest goes to work every day, he goes to a restaurant. A freaking amazing, unique and fabulous restaurant. HIS restaurant, actually. OK, I need to stop there or I'll give away the surprise or have a stroke, and both of those things would lessen my enjoyment of the next Food Night.
* Individual results may vary.
I guess what I mean to say is, we are just getting started here at Food Night. Glad you are along for the ride.