How to Make: Venison with Flavors of Gin

Good food comes from simple inspiration. This one joins two of Chef Matt Lambert’s favorite things: meat and gin.

Sung Han

The women in Matt Lambert’s life (his mother and grandmother) taught him how to cook when he was a wee kid living in the outskirts of Auckland, New Zealand. He took to the profession well — he applied for his first restaurant job at 11, started washing dishes at 14, opened his first restaurant at 21, then married his wife and moved to the States; and last year, his restaurant in NoLita won a Michelin Star. In effect, he’s been on the fast track to culinary fame. But you wouldn’t know it. He’s just a jolly Kiwi who has a penchant for good food.

His Venison with Flavors of Gin is both the signature main course on The Musket Room’s menu and one of its most popular dishes. The pan-roasted deer is paired with “deconstructed” gin — celery root puree, fennel, juniper meringue and licorice jus — in a dish that showcases a fresh interpretation of a classic New Zealand meat.

Deer & Gin

A Drinking Man’s Take on Venison

Order of Operations: Puree, meringue and jus can be prepared beforehand, then prepare the fennel, and lastly, sear the deer. Serve the deer alongside generous dollops of celery root puree, juniper-flavored meringue and the roasted fennel, and then drizzle the plate with a licorice-infused jus.

Roast Venison

Ingredients: Serves 2
8-ounce leg filet cut
1 tablespoon butter
1 sprig of thyme
1 clove of garlic

1. Poach in boiling water for 12 minutes at 140°F. 2. Let cool until room temperature. 3. Sear in a hot cast iron skillet at medium/high heat until browned on both sides, about 30 seconds. 4. Add butter, thyme, garlic and baste before removing from the pan.

Celery Root Puree

1kg celery root (chopped into 1-inch squares)
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt (to taste)
1 teaspoon xantham 
2 cups cilantro leaves 
2 cups cream

1. Place 1/2 cup olive oil in a medium pot with a lid and bring to high heat on a stovetop. 2. Place 2 cups cream to warm over low heat. 3. Cook celery root in olive oil for 15-20 minutes, checking regularly to make sure it isn’t turning brown or darkening in color — adjust heat if necessary. 4. Remove from heat, and place in blender with salt, xantham and cilantro. 5. Blend on high speed slowly adding cream 1/4 cup at a time until mixture is perfectly smooth and creamy (there may be some cream left over, add until the mixture appears smooth but not runny), about 10 minutes total.

Juniper Meringue

130 grams juniper base
50 grams ground juniper berries
410 grams water
114 grams egg white powder
1/2 tsp salt
160 grams isomalt*
170 grams trimoline*
126 grams water
*Ingredients like isomalt and trimoline might sound intimidating, but they are both sugar-derived ingredients that will help your merengue come together, and can be ordered online or found at a specialty cooking store.

1. Combine juniper base ingredients in a bowl and measure 130 gram of mixture. 2. Bring isomalt, water and trimoline to 220-225°F in a sauce pan, until sugars are a “soft thread”. 3. Pour heated sugar into bowl with the base ingredients, staying as close to the edge of the bowl as possible. 4. Whip on high until mixture is fluffy and doubled in size, about 5-6 minutes.


2 bulbs fennel
2 cups orange Juice
Salt (to taste)
Olive oil (to drizzle)
1 bunch rosemary

1. Cut fennel into 4 inch-long pieces and place in deep-rimmed baking pan. 2. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and rosemary sprigs. 3. Pour orange juice in to pan, juice should fill pan up to 1/4 inch. 4. Cover pan with aluminum foil to seal for steaming in the oven. Place sealed pan in oven at 375°F for 10-15 minutes, until fennel is tender and cooked through.

Licorice Jus

1 quart brown chicken stock
4 tablespoon freeze-dried licorice
Dash of lemon juice
Salt (to taste)

1. In a small sauce pan, place stock on medium heat until it reduces to 1/3 the original amount. 2. Season with salt and lemon juice. 3. Add freeze-dried licorice — upon addition, the stock should change in color. 4. When the color has fully darkened, strain the liquid and drizzle over final dish.

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