As many of you know, I am competing in Foodbuzz’s annual Project Food Blog contest. For the first entry, we were prompted to write a post that “defines you as a food blogger”. After spending this past week thinking about it and going over the comments I received over the past year, I think I’ve got a condensed list that says it pretty well.
1) I always post step-by-step photos of the recipes I make, since it can greatly help to see how something looks at certain stages of preparation.
2) I tell the unvarnished truth about the process I went through, whether that be substitutions, subtractions, goofs or inspirations. It’s that sense of adventure and outlet for creativity that really keep me going, even when things occasionally (but not too often, thank goodness!) catch on fire or end up looking a bit like cat food.
3) I use fresh/local/seasonal ingredients whenever possible, especially when it comes to my meat and seafood selections. I obtain live critters and explain about their preparation, much like the way my mother did with me. I believe that you appreciate your food more when you know about the source.
3a) Kind of in the same category, I grow as much of my produce as I can so it can go straight from the plant to the plate.
4) I bring an international perspective to the various cuisines I dabble in, owing to my own mixed background and experiences. I feel equally comfortable making dishes from several parts of Asia, the Americas, and southern Europe… and am now getting intimately acquainted with the ingredients of Scandinavia.
How does that all tie together? Hopefully, like this…
When we first announced to our Californian friends that we were moving to Finland, one of the most common questions we got asked was, “What do they eat out there?” It got to the point where we blurted out the pretty standard reply of, “Penguin sushi. Roasted polar bear. And reindeer-flavored muffins.” After this post, I have a feeling a few of those friends are going to expect me to bust out the whale fat next. Yes, this is indeed glorified reindeer sashimi.
Reindeer (poro in Finnish) with lingonberry (puolukka) sauce is a pretty classic Nordic combination, and the shameless carnivore in me loves to have the raw stuff every once in a while. Beef is the standard flavor of carpaccio, but why stop there when you’ve got such a plentiful amount of alternative hoofstock roaming past your backyard? Based on Simply Scandinavian’s Reindeer Carpaccio with Raspberry Vinaigrette recipe, with a handful of tweaks. Read on, you know you want to.
Ingredients list! For the reindeer itself, we have a reindeer sirloin fillet (the most expensive cut they offered at our local market — the tenderloins typically go straight to the restaurant industry), 1 lemon, olive oil, freshly ground pepper (I’m using a rainbow peppercorn mix), and salt (I’m using freshly ground Himalyan pink salt). The meat was bought frozen, which is always a wise step to take when serving meat raw since it kills the parasites. I let this cut defrost in the refrigerator for a few hours (so that it was still frozen, but no longer rock hard) before starting to work with it. For those doing this from fresh meat, you will want to clean the fillet and wrap it into the shape of a cylindrical roll. Pop this in the freezer for a couple of hours to firm up the meat and make it easier to slice super thin.
For the lingonberry vinaigrette, I departed a bit more radically from the original recipe. I kept it relatively pure of additional vegetables to make it more similar to the lingonberry sauce served with traditional reindeer steaks. I used 200mL (about 2/3 of a cup. I know you’re supposed to measure in units of mass, but I was going by eye and the measuring cups were the closest unit of measurement I had) of lingonberries (picked a couple weeks, frozen and lightly thawed), 4 tablespoons of lingonberry wine, 50mL (1.7 fluid ounces) of water, 2 heaping tablespoons of sugar, and 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar.
With the meat still in the fridge, I puréed a little over half of my lingonberries for use in the sauce. Reserve the rest for decoration and to drop whole into the sauce as you’re pouring it.
Add together the purée, water, alcohol, vinegar and sugar over medium heat. Stir until it is thoroughly incorporated.
Once it reaches a simmer, let it sit on the stove until it is the consistency you prefer for a dressing. I like mine a little on the thick side, so I kept it on for about 7 minutes.
While the sauce was simmering, I went out to the balcony and snipped a healthy handful of baby greens for an accompanying salad. This was very tasty with the vinaigrette dressing as well.
Once the dressing was done, I popped it in the fridge to chill. Then I took out the reindeer and started slicing it very thinly with my fillet knife. This is the main reason for all the freezing — see how easy it is to slice the meat so you can practically see through it?
Arrange the meat neatly on a plate and squeeze lemon juice over all the pieces. Follow up with a drizzle of olive oil. Then give them a sprinkle of that pepper and salt, and the meat is good to go!
To serve this appetizer-sized portion, I tossed on some of those baby greens and garnished with lingonberries. Vinaigrette on the side, so the diner can control the amount.
Conclusion? The meat really was mild and not at all gamey, as you would expect from a wild deer. It was somewhat nutty and the lemon really did go well with it. I liked the reindeer both on its own and with just a tiny dab of the vinaigrette, which was a nice balance of sweet and sour.