Sunday, November 20, 2011

Giving thanks for pork belly, venison

Can pork belly salad “life changing?”
I was excited to be invited to the new Finch Hutton Restaurant on Boston Avenue in Nederland. I’d decided to try the pork belly salad discussed on the front page of the Port Arthur News. I asked around and learned pork belly is where bacon comes from. That, paired with pineapple, melon and a citrus dressing, sounded like a good adventure.
A waiter told me a diner had called the dish “life changing.” Well, I tell you, I haven’t stopped talking about mine. It was crispy, fatty and delicious. I was down two pounds the next day, so it must be a low-carb thing. I think the owner must have put it on the menu as a way to get more men to a fancy restaurant. The place is lovely, with a long design and gold-flecked walls that made as good an impression as my lunch. Other diners had beautiful plates. Entrée options include lamb burger, soft shell crab salad, New Orleans barbecued shrimp and grilled duck breast.

Love the holidays
Last week I had my first turkey of the season at the YMCA potluck and that evening attended an event with a Christmas tree. The potluck drew a Southeast Texas spread where cooks gave thanks with tamales and gumbo, too. The Silver Sneakers leader told me she had just tried quinoa with good results. While the food has been a highlight of every gathering I have attended recently, the chance to be with caring people has been the best part. Make sure you invited all the people you can accommodate to all your functions.

Any deer hunters in the house?
Probably not. They’re in the woods, right? I’ve had the pleasure of dining on a hunter’s catch only a handful of times. I’ve never had the challenge of seeking new ways to serve venison. Harold W. Webster Jr. has hunted and cooked across the country and you can bag his “The Complete Venison Cookbook.” The folks at Quail Ridge Press say it’s flying off the shelves.
Venison Steak Tartare with Eggs and Anchovy, Hot Venison Sausage and Apple Sandwich, Pepper Venison Burger with Stale Beer Sauce, Calcutta Venison and Venison Sausage and Seafood Ragout are some of the more unusual fare. There’s plenty of old school offerings in there, too. Don’t forget sides and dessert. Crackling Bread, Cranberry-Rice Stuffing, Mintade, File Powder and Horseradish Sauce (fumes require outdoor prep) are in this 419-pager. I’m impressed with the spread. By spread, I mean all the eclectic recipes. For an actual spread, try this:

Venison Marrow on Toast
Large venison upper leg bones
Saw the large upper venison marrow bones into 4- to 6-inch lengths. Roast bone pieces in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes or until fork can easily penetrate the soft marrow portion on the bones. Scoop out the marrow and serve as is or season with salt and pepper. Serve on toast.

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