Chef Andy: Venison is the best game in town
By Andy Mueller
“Let the stoics say what they please, we do not eat for the good of living, but because the meat is savory and the appetite is keen,” – Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: Second Series (1844).
Many of you have, or will soon have, a freezer full of venison.
I’m willing to bet you also have a few closely guarded recipes for that buck you bagged this season.
I’d like to throw my hat in the ring and share with you a delicious, aromatic and satisfying recipe for venison stew.
This is a version of a recipe that’s been passed around and down through generations and across families for many years.
The original version called for ground venison, but made it more like a soup, and I wanted to give it a hearty lift with larger cuts to become more of a main course than a starter.
Venison is a perfect example of “you are what you eat.”
The meat takes on nuances of the food it eats throughout its life.
Deer that live and dine in the Northwoods and regions heavily studded with pine will give off that pine flavor making it a bit gamier than herds that wander through fields grazing on corn.
With that in mind, choose herbs and spices that complement or help balance the natural flavors in the wild.
The original recipe calls for crushed juniper berries but it’s not imperative to making this recipe delicious.
Basically, juniper berries are what make gin smell and taste like gin.
They have a dry pine aroma when crushed and can be found in specialty stores and ordered online.
If you’re not a fan of that flavor, leave it out as the recipe has plenty of other spices that add depth and compliment the flavor profile.
Tis’ the season to elevate your game, and feel free to use any wild beast you like, but please, for children’s sake, stay away from the reindeer – they’ve got work to do.
In a large kettle over medium high heat add:
1 cup diced bacon
Cook until bacon starts to render and cook down, but not quite starting to crisp, then add:
1 cup diced onion
Cook and stir until onions start to sweat then add:
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
Continue to cook and stir until sugar starts to caramelize and adhere to the bacon and onions.
Add to the kettle:
3-4 pounds venison meat, cleaned and cut into 1 inch cubes
Stir to combine ingredients, then add:
1 cup red wine
Cook for about 10 minutes then add:
3 cups beef stock
2 cups chicken stock
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup tomato paste
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon ground rosemary
1 teaspoon thyme
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Bring to a simmer and cook for 1 1/2 hours maintaining a low rolling simmer.
While the stew is simmering, prepare the vegetables to add toward the end.
In a large saute pan over medium high heat, add:
1 tablespoon olive oil
When oil is hot add to the pan:
2 cups peeled and diced sweet potatoes
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup diced onions
1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
generous amount of fresh cracked black pepper
Cook the vegetables for about 5 to 7 minutes until they start to barely soften.
Transfer the vegetables to the stew meat and stir to combine, continue to simmer for about 30 minutes or until meat is tender and vegetables are cooked.
Thicken stew with a mixture of corn starch and water and drizzle in.
I start with 1/4 cup corn starch mixed with 1/2 cup water.
You may need more or less depending how thin or thick you like the stew. Enjoy.
Chef Andy Mueller is owner/chef of Galley 57 Supper Club in Bellevue – galley57.com.