Slow Food Intl. Terra Madre 2018

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Every year Slow Food International holds Terra Madre, a day of awareness to celebrate local food on a global scale. I’ve been a member of Slow Food USA off an on for close to 20 years, and most of what we grow here, including our chickens and ducks are carefully chosen to align with Slow Food’s Ark of Taste and to foods and breeds of animals that are facing extinction. We join together on Terra Madre Day to share a vision of a global food system that it equitable, respectful to the environment and animals, and supports biodiversity, taste and tradition.

Because Terra Madre 2018 falls on Monday, the majority of events and recipes being shared are meatless, and I was going to do the same. However, yesterday I prepared a meal that needs to be talked about, and does truly embrace all that Terra Madre stands for.

After our Thanksgiving meal with my parents, and much reminiscing about days gone by and the foods they enjoyed, I realized that my father, who has advanced/End Stage Vascular Dementia, had a flood of great memories related to the food I had prepared. This has been happening often so I came home and started thinking of meals I could make that would bring some happiness to his days. Venison was top on my list, unfortunately my husband stopped hunting many years ago and I don’t have as many connections to it all as I used to. I decided to ask my friends on Facebook, and within a few hours I was graced with beautiful prime cuts from a gentleman I’ve never even met though our friends at Engelbert Farms.

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Hunting brings different images to mind for people, most can’t bear the thought of killing a defenseless animal, yet they have no issue buying meat from a super center. Ironically, I can’t bear to buy meat from a super center (or any grocer for that matter) because of the suffering the animals endure. I think so much of what we feel comes from our experiences, and mine were of watching my father’s respectful and reverent care of the deer he harvested, from listening to them talk about what they saw in the woods, their thoughts on the winter to come and how the wildlife would survive it…or might not survive it. They talked about the destruction and disappearance of hunting land, and about hunters that should be ashamed of themselves. I have always been an animal lover, and was vegan and/or vegetarian for many years but hunting by true sportsman environmentalists has never been offensive to me, very much to the contrary. In my opinion the worlds population would eat less animal protein, and be far more respectful and conscientious of it if they had to raise and slaughter it or hunt and process it themselves.

That leads my to my Terra Madre recipe for 2018, Venison Back Strap with Stout Braised Carrots and Shallots. I had no intentions of sharing this as a recipe, or as a post but every part of it with the exception of a couple of ingredients that could easily be substituted, is about as local, sustainable, equitable, and communal as I could ever hope to create. I had tears in my eyes as I prepared it because of the memories it brought back to me, and when I saw how expertly and carefully the venison was butchered I was speechless.

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Friends, if there is anything that I can share with you about food that can change your life, it is to dig deep and start eating at this level of local. I promise you, it will fill you with respect and admiration for every part of the meal. You’ll cook more carefully, you’ll be far more thoughtful of how you prepare it, and you’ll know every part of that foods journey to you. The disconnect from my food was a primary factor in my decision to start eating locally produced meat. I could no longer turn a blind and arrogant eye toward the brokenness of the vegan food system and reliance on ingredients that are not sustainable, seasonal, and for the most part not even grown on the same continent. There is so much more I would like to say about this topic, but I will save it for another day. Today I focus on food that I can grow myself and purchase from ethical small farms less than a 50 mile radius from my house. I know the people who grow and raise my food, I visit their farms, they have become friends and colleagues, they treat their animals and the environment with that reverence and respect I hold dear. That my friends, comes about as close to the concept of Terra Madre for me as it gets.

Venison Backstrap with Stout Braised Carrots and Shallots

Recipe by Colleen Cheechalk - Raised Roots
Special thanks to George Jacobus and Lisa Engelbert for their generosity and kindness for making this very special meal possible.

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2 Backtraps (comparable to the tenderloin in beef) approximately 2-3 pounds.
3 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tbsp butter or ghee

Stout Braised Carrots and shallots
2 cups carrots in a 1 inch bias cut
1 cup shallots peeled and halved
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
5 ounces stout
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 cup beef stock
2 cloves garlic minced
1 sprig thyme
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Pay dry and generously season and rub the backstrap with the salt and pepper

Melt 1 tbsp of the butter in a cast iron pan over medium high heat. When the pan just begins to smoke, add the backstrap and sear for 2 minutes on each side. 

Remove from the stoptop and place in preheated oven for approximately 7 minutes. An instant read thermometer should be at 130 for rare. Please do not allow it to go past 135-140 or it will quickly become dry and tough. Treat it as you would the finest tenderloin filet of beef, because it deserves that treatment. Remove it from the oven and and skillet to a cutting board and tent it to rest.

Using the same cast iron skillet, return to medium heat, adding a splash of the stock to the pan to deglaze it.

Add the olive oil, butter, brown sugar, shallots and the carrots and sauté until they begin to soften and caramelize. 

Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add thyme, stout and remaining stock and continue to on medium heat until the stock and broth are reduced and the carrots are tender. About 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

To serve, slice the backstrap into 2 inch pieces and serve with the carrots and shallots. Garnish with a drizzle of the pan sauce and chopped parsley and serve.  

*Notes* 

I used Guinness because this was a spur of the moment meal. A local rich stout, especially a coffee or chocolate, would be perfect. 

The stock, vegetables and herbs were made and grown on our farm in organically managed conditions, the garlic is organically grown by Engelbert Farms in Nichols NY, the venison is local to the area as well. To make this a fully local meal, the olive oil could be substituted for extra butter, and that could purchased from a local creamery such as Byrne Hollow Farm

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