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Big game, a succulent fall feast

Wikispanishfood.com editorial team

These days, the sounds of shotguns can be heard throughout Spain's fields and hillsides. The season has begun in which hunters pay homage to Diana, the goddess of the hunt, and the culinary landscape features satiating products with strong, aromatic flavors. Game cuisine, a succulent fall feast.

These splendid delicacies provided by big game deserve due attention. That includes roe and fallow deer and boar, although the best time to hunt them is later, in the beginning of winter and even in spring. Dry aging and marinades are much more important than with small game.

Roe deer: the most tender meat

From a gastronomic standpoint, roe deer is considered among the best types of big game. Its meat is tender and delicate and gives off a unique aroma, and it can be prepared in myriad ways: in civet, in stews, roasted, grilled, in soups and broths...

From a culinary standpoint, the fallow deer is not as interesting as the roe deer, as its meat is tougher. If it's a young animal, it is more tender, although it still requires dry aging and long marinades, which are not always effective.

Strong, slender, wise and quick, the deer is the most beautiful and abundant animal in the Spanish hillsides. Its meat—be it loin, sirloin, leg or rib—must be dry aged to allow it to soften naturally. A marinade is also recommended. Venison in mushroom and truffle sauce, with cranberry sauce, or in civet with glazed spring onions are some exquisite examples of recipes featuring this prized type of game.

Boar is slightly less popular today. It's important to note that, for physiological reasons, the male boar must be castrated as soon as he's been killed to ensure that the meat doesn't become impregnated with an unpleasant flavor. Since this animal is very abundant, both adult and young boar are hunted. Dry aging and marinades depend on the animal's age; if they are adults, the meat is used to make cold cuts, while the head is used in cooking. Boar's head is an especially noble dish, which should be presented at the table with the appropriate fanfare to highlights its exquisiteness. It can be prepared in a stew, a casserole, marinated, roasted and in civet.

The simplicity of complementary ingredients

Broadly speaking, home cooked game meat is simple and not very imaginative in terms of side dishes. Traditionally, onions, carrots and sometimes potatoes are used.

In Central Europe, where game meat is consumed is large quantities, it is usually served with marmalade and jam, from cranberry to redcurrant, and almost always with chestnuts. The apple and pear combination is also very delicious. In recent years, Spanish restaurants have been preparing increasingly innovative dishes to which they add a touch of imagination to the filling flavors of each type of game.

It's very likely that, in the near future, you may find yourself with a cut of game and you won't know how to prepare it or preserve it so that the meat remains tender, exquisite and flavorful.

If the cut is from an adult, the meat could end up being tough when you try to cook it. To ensure that this doesn't happen, it's best to let it rest for one or two days in a cool place, with the skin intact and gutted. It's advisable to season the meat at the end of the cooking process, as salt causes it to lose liquid and dries it out.

Flavors and aromas that leave an impression

These gastronomic delicacies can be enjoyed for a few months of the year, and their flavors and aromas are sure to leave a lasting impression. It's a whole world of treasures for the palate.

We recommend several restaurants which always serve game meat when it's in season. In Madrid, Central European recipes with game have been prepared to perfection for more than 70 years at HORCHER, which prepares a wonderful venison with Port wine sauce, and at LA MONTERIA, which serves delicious boar jowl as well as cured, air-dried venison. In the town of Las Ventas con Peña Aguilera, in Toledo province, you can feast on venison loin or boar carpaccio at CASA PARRILLA. And in Cáceres we suggest two options: LA TORRE DE SANDE, which offers venison with juniper, and EUSTAQUIO BLANCO, which prepares venison sirloin straight from the San Pedro mountains.

ADDRESSES

HORCHER. Alfonso XII, 6. Tfno. 915 220 731. Madrid www.restaurantehorcher.com

LA MONTERIA. Lope de Rueda, 35. Tfno. 915 741 812. Madrid www.lamonteria.es

CASA PARRILLA. Avda. Toledo, 3. Tfno. 925 418 207. Las Ventas con Peña Aguilera, Toledo www.casaparrilla.es

TORRE DE SANDE. Los Condes, 3. Tfno. 927 211 147. Cáceres www.torredesande.com

EUSTAQUIO BLANCO. Ruta de la Plata, 2 Tfno. 927 238 555. Cáceres. www.restauranteeustaquio.es

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11/12/2014