Roast Haunch of Venison

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Roast haunch of venison immediately makes me think of a roaring fire, cold weather, a hunt, lots of booze and tall tales. Now set that picture in Ancient Rome.

Roast haunch of venison with herbs on a cutting board.
Photo by Shutterstock

Many years ago, I adapted this dish rom that most famous of cookbooks from Ancient Rome: Apicius. Only in reality, that book is likely not from the Rome of the Caesars, but later, in the 400s, after the Visigoths burnt the place down. Small matter.

This roast haunch of venison is typical of Roman, and later Middle Ages meats: Sweet, salty, herby. You’ll see a few odd ingredients here. I’ll walk you though them.

The first is fish sauce. Isn’t that Asian? Well, yes, but the Romans loved a similar sauce galled garum, and you can buy its modern cousin, Colatura di alici, in specialty shops. But fish sauce is easier to get. Just buy a clear, filtered one.

The others are the herbs rue and lovage. I grow them both in my yard, but if you don’t, chances are you are out of luck. I offer substitutions below. Both are intensely aromatic, and rue is bitter. It’s there to offset the honey.

What is Haunch of Venison?

Fair question, at least to Americans. For the British, haunch is often just another word for a roast. Like “joint,” it’s a term for big hunk of meat roasted.

Technically speaking, however, a haunch should be bone in, from the hind leg, and often including either the shank or the hip, or both.

A haunch of venison on a cutting board.
Photo by Hank Shaw

Couple notes here: First, you want to keep some fat on the haunch, as it adds flavor, and if you serve your roast piping hot, it will be delicious. (Here’s more on why venison fat can get waxy, if you are interested.)

Second, since this haunch of venison is roasted medium, not well-done, that shank will be undercooked. Save it for later, where it will serve as a great beginning to venison stew.

Cooking Methods

The absolute best way to roast a haunch of venison is in front of a real fire, spinning on a string so it cooks evenly. Good luck with this one, unless you have an old school fireplace. Another good option is to roast it in a pellet smoker — even though it won’t be set on “smoke,” the smokers are heated with wood and that aroma will carry through.

Finally, yes, you can use an oven. If that’s what you are going for, I’d sub in smoked salt for regular, as a cheater’s method of getting some smoke flavor.

Accompaniments

Since this dish is essentially a roast with sauce, I normally serve roast haunch of venison with polenta or mashed potatoes. Too New World for you? Then eat it with farro or barley. Just substitute farro or barley for rice in your favorite risotto recipe. Or make it a holiday meal with wild mushroom stuffing.

Want to go real old school? Make polenta with barley. It’s what the gladiators ate.

Roast haunch of venison with herbs on a cutting board.
5 from 7 votes

Roast Haunch of Venison

This venison roast is typical of Roman meats: Sweet, salty, herby. I like using the whole hind leg off a whitetail doe or pronghorn for this recipe.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 10 people
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 4 to 6 pound venison roast
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon rue, minced (If you can’t find rue, use rosemary)
  • 1 tablespoon lovage, minced (If you can’t find lovage, use celery leaves)
  • 1 tablespoon oregano, minced
  • 1 tablespoon mint, minced
  • 1 tablespoon , parsley, minced
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 minced medium white or yellow onion
  • 1 teaspoon Thai fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 cup sweet wine

Instructions 

  • Salt venison roast about 12 hours. Take it out of the fridge 30 minutes before cooking. Preheat oven or pellet smoker to 325°F.
  • In a pan, add olive oil, then brown venison on all sides. When browned, place in an ovenproof roasting pan in oven, ideally on a roasting rack. How long depends on the roast. If you have an internal probe thermometer, insert it into the thickest part of the roast. Pull the meat when it hits about 130°F or even a little less. Set the meat on a cutting board to rest, and grind black pepper over it.

SAUCE

  • While the venison is cooking, in a mortar and pestle, mash all the herbs together with the garlic and a pinch of salt until it's a paste. You could also use a food processor.
  • When the roast is resting, add flour to the pan to make a roux. Stir and cook over medium heat until its tan-to-brown. I put the pan on the stovetop over two burners set on medium low for this.
  • Add the onion and cook until it's translucent. Add sweet wine and stir it into the roux, which will seize up a bit. If it's too thick, add some water or stock. Reduce heat to medium, add fish sauce, honey, then the herb-garlic mixture. Let it cook down. The sauce should be the consistency of melted ice cream. Think turkey gravy. Taste to adjust for seasoning; fish sauce is very salty, so you will probably not need more salt.
  • Slice the roast thinly, lay down sauce, and serve.

Notes

You can also do the browning step for the venison on a grill. 

Nutrition

Calories: 301kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 35g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 129mg | Sodium: 158mg | Potassium: 540mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 162IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 32mg | Iron: 6mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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2 Comments

  1. Jefe,

    This looks like the ticket for a winter, fresh from the field, savory meal to have after a long day of processing the rest of the deer (party style). One question I have, why does the picture show herbs all over and the recipe only calls for black pepper to be put on it in the resting phase. Is the picture just for photo op only and didn’t turn out as good as recipe or is the recipe missing a step to rub on herbs and spices during the rest?

    Roasted a lamb leg with garlic, rosemary and olive oil last year. I thought that a venison leg should work the same. Very pumped to find this recipe and give it a try.

    1. David: The herbs are all optional. I do like using them sometimes. Rosemary, savory, sage, etc are all good options. Marjoram, too.