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Seared Venison with Huckleberry Sauce, Sweet Potato Strudel and Puréed Celery Root


Wine recommendations: Geyser Peak 1997 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Alexander Valley), Pindar 1997 Mythology (North Fork of Long Island).

American/New American
Executive Chef Matthew Maxwell of New York's Hudson River Club
Number of Servings
Serves 4
For the venison
4 venison loin chops, with bones frenched
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

For the sauce
1 cup red wine (Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon)
1 1/2 cups beef stock
1/2 cup fresh huckleberries or dried cherries or cranberries
2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons water
1 bay leaf
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

For the celery root purée
1 medium-to-large celery root, peeled and cut into medium dice (about 3 cups)
Whole milk to cover
1 tablespoon butter, room temperature or slightly warm
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the sweet potato strudel
3 sweet potatoes
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon honey
Salt and pepper to taste
3 sheets frozen phyllo dough
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
Nonstick cooking spray
Marinating the venison for a few hours or overnight in the refrigerator will help tenderize it and enhance the flavor, but this step can be skipped if you're short on time. Chef Maxwell suggests a marinade of red wine, coarsely chopped carrot, onion, garlic and shallot, a few black peppercorns, 1 juniper berry and a few sprigs of fresh rosemary. Ask your butcher to "french" the ends of the bones or do it yourself by scraping them clean of meat. At the restaurant, Maxwell serves this dish with a purée of celery root and sweet potato strudel. If you are not serving a game bird and fish course, you might want to serve two chops per person and double the accompaniments accordingly.

If you are marinating the venison, combine ingredients in a nonreactive bowl or pan and arrange chops in a single layer. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours. When you are ready to cook, remove chops from marinade and discard marinade. Wrap bones in foil so they do not discolor in cooking. If you are serving celery root purée and sweet potato strudel, prepare according to instructions below before starting venison chops or sauce.

For the sauce, heat wine over medium-high heat until it reduces in volume to about 1/2 cup. Add beef stock and 1/2 cup huckleberries or dried cherries or cranberries. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and gradually add cornstarch mixture, stirring, until sauce has the consistency of heavy cream. Add bay leaf, black pepper and fresh thyme and cook until reduced in volume by one-third. Strain and add remaining huckleberries or dried fruit. Remove bay leaf and keep warm until you are ready to serve.

While sauce is in its last stage of cooking, heat oven to 350F. In an oven-proof roasting pan set on stove over medium-high heat, add oil and heat until it ripples. Place venison chops into pan in a single layer and sear for about 2 minutes or until brown, turn and sear other side for about 2 minutes. Place pan into oven and bake for 5 to 8 minutes or until desired doneness.

Place celery root into a medium-sized saucepan and add enough milk to cover. Set pan over medium heat and cook for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until a fork pierces the pieces easily. Strain, discarding milk. While celery root is still hot, transfer to a food processor and purée until smooth. Blend in 1 tablespoon butter and salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm until ready to serve. Makes 3 cups.

To make the strudel, heat oven to 350°F. Bake potatoes for about 40 minutes or until soft. Remove from oven and let cool. Using the back of a knife, peel skin off potatoes, working gently so that you lose as little potato as possible. Purée potato in a food processor until smooth. Blend in one tablespoon butter, maple syrup, honey and salt and pepper to taste. Brush one sheet frozen phyllo with melted butter, top with second sheet of dough, brush with butter and top with third sheet of dough. Using a sharp knife, cut layered phyllo in four equal squares. Position a square of phyllo so that one corner is directly in front of you. Place a generous dollop of sweet potato purée on that corner. Fold two side corners inward to meet. Brush with butter. Gently roll corner that is filled with potato away from you, until you have a cylinder. Repeat with other phyllo squares. Reduce oven temperature to 325F. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray and arrange strudels on it. Bake for about 8 minutes, or until golden. Keep warm until ready to serve. Makes 4 strudels.

Remove chops from oven. Place a dollop of celery root purée in the center of each of four plates. Slice sweet potato strudel on a diagonal and lean a piece on either side of purée. Lean venison chop in front. Drizzle sauce on chop and around edge of the plate. Serve immediately.
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