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Saturday, May 19, 2018

Cerf - Venison. Venison in French Cuisine.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
Red deer
Cerf means venison and venison means deer. Deer will be on many French menus and available in the supermarket and butcher’s shops all year round.  Nearly all French venison comes from farmed deer, and with a lower fat and cholesterol content than beef, pork or lamb it is enjoyed as a healthy alternative. 
French farmed deer include the Chevreuil, the roe deer; the Daim Européen, the fallow deer and the Cerf Rouge, red deer.  In the hunting season the Cerf Sika, the sika or Japanese deer may be on some menus. 
Wild and farm-raised deer feed on grass, lichens, vegetables, fungi, and fruit with wild deer adding tree bark to their diet in winter.  Farmed deer have a distinct,  tender, mild flavored meat while wild deer needs a great deal of preparation. Wild deer will be marinated and usually prepared as roasts or stews and may have a gamey taste. Apart from special Menus de Chasse, hunting menus, when wild game of all types may be on the menu the word sauvage, wild, is added to indicate wild  deer.

Cerf Rouge, Cerf Élaphe or Cerf Noble – The European red deer.
Red deer are the largest mammal in Europe, they can reach 200 kilos (442 lbs). An adult red deer is a cerf, a young male, under six months of age, is called a faon; from here comes the English word fawn. At two years a young female red deer is considered mature and called a biche.  The English word bitch comes from the French biche. When a menu uses the word cerf alone, then it will be the red deer.
Red deer on French menus:

Carpaccio de Cerf Sauvage à la Roquette et au Parmesan – A Carpaccio of wild red deer served with rocket and Parmesan cheese
Rôti de Cerf Rouge, Purée de Betterave Blanche, Crosnes, Shiitake et Pulpe de Canneberges –  Roasted, farmed, red deer served with pureed white beetroot, Japanese artichokes, shiitake mushrooms and European cranberry pulp. The crosne, the so-called Japanese artichoke are small knobby tubers and look like a small Jerusalem artichoke. They have become an interesting addition to many French menus.
Civet de Cerf Sauce Grand Veneur et Polenta – A farmed, red deer stew served with a Grand Veneur sauce accompanied by polenta. A Grand Veneur is a great hunter, and the sauce with that name is traditionally served with game. The sauce's recipe has changed over time and now is usually made with red wine, wine vinegar, stock, butter, fresh berries, dried juniper berries, and crème fraîche.  The polenta, cornmeal cake, on this menu listing was never a uniquely Italian dish; it was a basic food all around the Mediterranean and saved millions of peasants from starvation.  Today polenta has become a fashionable side dish though today’s French farmers, no longer peasants, mostly ignore polenta and buy pasta, rice and or potatoes in the supermarket.  Civets are stews primarily associated with rabbit, hare, and sometimes young, wild boar, but tasty recipes are for sharing, and so here we have a red deer civet.

Filet de Cerf Sauvage Choux de Bruxelles Pommes de Terre Confits, Thym, Citron – Fillet of wild red deer, a cut from the tenderloin, served with Brussel’s sprouts, and potatoes baked with olive oil and garlic and flavored with thyme and lemon.  
Saucisse de Cerf Rouge sur Choucroute et Pommes Vapeur -  Red deer sausages served on the juniper berry flavored pickled cabbage of the Alsace accompanied by steamed potatoes.

Tournedos de Cerf au Foie Gras Poêlé, Sauce au Cassis   - A thick cut from a fillet of red deer accompanied by lightly fried fattened duck liver served with a redcurrant sauce.
Red deer in the languages of France’s neighbors:
(Catalan -  cérvol or cérvol comú), (Dutch -  edelhert ), (German - rothirsch  ), (Italian -  cervo nobile), (Spanish - ciervo europeo, ciervo rojo).
Chevreuil – The European Roe Deer.
Roe deer.
The roe deer is the smallest of European deer; a large roe deer may weigh 35 kilos (77 lbs). The male is called a brocard, and the female is called a chevrette.

Roe deer meat is the leanest of all deer meat and when grilled or roasted will need to be barded, wrapped in fat.
Roe deer on French Menus:
Carpaccio de Chevreuil et ChanterellesCarpaccio of roe deer served with wild chanterelle mushrooms.
Noisette de Chevreuil aux Poires Rôties et Airelles –  A small round cut of roe deer steak barded and grilled served with roast pears and European cranberries.  A noisette in French is a hazelnut and the word often used to indicate a small size or a particular color.
Gigue de Chevreuil Grand Veneur  - The haunch, the upper part of the leg, from the roe deer roasted and prepared with a  sauce Grande Veneur, a great hunter’s sauce made with red wine, wine vinegar, stock, butter, fresh berries, dried juniper berries, and crème fraîche.
Venison with Grand Veneur Sauce and Chestnut Puree.
Paté de Chevreuil Sauvage de Sologne aux Chanterelles - A pate made with the meat from wild roe deer and chanterelle mushrooms from the Sologne.   The Sologne is in North Central France and includes parts of the departments of Loiret, Loir-et-Cher and Cher in the region of Centre-Val de Loire.  This part of France covers 5,000 square kilometers (1,900 square miles) and while nearly all is private land it is well-known for its fishing and wild game.
Roe deer in the languages of France’s neighbors:
(Catalan - cabirol), (Dutch - ree), (German - reh), (Italian - capriolo), (Spanish – corzo). 
Daim – The fallow deer.
Fallow deer.

The mail fallow deer is a daim, the stag, the female a daine, a doe, and the young are faons, fawns.

Fallow deer on French menus:
Daim Rôti à la Broche – Fallow deer roasted on a spit.
Médaillon de Daim, Purée de Pommes de Terre – A round or oval cut from the rump of fallow deer served with pureed potatoes.
Pavé de Daim, Sauce au Poivre – A rump steak from the fallow deer served with a pepper sauce.  A pepper sauce in France is nearly always made with green peppercorns.  Chefs want the ability to control the heat in a pepper sauce, and green pepper is much more manageable than black peppercorns.

Pavé de Daim, Sauce au Poivre
Pavé de Daim aux Cinq Baies – A thick cut of fallow deer steak; prepared with a sauce made with five different berries.  The berries used will include the Baie de Genièvre, dried juniper berries; Baies de Cassis, blackcurrants, the Bleuet, Myrtille, the billberry, the Airelle or Canneberge, the European cranberry, and the Groseille, the redcurrant.

N.B. On a dessert menu, the word daim will be indicating a tart or a sweet, a candy, with a caramel crunch, covered with a thin layer of milk chocolate.

Gibier is the French word for game, but since France farms nearly all game from sanglier, wild boar, to faisan, pheasant, menus need to be read carefully. Wild game, in season, will be on menus described as a Carte de Chasse, a hunting menu.   Wild game on a regular menu will be noted as sauvage, and that includes fish such as turbot which may be farmed but when wild it will be listed as turbot sauvage, wild turbot. When it is not clear how the game is served or its origins it is best to ask as an old wild duck can have a fishy flavor, and a mature red deer can be very gamey.

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Bryan G. Newman

Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2018.

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