Recipe: Maple-roasted vegetables with venison

"Dried venison ham" from Prague. It's smokier than I was expecting, but that's not a bad thing!
“Dried venison ham” from Prague. It’s smokier than I was expecting, but that’s not a bad thing!
I have a lot of chopping ahead of me...
I have a lot of chopping ahead of me…

The weather in Cambridge, England, has been getting warmer these last few weeks (in stark contrast to the weather in Cambridge, Massachusetts, or anywhere else on the East Coast). Aldi has replaced their racks of snow shovels with potted plants and tulip bulbs, and my tastes begin to turn from soups and stews to springtime flavors…

The initial roasting setup: just the onions, squash, parsnips and dressing.
The initial roasting setup: just the onions, squash, parsnips and dressing.

But not before I get at least one more batch of good old fashioned roast vegetables in! I splurged on some “dried venison ham” while I was in Prague, and have been trying to figure of what to do with it. I figured it would go well with roasted Brussels sprouts. Parsnips got thrown in the mix because I love them, but have never actually cooked them. Normally, I’d add carrots to go with the parsnips, but I eat so many of them as snacks that I was hesitant to put them in my main weekly meal as well, so I splurged again on a butternut squash. A can of chestnuts has been languishing in my pantry cupboard, so that went in as well. For flavor, I settled on a maple and rosemary dressing, with a bit of wholegrain mustard and plenty of black pepper for spice.

I should also  mention that rosemary is one of my favorite herbs. :)
I should also mention that rosemary is one of my favorite herbs. 🙂
Oh yeah, this makes two trays worth... Great for a big get-together (or, in my case, eating all week)! This is at the half-way point of the last roasting stage.
Oh yeah, this makes two trays worth… Great for a big get-together (or, in my case, eating all week)! This is at the half-way point of the last roasting stage.

How did it turn out? Delicious! The venison ham lent a nice smoky flavor to the vegetables that was nicely complemented by the maple and rosemary. I’d skip the chestnut next time, since I don’t think they really add much to the flavor of the dish in comparison. They didn’t turn out quite as crispy as I hoped, so I might skip the cider vinegar next time as well. I’m not sure it added much to the flavor If you don’t have venison, bacon or a smoky ham are probably the best substitutes, or you can leave out the meat entirely and just enjoy the awesome flavor medley of the vegetables, rosemary, and maple.

Steaming hot out of the oven!
Steaming hot out of the oven!

Maple-roasted vegetables with venison

Yield: ~8 servings

Adapted from: Food & Wine and Food Network.

2 onions, cut into wedges
600 g parsnips, 1-inch cubes
1 medium butternut squash, 1-inch cubes
500 g Brussels sprouts, washed, trimmed,and halved
240 g can peeled chestnuts, drained and halved
100 g dried venison ham, chopped into small pieces (optional)

1 Tbsp olive oil (plus more for the pan)
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp cider vinegar
2 tsp wholegrain mustard
1 Tbsp coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 F/205 C.

Lightly oil two large roasting pans or sheet pans. Add onions, parsnips, and squash to the pan. In a mug or small bowl, whisk together olive oil, maple syrup, vinegar, and mustard. Drizzle the mixture over the vegetables in the pan and toss to coat thoroughly. Season lightly with pepper and stick the pan in the oven.

After 20 minutes, remove the pan, add the sprouts, chestnuts, venison, and rosemary. Stir to coat with pan juices/dressing. Add a bit more salt and pepper and roast (swapping the trays around in the oven) for an additional 20-30 minutes (until vegetables are tender and lightly browned). Remove from oven and serve.

Serving suggestion: great accompanying turkey or chicken (I imagine pork would be excellent as well), with a light salad on the side.

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