Creating great venison stew, or beef stew for that matter, is a task that comes with trial-and-error before you really get everything nailed down well.
Following exact recipes can help you get started with a good recipe. Recipes are like blueprints for a house, with the ingredients being the walls, roof and interior spaces. Then you start adding the furniture, or with a recipe maybe adding the herbs, spices and Aunt June’s secret pinch of something you don’t reveal to anyone.
Sticking with the script of a recipe also gives you a baseline to screw up and make mistakes, and you will. If you’re making pastries you’re going to use baking soda instead of baking powder at some point. You’ll add a tablespoon instead of a teaspoon. You’ll forget to do something and have a skillet of mush.
One time I made something in the Crock-Pot that looked like congealed mud. I was trying to make soup and, instead, it turned into stew. I think. My young kids said, “Daddy made stoop!” To this day, a decade later, “stoop” is still laughed at. (No one ate my stoop, either. It may still be congealed somewhere in the trash dump.)
But after experimenting and learning somethings, you can branch out. You can go simple like Uncle Ted with his ginger ale backstraps or add some spicy peppers and kick it up. Both of those are simple and so doggone tasty you’ll be thinking of new twists on your own.
Of course, making venison chili is a task every hunter should know how to do. Recipes vary, too, along with the never-ending debate about whether real chili has beans or no beans. Anyone? Beans or no beans? What do you think? You should learn to make these venison carne asada tacos, too.
I’m not a whiz in the kitchen but I love to cook. I like simple food, too. Here are three things I’ve learned that make a difference when making stew.
— Toss your chunks of venison in seasoned flour before browning it in a cast iron skillet. The flour seasoning can be as simple as salt and pepper or something more, like dried rosemary, for example. You don’t want a coating like on fried chicken; just a light dusting of flour on the meat to help give it some heft and flavor while browning.
— Buy a pack of ox tail chunks at your grocer and add one or two into the stew. Ox tail has an incredible, hearty flavor and will go great with the venison. Brown it and then add to the slow cooker.
— Red wine is great to deglaze the skillet and get all the tasty browned bits of flavor, but I opt for a hearty chocolate stout. My favorite is Founder’s Breakfast Stout, a double chocolate coffee oatmeal stout. It’s rich, hearty and damn good. I add about half a bottle to the skillet, scrape away the tasty bits and then put all of it in the slow cooker with the meat and veggies.
Enjoy cooking, don’t let it frazzle you and make it simple before trying to branch out, if that’s where you want to go. Food should be tasty and preparing it shouldn’t be a chore.
This venison stew recipe comes from Chef Brad McGehee at Ye Olde College Inn in New Orleans. Johnny Blancher, one of the co-owners of Ye Olde College Inn, gave us the thumbs up to reprint it and said they love wild game. Being good ol’ Louisiana folks, I’m sure they do.
A good, well-prepped and slow-cooked venison stew is pretty hard to beat. This recipe uses the shoulder, which too many hunters throw away because of the connective tissue. Or they blow one or both shoulders out with a RackBlaster Whomper Stomper rifle and just take a portion of the meat. Be sure to utilize what you can and don’t be wasteful. Slow-cooked shoulders can be tender and delicious, whether on a grill or in a stew.
For a good, hearty venison stew I’d be quite happy with some good sourdough bread and a nice glass of red wine. Merlot or cabernet would be OK, something with some heft. Or a good ale or stout.
Ye Olde College Inn Venison Stew
1 (2-pound) venison shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
2 teaspoons ground black pepper, divided
½ cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh garlic
3 bay leaves
1 sprig fresh thyme
¼ cup tomato paste
1½ cups red wine
2 (12-ounce) bottles dark beer
1 tablespoon sugar
3 quarts beef stock, divided
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2½ pounds Yukon gold potatoes, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 pound Vidalia onions, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 pound carrots, sliced ½ inch thick
½ cup chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish
1. Pat venison dry with paper towels. Season with ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper; set aside.
2. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add venison, in batches if necessary, and brown meat on all sides. Add garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and tomato paste; cook, stirring frequently, until tomato paste begins to brown and stick to the bottom of the pan, 2 to 3 minutes. Add red wine, and scrape bottom of pan to release any brown bits. Add beer, sugar, and remaining 1½ teaspoons each salt and pepper. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and cook until liquid is reduced by half, about 15 minutes.
3. Add 2 quarts stock, hot sauce, and Worcestershire; simmer, uncovered, over medium heat for 1 hour. Add remaining 1 quart stock, potatoes, onions, and carrots. Continue simmering until vegetables are tender, about 1 hour. Stir in parsley before serving. Garnish with additional parsley, if desired.
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