March 1, 2011 § 8 Comments
We were given some venison (yes, that’s a pretty way to say “deer meat”) by a friend of ours last year. It’s been sitting in my freezer…just sitting there…waiting for me to not be scared of it. I had sampled it when it was first given to us, and the experience was enough to keep me from cooking it again for a year. No, I was not a fan. I had no idea how lean venison is (meaning it was totally DRY because of the way I cooked it), or what people meant when they said words like “gamey”. I had never eaten it before. I wasn’t prepared.
Well, I recently promised my childhood friend, Michelle, that I would post a venison stew recipe so she could have more options for clearing out some of the game her husband likes to bring home. I think she said her freezers were full. Freezers, plural.
So, I did some research here (a fun read, by the way) and found some instructions for venison stew. Key, I found out, was a good browning of the meat, first, as well as adding more pungent types of herbs to balance the “strong” taste of the meat. I kind of went from there and, with a little skepticism in my heart, got the kids in the kitchen and we went to work on it.
Well, we ate it tonight for dinner, and I was stunned at what took place. People’s bowls were empty at the end! There was no bread to help the meal along, and no one (well, ok, one, but not everyone!) complained. There was nothing, but venison stew. And everyone liked it. Did I already say I was stunned?
I feel like I learned quite a bit by making this. First, a slow braise is so much better for venison than a quick saute (I’m sure everyone already knew this but me). Secondly, venison loves to keep company with bright flavors like rosemary, garlic, and lemon The lemon, especially, kept the dish from tasting too…”earthy”. Finally (and this may be the best discovery of the whole experience) the key to a crowd pleasing dinner, at least the crowd I live with, is potatoes…lots and lots of potatoes. I guess that’s good. It could be caviar. Or truffles. Or saffron. At least they like the cheap stuff.
Venison Stew (or Deer Stew, whichever you prefer)
inspired by Hunter Angler Gardener Cook
2 lbs (or so) venison stew meat (you could use any other red meat)
1 large onion, grated with a large hole grater
2 stalks celery with leaves, chopped
4 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
4 or 5 large cloves of garlic, smashed and roughly chopped
1 sprig of rosemary
4 cups beef stock or venison stock, if you’ve got it.
2 cups water
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp coriander
2 bay leaves
6 smallish yellow flesh potatoes (I used Yukon Gold), cut into 2 inch pieces
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Parsley, roughly torn for garnish
1 lemon (to squeeze over each bowl before serving)
Begin by heating a bit of oil and butter over medium high heat, in a large pan with a tight-fitting lid (a dutch oven would be great here). Brown the meat in batches, leaving room for the meat in the pan so that no pieces overlap. You want to really let it sit in the hot pan to get a nicely browned exterior. Don’t let it burn, but don’t move it around too quickly either.
Next, mix in the grated onion (b/c the onion is grated and not chopped it will release more juice, essentially de-glazing the pan for you). Stir the venison and onion until there are no brown bits on the bottom of your pan.
Add the Celery leaves, chopped celery, carrots, and rosemary. Let this cook for 5 or 6 minutes, stirring a couple of times. Add the garlic and let it cook until fragrant (a minute or two). Season with a big pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper.
Add the stock, water, spices, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered for two hours.
Add potatoes, and continue to cook for about another hour, or until the potatoes are easily pierced by a fork.
Taste and season with salt and pepper until it’s to your liking. Sprinkle with parsley, squeeze a little lemon juice over each bowl, and serve. (Can be made ahead of time and reheated over low heat.)