Friday, November 13, 2009

The Ecstasy of Fall

Fall is my favorite season.

The clothes (wooly sweaters and pants, hats, gloves, scarves.). The light (low and bright in the afternoon). The smells (wood fires, rain-soaked leaves). The sounds (the patter of raindrops on the window as one falls asleep or as one drinks Sunday coffee with the New York Times and the cat competing for lap space).

And, of course, the food. The sudden emergence -- and relevance -- of comfort food that in Summer is too heavy, and now is so perfect. Braising. Baking. The addition of nuts. The addition of duck fat. The gorgeous drizzles of reduced balsamic and citrus juices intermingling with the juices of meats.

Last night I prepared what turned out to be the perfect Fall meal...

The starter was a roasted Winter squash and parsnips with maple syrup glaze and Marcona almonds. I roasted the vegetables for about 15 minutes longer than the recipe calls for, looking to get a little more of a "roasted" color on the squash, as opposed to the cleaner colors of a steamed vegetable. I also served the dish with a generous crumbling of Cotija cheese, which provided both a welcome, mild saltiness and a binding agent for the various squash. The vegetables are seen in the photo above, ready for the oven.

The main course was inspired by the recent Wild Beast feast at Lark, about which I will post soon. Suffice it to say, I wanted to serve my beef-despising guest a red meat that he would enjoy on what had turned out to be a cold, wet, windy night. I chose venison, and sourced it from the wonderful bijou meat shop University Seafood and Poultry. The recipe I used as inspiration was medallions of venison with port and cranberries.

As usual, I took liberties. The most significant was to add two handfuls of fresh cranberries to the reducing sauce at the same time as adding the port, which you can clearly see in the photo above. This gave a much more attractive cast to the final sauce -- the barely intact fresh berries standing out from the otherwise smooth sauce, giving it a more rustic appearance to the eye and texture to the tongue. I ended up giving each medallion about 5 minutes on each side, broken up in a 2-minute/2-minute/1-minute cadence per side. This resulted in a medium meat, just pink inside.

Welcome Fall and all you bring to our life of food!

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