Holiday roasted venison leg

This is a spectacular, spectator friendly, no-holds barred recipe for special occasions. I made it for solstice last weekend and aside from the visceral and personally satisfying rare backstrap the day of the kill is the best way I’ve ever had venison.

Since the very young buck I shot with Little Bear came home whole, I cut up both rear legs whole, bone-in, and put them in the freezer as such.  Aside from fawns little spikes are your best guarantee of tender, mild meat, so I had this roast earmarked for the weekend my parents would be visiting, and we’d be out at a cabin (with a gas oven) with plenty of time for prep and cooking.

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First, let the leg thaw, assuming it’s been frozen, which will take a while.  Then apply the dry rub, liberally, to both sides and allow the rub to soak in for at least 4 hours.  Overnight would be ideal.  The foundation of the rub is lots of course sea salt and sugar; I used white sugar, but brown is just as good.  Additionally I used plenty of coriander, paprika, and garlic powder.

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After the rub rests it should form a semi-solid crust.

Next, prep the aromatics.  I used an onion, two leeks, and a large fennel bulb.  M was kind enough to dice them very fine.  This goes in a large shallow pan, along with half a bottle of white wine (a NZ Sav Blanc from Marlborough, for nostalgic purposes).  At the last minute I added two sectioned apples.

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A wire grate goes over the pan, the leg goes atop the grate, and the whole thing gets tented tightly with foil.

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I cooked this on 275F for almost three hours, then pulled the foil and put a finish on it at 500 for 20 minutes.  This cooked the leg more than I prefer, there was almost no pink left.  If I were to do it again I’d do the initial cooking at 250, and back the time off to 2.5 hours.  A remote meat thermometer would be very handy.

In either case, make sure to let a roast this size rest for a long time after leaving the oven.  20 minutes is not too long, and 30 would be ideal.

One of the reasons we diced the veggies was to make the pan drippings into gravy.  This worked well, but M used almost all the liquid and cooked it down quite aggressively.  A lot of salt dripped off the meat, and the gravy was too salty.  Not reducing the liquid much at all, or cutting it with stock or water, would be a good way to go.

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This recipe requires a fair amount of time and planning.  The result is well worth it.  Cooked slow, with plenty of liquid, and with the rub forming a tangy crust the connective tissue melts and the roast in very tender throughout.  Cut large slices all the way to the bone to mix the mild, melty meat inside and the intense flavor on the edge.  Save the shank for your most valued guests, it turns into a dark, smokey meat and has the strongest flavor of the whole roast.

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