No, no, this post isn’t about a rousing game of checkers or Scrabble!
Instead, this is a story of friends, family, and hunting! Not to mention perhaps the most exciting game of all: PREPARATION!
Do you see that, how beautiful it is? That, my friends, is the preparation rainbow! Well, okay, more literally, it is the mise en place that I put together to get me through one of the recipes in this post, but it is also SYMBOLIC of the massive amounts of prep work that made the following story possible.
So what I am really talking about here was a feast, held two days after Thanksgiving, thrown by Mr. Menace and myself. It all began with some venison and salmon that Mr. Menace’s parents had given us – I’ve mentioned before how fantastic and generous they are! The venison had come from Mr. Menace’s uncle, a hunter extraordinaire, and the salmon from a co-worker of Rich, Mr.Menace’s step-dad. Both wild, both caught by people we knew (at least by proxy!) and both copious. There were about 15 steaks of venison and eight pounds of salmon, and there is clearly only one thing you can do when there is that much delicious and rare meat filling your freezer – throw a colossal dinner party!
The guest list was easy – the folks who’ve joined in on previous food adventures, who’ve proven they have what it takes to eat slightly weird things (for us urban folk, anyway) and be present for a good time. Limited by the amount of food and our plates, we also kept it a fairly local crew. The menu was also fairly easy, since our main courses were already all picked out and just waiting to be cooked. I decided on recipes that involved a bit of marination, since the meat had been frozen for a little while. For the venison, I picked a low-stress but flavorful-sounding recipe – 2 heads of garlic! It was marinated overnight, getting me started on my preparations well ahead of time.
For the salmon, something a bit more involved – still nothing crazy, but I needed to prepare more than just the marinade – there was a fresh relish to top it. By happy coincidence, both recipes needed to be roasted in the oven at 450° – the first step I took to streamlining the entire process and making it all possible with a minimum of stress.
For sides, we went with cornbread, mashed potatoes, and roasted veggies. My other time-saving tips – have your partner in crime be an awesome prep cook. Mr. Menace chopped up all of the veggies the morning of the party – 8 whole pounds of them! This let me roast them at my leisure ahead of time:
The secret ingredient is butter! (sorry, vegans) In a weird way, these ended up being the hit of the dinner party. My Vegetable Therapist title felt well-earned. I also made a quick cherry-sauce for the venison:
Mr. Menace was also responsible for making the mashed potatoes, because he is that awesome. I hate making mashed potatoes, and so it’s great living with someone who guarantees you never have to do it.
Basically, we cooked all day, he chopping veggies in the morning, me starting with the cornbread. Then, I roasted the vegetables, and prepped the relish for the salmon:
The disparate bits of the mise above, in a bowl.
Elise brought some game sausages from a traditional butcher shop in Philadelphia to add to the mix! Here’s venison with sumac:
These were a delicious addition to the feast! Jenn brought some lovely wild mushrooms that we had as an appetizer, and Jess, Valerie, Jess B., Matty and Jill brought desserts, but I neglected to photograph them. You’ll just have to take my word for it that they were fabulous. Mr. Menace selected a terrific Malbec to go with our meal – deep purple, fruity, yet well-balanced, it paired well with food.
Finally, after all of the cooking and all of the preparation, I was able to sit down, surrounded by some of my dearest friends, and enjoy the fruits of my labors:
(Yes, we ran out of plates, and yes, that is a plastic one with a blue monkey on it beneath my food. God bless sisters.) The venison was rich and meaty, and paired well with the sweet cherry sauce. The salmon tasted incredibly fresh and clean with the orange relish. The vegetables were insanely sweet and rich from the butter, and I wish I’d made 8 more pounds worth! The house was filled with joy, and laughter, and people eating good food. There was a real sense of the closeness that can come from breaking bread together. Well worth, in my opinion, a bit of preparation.
PS: Mr. Menace also washed all of the dishes from this party, because he is a rockstar. Is it any wonder I love him?