Leg of Venison in Moscovite Sauce with Butternut Squash Varenyky

This recipe will probably remind you of my Venison Goulash and Potato Varenyky. And true, the dish follows the same structure — but with a radically different flavor profile:

  • The leg of venison, from the deer I killed last fall, is still here. I see no reason to change the marinade either, unless you want to replace the oxtail with venison bones.
  • The cooking time is somewhat different: I used a slightly hotter oven for a shorter duration. Both results were very tender and I’d really have to compare them side by side to pick my favorite (which I didn’t do, sorry). The challenge is that while maximum tenderness requires longer cooking times, maximum juiciness demands the opposite. Add in all the other elements of your recipe, and you get a problem with no clear solution. With the method I’m using here, and considering the fact that there are fewer elements to prepare than in my previous goulash, the recipe is slightly more approachable (read: it will take 3 days instead of 4).
  • The Moscovite sauce is something you would know by heart, had you studied your Escoffier like any self-respecting cook before the advent of nouvelle cuisine. This rather obscure sauce is a modified sauce poivrade particularly suited to accompany venison. I made some changes to streamline the preparation with the rest of this recipe. I haven’t found any good explanation that connects the ingredients to Moscow (neither Malaga nor the golden raisins scream Russia to me), but the name of the sauce itself more than justifies the presence of this post on my blog, right? RIGHT? Speaking of Malaga, it’s not always easy to find, so you can use Marsala instead — I guarantee you the result will be just as Muscovite :)
  • This time, the varenyky are filled with a butternut squash mixture. The filling is loosely inspired by the pumpkin manty I’ve eaten in Uzbekistan, but I figured the traditional manty shape would be too fragile for mixing the dumplings with the rest of the dish.

Russian Cuisine - Leg of Venison in Moscovite Sauce with Pumpkin Varenyky

Marinated deer leg
Yields 6 servings

1 deer foreleg, about 4 lb
2 qt beef or venison stock (recipe here)

  • Chop the deer leg in half at the joint (you will need a cleaver or a saw).
  • In a pot large enough to contained the two pieces covered with beef stock, bring the stock to a boil. Add the deer leg and let sit for 3 minutes. Remove the leg from the stock, then let the stock cool.
  • Return the leg to the pot, cover and refrigerate for at least 2 days.

Braised venison leg
Yields 6 servings

marinated deer leg
salt
black pepper, ground
canola oil
6 oz peeled celery root, large dice
6 oz peeled carrot, large dice
8 oz peeled onion, large dice
1 garlic clove, peeled and sliced
1 tbsp tomato paste
10 thyme sprigs
3 parsley sprigs
2 cloves

  • Take the deer leg out of the marinade, and chop into a total of 6 pieces. Season with salt and pepper. Heat the canola oil in an oven-proof pot over high heat, then sauté the venison until brown on all sides and reserve.
  • In the same pot over medium heat, sauté the celery root, carrot, and onion until brown, stirring constantly. Add the garlic and tomato paste, and keep stirring for a few minutes, until the tomato paste turns brown.
  • Pour in the marinade, and add the thyme, parsley, and cloves. Bring to a simmer over high heat, then cover with a lid slightly ajar, and cook in a 250 F oven for 3 1/2 hours, until tender. Let cool for 1 hour.
  • Remove the meat from the cooking liquid. You can remove and discard the bones, trying not to break the meat pieces too much, or you can leave the meat on the bones. Pack into plastic containers, and pour a couple of ladles of cooking liquid on top. Reserve.
  • Strain the remaining cooking liquid, and process in a blender with 4 oz of the strained vegetables. Pass through a chinois, and reserve.

Butternut squash filling
Yields about 6 servings (24 varenyky)

1 small butternut squash (about 1.5 lb)
6 oz peeled onion, brunoise
2 oz butter
1/4 tsp ground star anise
1/4 tsp Urfa pepper
1 tsp honey
salt

  • Poke the butternut squash in a few places with a knife (to prevent bursting), and bake in a 350 F oven for 1 1/2 hours. Let cool.
  • Cut the squash in half, discard the skin and seeds, then measure 10 oz of flesh and mash it with a fork. Reserve the rest of the flesh for another recipe.
  • In a saucepan over medium heat, sauté the onion in 2/3 of the butter until soft. Add the star anise and Urfa pepper, and cook for another minute, stirring constantly. Add the butternut squash, honey, and remaining butter, season with salt, and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Butternut squash varenyky
Yields about 6 servings (24 varenyky)

pasta dough (recipe here)
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp water
butternut squash filling
semolina
salt
1 oz butter

  • Using a pasta machine, roll the pasta dough to the finest setting. I recommend proceeding in batches (cut the dough into 4 pieces) so that the pasta doesn’t dry out.
  • Mix the egg yolk and water to make an egg wash.
  • Cut 24 discs out of the pasta dough (6 discs in each batch) using a 3 1/2″ cutter. Brush each disc with the egg wash, place a spoonful of butternut squash mixture in the center, then fold into a half-moon shape and seal the edges with your fingers. Each one should have a generous amount of squash, but not so much that it’s difficult to seal properly. Keep the varenyky on a sheet tray generously dusted with semolina.
  • Cook the varenyky in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain, toss into a bowl with the butter, and cover with plastic wrap. Reserve.

Assembly
Yields 6 servings

braised venison leg
2 oz beef or venison stock
cooking liquid from braised venison leg
4 oz Malaga (or Marsala)
5 juniper berries
8 black peppercorns
2 oz butter, large dice
1 oz golden raisins
1 oz slivered almonds
butternut squash varenyky
1 tbsp chopped parsley

  • Reheat the braised venison leg with the beef or venison stock in a covered pot over very low flame.
  • In a saucepan over high heat, reduce the cooking liquid from the braised venison leg to 16 oz. Add the Malaga, juniper berries, and peppercorns, and simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Pass the sauce through a chinois, and transfer to a pot large enough to contain the meat and varenyky. Heat over medium flame, then whisk in the butter, and add the raisins, almonds, meat, and varenyky. Simmer for about 10-15 minutes, occasionally mixing all the elements gently with a spatula.
  • Sprinkle some parsley on top, and serve.

Russian Cuisine - Leg of Venison in Moscovite Sauce with Pumpkin Varenyky

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5 thoughts on “Leg of Venison in Moscovite Sauce with Butternut Squash Varenyky

  1. Hi Florian,

    Just followed the link from the Blendtec comment you left on my blog and found your stunning blog. Wow — what a treasure. So few serious cooks write about Eastern European cuisine. I’ll have to browse through your Russian recipes. My story is the reverse of yours. I was born in Moscow, but lived in the states since I was 13, traveled a lot in France, and my cooking leans heavily towards French and Mediterranean. I have to admit that it’s the first time I hear of Moscovite sauce. I should study Escoffier closer ;) The recipe does sound lovely.

    Cheers,
    -Helen

    • Thanks, Helen! Escoffier has a few Russian-sounding recipes, such as “pellmènes sibériens” (made with ham and grouse) and a dozen different “piroguis”. Some of them even describe something that’s actually eaten in Russia :)

  2. Pingback: Varenyky, Ukrainian Ravioli | Food Perestroika

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