by Bernard Lahousse
on October 27, 2017

Venison: Savoring a seasonal ingredient for fall

October marks the official start of 'la chasse,' otherwise known as hunting season in Europe. It's a time when hunters, chefs and home cooks celebrate the autumn hunt with traditional dishes of wild fowl and game meats such as venison, wild boar and hare to honor the land and its seasonal bounty. Venison is one of the most popular fall game meats, prized for its complex green, fruity, floral and cheesy aromas.

The term 'venison' comes to us from the Latin word, venari, which means 'to hunt.' It was originally used to describe the meat of any animal killed during 'the chase.' Nowadays, venison refers to the meat of any deer or antelope species. One common species throughout Europe is the spotted roe deer. Prized for its fine flavor, it can be found on la chasse menus everywhere.

Aroma Analysis: Venison

As with most meats, the desirable flavors we associate with venison are mostly a result of the chemical reactions that occur during the cooking process. Raw venison, like other meats, consists primarily of green aroma molecules that don't offer much flavor on their own; the meat develops more complexity as it is cooked. Preparation methods such as braising and stewing are great for infusing more flavor into your venison without losing moisture from this lean game meat. You can also sauté or roast your meat. Every different method of cooking triggers a new chemical reaction that will result in the formation of new aroma molecules.

Venison consists mainly of green aroma molecules and develops most of its flavorful complexity during the cooking process.

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Fruity, floral and cheesy

As the venison cooks, heat causes its fatty acids to oxidize and break down into new volatile organic compounds such as fruity-scented esters; geraniol, a floral-scented alcohol; and acids with cheesy notes. Meanwhile, the amino acids and sugars present in the meat will trigger a Maillard reaction, producing other new roasted-popcorn and caramellic aromas, while the caramelization of sugars results in additional caramellic notes. Our aroma analysis also reveals the formation of sulfurous molecules, giving venison a subtle onion-scented nuance.

How to pair your venison

Classic pairings

Step into any restaurant featuring a la chasse-themed menu, and you can expect to find classic pairings such as venison with cranberries, apples, celeriac, butternut squash, brussels sprouts or Belgium endive. Chanterelles, black trumpet mushrooms and other foraged fungi are also typical seasonal pairings for this special fall feast.

Enhance your la chasse-inspired dishes by including new aromatic pairings to complement the traditional ingredients in your recipes.

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Aromatic pairings

You can enhance your la chasse-inspired dishes this year by cooking outside of the box. It's easy! Try including a new aromatic pairing or two to complement the traditional ingredients in your recipes. You can find hundreds of different ingredients to pair venison with, like calamansi, buckwheat honey and even Douglas fir pine needles. Or create a sauce for your game meat made from Colombian coffee and Rutte's Old Simon genever. You'll be pleasantly surprised!

Venison with gingerbread demi-glace, apples and pumpkin

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In this recipe, the Maillard reaction caused by cooking our venison produces additional roasted-popcorn, vegetal-potato and vegetal-mushroom scents that can be paired with seasonal fall ingredients such as apples and pumpkins. The meat's roasted-malty notes also provide a separate aromatic link to the gingerbread used in the recipe's veal demi-glace. Find the recipe >>

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by Bernard Lahousse
Scientist, food aficionado and Foodpairing® founder Bernard Lahousse applies his scientific approach to food innovation and extends his knowledge to chefs and bartenders all over the world.

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