Regis' venison stew...
A former student, Lance Rougeux, goes deer hunting each year with his Dad, Regis, deep in the outback in the region of Altoona, Pennsylvania. Somehow or another, this annual hunting trip came up in conversation with Lance and I told him how much I enjoyed fresh venison. Well, as luck would have it, from that time forward, Regis has sent me freshly "dressed" (in English, "butchered") venison at least once each year. And it's not the "toss aways" that Regis sends my way! No, he sends me loins, tenderloins, and loin roasts and, yes, some ground venison.
Lance likes to make venison jerky as well as to "put up" his venison, which means cooking it in a pressure cooker and sealing it in Ball mason jars for future use. Lance once told me that when he serves his venison, he warms it in Campbell's onion soup and serves it with mashed potatoes. I've tried this recipe and was surprised at just how good it really was, just as Lance had promised. However, I added lots more sliced Vidalia onions and thickened the "gravy" with onion soup mixed with arrowroot.
The annual delivery of the
freshly dressed venison started after I had Lance over to HIH I (the precursor
to HIH II) for dinner and made him tenderloin of venison with Dennis Gaffke's
green peppercorn sauce which is unbelievably good, especially when its served
with roasted garlic and rosemary potatoes. Below is a picture of a loin of
venison Regis sent my way which I made using my great-great Aunt's recipe for
"Sunday dinner beef brisket" which I served with broccoli rabe (rapini).
Last weekend, Regis showed up with more than ten pounds of freshly dressed venison! It had been frozen and a couple pieces looked like they were getting to the point of needing to be cooked (or, perhaps, they looked that way to me because I had the "itch" to cook some venison). Since I didn't have a lot of time to make something fancy, I decided upon taking a "slow cooker" approach, using a soup pot rather than a slow cooker because I figured my slow cooker would be too small for what I envisioned doing.
As far as I am concerned,
stew needs to be jam packed with flavor. Perhaps the best way to do this,
of course, is to use seasoned flour and to brown the meat before making the
stew. But, I didn't have time. So, I decided to build flavor by
using vegetables. In this stew, I started with red wine and beef broth, to
which I added Vidalia onions, carrots, lots of fennel
(Foeniculum), and one large can of diced tomatoes. While that was
getting fired up, I cleaned the venison, cutting it into pretty nice-sized cubes
(two inches by two inches) because I think tiny little cuts of stew meat are
just plain old silly. Give your guests something to chew on!
Once I cleaned the meat and
added it to the pot, the vegetables cooked down and did their magic, along with
some bay leaves, sage, rosemary, tomato paste, salt, pepper, and a dash of
cayenne to give it some "Bam" (as Emeril would say) or some "Kick" (as Pat and
Gina Neely would say). Turning the heat to the lowest level, I let the
concoction get acquainted for four hours, stirring it every hour or so. In
the two pictures below, look at how the stew actually forms and comes together
as it cooks down over time.
the ingredients as they begin to simmer the ingredients after cooking for 3-4 hours
After four hours, I
thickened the gravy a bit using some of the gravy mixed with arrowroot. Et
voilá: a very good venison stew!
I served the stew this day with homemade rolls and a salad. I would also suggest thinking about serving this stew on buttered and parslied egg noodles, garlic-mashed potatoes, or better yet, potato cakes or potato pancakes.
Like the idea? Here's the recipe:
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