Dinner was fabulous. Wish you were here.

I didn't chop the mushrooms very finely because I'm sort of lazy like that.

At 6:30 pm, the apartment smelled like butter and garlic, and moist earth, as the mushrooms transformed themselves into duxelles. You could smell it down the hall, to the elevator, little whispers of thyme and bay leaf and a lick of white wine on top of everything, and it was like autumn decided on a signature fragrance and released it here, just for us. By 7:00 pm, it smelled like a grand sort of feast, the kind of thing you’d eat in a restaurant if you weren’t poor.

I wasn’t going to tell you about the burgers, because I figured they’d just be burgers like any other burger except with deer, and because I didn’t chop the mushrooms very finely, or even very well, so a lot of them were still in large chunks which means I did duxelles wrong. But they were marvelous, and sometimes things are better when you share them. If you have access to ground deer meat, you should absolutely make these. If you have a brother-in-law who hunts, hug him all the time.

Venison burgers with duxelles and brie

(makes four)

  • 1 lb. ground deer meat
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 small round of brie, about 1/2 cup
  • 1 batch of duxelles, made from 1/2 lb. mushrooms (I used garlic instead of shallots)
  • 4 hamburger buns

In a large bowl, working with your hands, combine the meat, butter, olive oil, garlic, seasoning, and egg yolk. Form into four equal-sized patties, and grill over medium heat, four to five minutes per side.

Spread buns with the condiments of your choosing. I minced some basil into some mayonnaise, and spread that on one half, with a bit of sweet Bavarian mustard on the other side. Maybe don’t use ketchup. It wouldn’t be right.

Divide duxelles between the four buns, placing them on the bottom. During the last minute of cooking, place two slices of brie on the tops of each burger, then remove from heat and place on top of duxelles. Let sit two to three minutes before serving, so that the cheese melts somewhat and the meat rests a bit.

The smell is magnificent. The taste? Oh, wow. It’s a wild sort of taste, big flavours with grassy touches from the cheese and the mild game-flavour in the meat. The basil adds to that, perfumes the whole thing. Drink a big red wine with this, a zinfandel or something like that. It’ll stand up nicely to the whole thing. It’s earthy and homey and wonderful, something you’d imagine eating if you were dating a lumberjack who lived in a log cabin but who also had excellent taste in wine and cheese. Just like that. And wouldn’t that be nice?

Anyway, I just wanted to tell someone about it. When you share a meal with boys intent on watching hockey, you don’t get to wax ecstatic about stuff like you would if you were eating with anyone else. Though I noticed that when the game was over, they were hardly heartbroken that the Canucks had lost. I’d like to think it had something to do with the meal.