Thursday, December 15, 2011

Slow Roasted Venison Stew

I have struck gold, which in my little world means lots and lots of venison meat.  Right now, I have 2 freezers full of my favorite meat to eat and to cook.  A whole deer is a little much, but I couldn’t pass up the chance.  Besides, I now not only get to butcher the meat myself, but cook every part of the deer and I will need to get real creative so that it doesn’t all taste the same.  Oh, what a challenge.
First, let me say, that I have never butchered a large critter before.  I am fairly happy picking up a nicely wrapped supermarket steak, or coming up to the butcher counter and ordering up whatever my heart desires.  I always meant to take a butchering class, but never got around to actually doing it.  Yes, I have taught myself how to debone a chicken and have scars to prove that I was somewhat successful, but butchering a full venison shoulder, without wasting or ruining the precious meat, is another story.
I am very proud of myself now, after an hour and a half; I managed to extract every bit of flesh out of this thing.  Venison shoulder is not very meaty and whatever meat there is, is fairly tough, so I decided to make a slow braised stew.   I started by fully deboning the shoulder and taking out all tendons and silver skin.  I cut the upper part of the shoulder against the grain into 1 ½ ” cubes and the lower part ( which is very tough and full of tendons) got ground up and will become sausage one day.  I even saved the bones for stock.  When I was done, there was not a morsel of waste left, much to the dogs’ dismay. 
Although I am sure I will need to get much more creative in my preparation of venison ( I have some grand ideas already) as I go through my stash… I decided to stick to my most trusted stew recipe (which by the way works very well for beef or any other game meat, such as boar or bison).  This is a very winery dish, deeply satisfying and just homey…

The recipe is for approximately 2.5 lbs of meat but it easily scalable up or down.
For the marinade:
7-10 Juniper berries crushed in a mortar
1 tbs fresh rosemary minced
4 large cloves of garlic minced
1 tbs of good Dijon mustard (preferably French)
½ cup of red wine
2 tbs of olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For the stew:
2.5 lbs of venison (beef or other dark game meat such as bison or boar) cubed
¼ lb of slab bacon cubed (optional)
1 large Spanish onion chopped
3 cloves of garlic minced
2 -3 celery ribs chopped
1 large carrot chopped
1 qt of button mushrooms chopped
4 cups of venison, beef or veal stock (homemade is best)
1 cup of red wine
1 tbs of soy sauce
1 spring of rosemary
3 large parsley springs
3 springs of fresh thyme
2 tbs of olive oil
1 tsp of sugar
1 tbs of butter
Salt and Pepper

This is what I started with

Combine all the ingredients for the marinade and mix well with cubed venison.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2-3 hrs, better overnight. 

Venison is very lean, a little bacon makes everything better.

Preheat the oven to 325F.  Bring the meat to room temperature and blot each piece with paper towel to make sure the meat is very dry.  This will ensure nice browning.  Reserve the remaining marinade.
Tie the rosemary, parsley and thyme with a kitchen twine to make a bouquet de garni.
In the Dutch oven or other heavy bottomed deep pot, heat the olive oil and working in batches, brown each piece of venison on all sides.  Set the browned meat aside.  If using bacon, fry it in the same pot, keeping the temperature at medium, so that the bacon has a chance to render all fat before beginning to burn.  Set the cooked bacon aside.  Turn the heat to low and add the onions, carrots, celery and garlic to the bacon fat.  Cook until vegetables soften then add the mushrooms.  Cook for 5 min, than return the venison and bacon back, stir all to ensure even distribution in the pot and turn the heat to med-high.  Add the red wine and let it cook out for a minute or two, scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to release all that browned up goodness.  Add the remaining marinade,soy sauce, stock, sugar, salt and pepper.  Cover and bring to a boil.
Cook covered in the oven at 325F-350F for about 1.5 – 2 hrs or until the meat is very tender and the sauce is a bit reduced.
When the venison is cooked, take it out from the sauce with a slotted spoon and set aside.  Strain the sauce through a mesh and return back to the pot.  Adjust the seasoning and simmer the sauce on the stove top until reduced by ½ .  Stir in the butter and venison.

I served mine with roasted white and purple potatoes, but mush potatoes or creamy polenta would be a good choice as well.  Maybe even a nice thick slice of rustic charred bread would make a nice side dish.  A glass of full bodied red wine or beer and a little fire in the fireplace and you can feel like a hunter back from the day’s work.

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