Venison_Stew_2014

I was tempted to call this recipe Venison Bourguignon but since I did not use a Burgundy wine, I felt like an imposter. Although the famous Julia Child didn’t have that issue, you’ll see in the recipe she offers other choices of wines to braise this dish with. Personally, I decided to go with a more humble name for this fantastically flavorful dish. It probably doesn’t do it justice because it is so darn good!

I followed Julia Child’s instructions for Boeuf A La Bourguignonne pretty much to a T, but added some extra spices that go especially well with venison and also changed the main ingredient.

Long time readers of this blog know of my passion for knowing where my food comes from and honoring it by making sure to purchase from as many local farms as I can, or use what we grow ourselves.

I love venison but it is not easy to get. There are deer farms here in Vermont, but the farmers have difficulty getting them processed because of their antlers, so although you can find VT venison in the high-end stores on occassion, it isn’t ever a regular thing. Some of you know I have even tried my hand at bow hunting deer, unsuccessfully, which is the way I would prefer to procure my venison…maybe someday.

Due to its scarcity and my love for it, when I do get my hands on some, either from a store or from friends who have a surplus from hunting, I always treat it with the most respect. Roberto and I often talk about how disappointed we are if we go out to eat and the meal was not all it could be. As animals on this planet, we as humans must eat living things in order to live ourselves. This is something we take seriously in this household and so for us, when food is not treated with respect and done well, we always feel a sense of sadness. Therefore, when I am able to get a rare treat, like venison, I will take the extra time to do all the little steps necessary to bring it to its highest potential, like this venison stew.

I always do my best to treat all my food with the respect it deserves. Cooking is definitely part of my spiritual life. Sometimes, I will take less steps if it is made from something more readily available. But with the venison it was important for me to take those extra steps. So that is why I took extra time to prepare this the way Julia Child did. I often enjoy making meals with “extra steps” on Sundays – we make a general rule of staying home on Sundays and so it is nice to have the extra time to play in the kitchen.

I also added some wild game blend seasoning I have to this dish. It is a mixture of juniper berry, brown sugar, garlic, savory and mustard powder as well as a hint of beau monde, a typical French seasoning that compliments hearty stews. I also added a turnip. I added these extra components because they go great with venison and stews and we like adding them. Although I also like respecting classic recipes and following them (one of the only times I actually follow a recipe, because classics are hard to improve upon), I also believe in using what you like and in Julia Child’s Bourguignon it is more about the techniques than the seasonings. Plus Julia was a bit of a renegade so I don’t think she minds.

Venison Stew
(Serves 5)

INGREDIENTS:

3 oz. organic bacon, if you don’t have a local source, I recommend Applegate Farms Organic
1 TBS olive oil
1 lb. of venison stewing meat, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 carrot, cubed
1 turnip, cubed
1 onion, diced
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
1 tsp wild game blend
1 tsp beau monde
1 TBS buckwheat flour (or any other flour of your choice, I used buckwheat because I had some leftover freshly ground)
1 cup full bodied red wine (Julia recommends: Chianti, Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone or Burgundy, she also recommends accompanying this meal with one of those)
1 cup of beef stock, preferably homemade
1 TBS tomato paste
1 clove smashed garlic
½ tsp thyme
a crumbled bay leaf
1 lb. quartered fresh mushrooms that have been sautéed in butter

METHOD: Preheat oven to 325 F. Then cut bacon into small square pieces and sauté in oil over moderate heat for 2-3 minutes to brown slightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon.

Dry the venison in paper towels; if the meat is damp it won’t brown. Sauté it a few pieces at a time in the hot oil and bacon fat, adding more if needed (depends on how fatty your bacon is – pasture raised and organic bacons tend to be lean and therefore don’t produce as much fat) until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the reserved bacon.

In the same fat, brown all the vegetables. If you have excess fat at this time, drain it from the pan.

Speaking of pans, I used my Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron Moroccan Tagine to make this recipe, I use it for all of my stews, unless I am using my crockpot. You can also use a Dutch oven, but in any case your vessel must be oven proof.

Return beef and bacon to the pan with the veggies. At this point you can also add your sautéed mushrooms. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and all your spices and toss. Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat everything. Adding the flour will slightly thicken the liquid as it cooks.

In a separate bowl combine the wine, broth and tomato paste. Pour over the meat mixture, and then add the smashed garlic, thyme and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove. Then set the lid on the casserole and set in the lower third of the preheated oven. Simmer for 2 ½ to 3 hours, checking every 45 minutes or so for liquid. With the tagine, you don’t have to worry, but if you are using something else, check. Add more broth or wine as necessary. As Julia also often recommended, have some wine yourself at this point, while the dish cooks!

Julia recommends serving this dish the boiled potatoes as is tradition, but says it can also be served with rice or buttered noodles. If you wish to serve a vegetable with it, she recommends buttered peas – so do I!

This dish can also be made ahead. To reheat, simmer for about 10-15 minutes, making sure to keep an eye on the liquid amount.