When March rolls around and St. Patrick’s Day festivities ramp up, folks think about leprechauns, four-leaf clovers, maybe the Chicago River being dyed green, parades with funny hats, green beer and Ireland.
St. Patrick’s Day originated to celebrate the patron saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick (AD 385-461), who may have dressed in green togs and black boots or eschewed those for more traditional duds. I’m thinking the latter. Whatever the case, the celebration now has become a big money event (of course) with bars, restaurants and other businesses capitalizing on it.
Back in my ignorant days of college youthfulness, one night a group of my wee pals descended upon a local establishment for spring holiday revelry. This is a cautionary tale about green beverages. Inexpensive and flowing like the waters of Ireland’s streams, we imbibed to the point of raucous dancing to terrible music that likely harmed our hearing. Green beverages are not conducive to healthful feelings the following day(s), and I urge anyone to either ignore them completely or only partake in small quantities. Toast the patron saint, but don’t become toasted. (Albeit youthfully stupid, we were smart enough to employ designated drivers, which I also strenuously urge anyone in a festive mood.)
If you’re thinking “They don’t have deer in Ireland,” well, think again. They don’t have white-tailed deer. But they have red, fallow, sika, muntjac and hybrid deer, with seasons from Sept. 1 to the end of February depending on which deer. I think it would be incredible to hunt there and experience the land, culture and such. Maybe one day I’ll get over there to do so.
Our good pal Scott Leysath, the Sporting Chef, offers a super bit of advice for his holiday venison stew: don’t use green beer. We agree, wholeheartedly! Leysath has hosted three television shows in the last 13 years, starting with The Sporting Chef (2003) before adding HuntFishCook and his latest, Dead Meat on Sportsman Channel. They’re funny, packed with good info and guests, and you’ll get some good tips and recipes from them.
Likewise, you’ll find a bevy of great preparation tips, suggestions and recipes in his Better Venison Cookbook. We love it because it’s simple, has super photos, easy suggestions for your different cuts of venison, and Leysath knows his stuff. The 12 chapters cover everything from soups and stews to slow cooking and smoking.
This week, though, tip a good dram of Irish whisky or pint of your favorite stout with this hearty venison stew to celebrate spring’s arrival.
Guinness Oven Venison Stew
8 – 10 servings
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
4 pounds (8 cups) venison stew meat, cut into 2-inch chunks
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 onions, roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups beef, venison or game stock
1 bottle Guinness Extra Stout (or other dark stout)
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate , chopped2 bay leaves
5 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 1/2 pounds small red potatoes (creamers), cut in half
1. Melt 2 T butter in a heavy pot. Whisk in 2 T flour and then cook it until it’s light brown. You’re cooking the flour taste out of it and making a roux. Take it off the heat and let it cool all the way, then take it out of the pot and keep it somewhere cool.
2. Season about 4 pounds of venison stew meat with salt and pepper. Heat a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the meat and brown evenly. Once the meat is browned, transfer to a large pot that’s OK for the oven.
3. Add a little more oil, some onions, and garlic to skillet and cook it until onions are lightly browned, we’re talking maybe 5 minutes. Dump the whole mess into a large pot with browned meat.
4. Add 4 cups of beef or game stock, 1 bottle of Guinness stout, some brown sugar, thyme, rosemary, 1 ounce of bittersweet chocolate and a couple of bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Cover with tight-fitting lid or foil and place in the preheated oven for 1 1/2 hours. Add some diced carrots and potatoes and cook for another 30 minutes. Stew is done when meat is tender. If it doesn’t break apart with moderate pressure, keep cooking.
5. Remove pot from oven and place over on stovetop over medium heat. Whisk in reserved butter and flour mixture until liquid is thickened. If more liquid is needed for stew, add additional beer and/or stock prior to whisking in butter and flour mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper.