This next mushroom sauce is the stuff of deep, dark forests and shady places, featuring flavors so strong and wild as to cause disquiet to a delicate palate while satiating those of us who desire to delve so deep.
For the second in my mushroom sauce series, then, I present venison soaked in a marinade of hawk’s wings (Sarcodon sp.) and wild red wine vinegar, topped with a Sarcodon cream sauce.
The hawk’s wings came from a two-year-old jar labeled “mature fruiting bodies” that I collected in my early mushroom hunting days. Back then I was more nervous about Vera Stucky Evenson’s advice in Mushrooms of Colorado and the Southern Rocky Mountains (1997): “Only mild, young fruiting bodies should be eaten, as this fungus makes some people slightly ill.”
That year, like I did with many mushrooms, I collected the healthy hawk’s wings specimens I found—including mature fruiting bodies—but then sliced, dried, jarred and labeled them for later use.
Sauce is great because if it’s flavorful it doesn’t take a lot to change the character of a meal. You can taste and test its effects on your body all in one go, and it doesn’t feel like you’re sacrificing something when you wait to eat more tomorrow.
Since my recent departure from my 60-hour-week job, I now have time to operate the coffee grinder, so I took the luxury of powdering Sarcodon like I did Boletus a couple days ago, ending up with a couple tablespoons of the stuff.
Over that, in a saucepan, I poured an equal amount of homemade wild red wine vinegar, created from wild grapes collected two seasons ago with Butterboweredbike. It was supposed to be wine—my very first ferment. By all appearances and flavors it was wine when I bottled it but I must have left too much air in the bottle because after aging it two years, when I gleefully opened it up and poured it for a special occasion, we discovered we were drinking vinegar. No matter—it’s the richest and most colorful red wine vinegar I’ve ever had opportunity to play with. In part, I came up with this second mushroom sauce to accommodate it.
After powdered wings and blood-red wine-gone-bad, then, I tipped some wild garlic powder into the cauldron, followed by enough water (1/2 cup?) to make it runny, adding more as needed. This I simmered for 20-30 minutes until I was sure those hawk’s wing bitties were plenty cooked.
Whereas I used the porcini sauce of a couple days ago with chicken, the hawk’s wings and wild vinegar sauce was planned for venison. All three—hawk’s wings, red wine vinegar, and venison—have such strong flavors that I figured they could battle it out and come to agreement on a whole new collective flavor together.
As it turned out, the sauce alone I did not love. “Ooh that’s strong,” Gregg said, on both the mushroom and vinegar flavors. “Use it as a marinade,” he said. So I did.
We soaked the small venison steaks for an hour in a Corningware dish, and then just decided to cook it all together, covered in the oven, at 375 degrees I think, for like 35-40 minutes. The copious, thin sauce bubbled up and boiled around the meat for the duration, leaving a pattern of tiny mushroom bits coating the top of it. Often I find venison too gamey (I know, I know) if I don’t do a buttermilk soak first, but the flavor bath worked and it came out unique and good—though not quite there yet.
What sealed the deal was the addition of one more ingredient to the mushroom sauce we had left over in the pan, finally creating a true serving sauce that worked well atop the venison. Without further ado, here’s how to make the second in my mushroom sauce series:
Vinegared hawk’s wings yoghurt sauce
- Powdered dry hawk’s wings (Sarcodon sp.)
- An equal amount red wine vinegar
- A smidge of (wild) garlic powder
- Plain Greek yogurt
I said this in the narrative above but here it is again real quick: Mix all the ingredients except the yogurt in a pan with enough water to be runny (1/2 cup?), and simmer 20-30 minutes or longer, adding more water as needed, until the mushrooms are cooked. Combine with Greek yoghurt (ladle spoonfuls of sauce into desired amount of yoghurt) to taste.
We went with a fairly light-colored sauce (it didn’t take much base for the mushroom flavor to come out) and used it to top the marinated venison. Very tasty! Gregg was excited to find out there was more sauce after he finished the first round on his plate.
Wild food recovery planned
Of course there was enough sauce for Gregg. I have to keep this guy happy and healthy, after all, as he will be having surgery next week.
Those of you who read my blog last season know I myself was recovering from a big surgery (a new ACL and sewing-back-on of a nasty bucket tear to the meniscus).
Well, almost a year to the date, Gregg has busted his own front knee—and wouldn’t you know it, he, too, popped an ACL and tore a meniscus while landing a jump, in his case that sketchy Keystone 35-footer, which he landed far too deep (but landed regardless).
So we are in round two of the adventure. To coincide with my newfound unemployment, Gregg is done snowboarding for the season and stuck in the house for a while. On a positive note, at least I’ll have a captive audience to ply with my wild creations.
NOTES: 1) I’m basing the identfication of S. imbricatus on Vera Stucky Evenson. It’s definitely a Sarcodon. I’m 90% sure imbricatus. 2) Fortunately, Gregg and I are not among the individuals that this mushroom causes to feel “slightly ill.” 3) For an account on making the dock-stuffed peppers, see the Leftover Bread post.