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Nov 20, 2012 09:00 AM

"Killer Venison Stew"

I made an a-maz-ing dish last night-from the backstrap of a young buck my son shot.
I used about 2.5 pounds of it-not just the loin part, but the flat muscle underlying it, which has a layer of fat running through it.
I cubed it, dredged in flour, salt pepper, browned well in olive oil-I took my time here since I wanted to start building up a good fond.
Then into the pot went 2 medium chopped onions and 1 pound of carrots, cut into 1-2 inch pieces on the diagonal. Again, well-cooked in the oil, followed by 6 mashed garlic cloves.
At this point I had quite a bit of very dark residue in the pot (my enamel Creuset dutch oven). So I poured in half a bottle of Columbia Crest "Grand Estates" cab and a bouquet from my garden - consisting of a large rosemary spring, the tuft of a sage branch (about 10 medium leaves) five large sprigs on regular thyme and 4 of Greek oregano, and several 2-inch long pluckings of winter savory, as well as a small branch of lavender. I scraped the pot and boiled til reduced by half volume. Then in went a pound of large white mushrooms, quartered, and 1 qt of chicken stock. I brought it all back up to a boil and shoved it in a 350 oven, which after 15 minutes I reduced to 325. This cooked for 2 hours.
At 1.5 hours, I started 1 cup of pearled barley. When it was about 3/4 done (at about 25 minutes, when the grains were starting to soften but still pretty chewy), I drained the water and dumped the barley into the pot. Then back on with the cover, and increased the temperature to 350 for another 30 minutes.
Normally I would be looking to thicken and adjust seasoning at this point, but when this stew came out of the oven and sat, covered, for the time it took me to mix and bake a batch of buttermilk biscuits (15 minutes?) it was perfect. The barley had thickened the broth a bit. The carrots were nice and sweet and the wine added its little touch of zing. All I had to do was take out the bouquet and ladle it out. And it was truly, truly, spectacularly, delicious.

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  1. Nice, and everything so fresh. A lot of work and a tasty reward. Gunna make some venison chili with some of the other meat?

    5 Replies
    1. re: Veggo

      We sent the rest off to the processor since I didn't have the time (or the guts, frankly) to cut the whole thing up myself. So it will come back as steaks, roasts and burger. Surprisingly there's not THAT much on a little guy like this. He spent his life running back and forth from an apple orchard to a cornfield to a hay pasture-so he was pretty well-fed.. and I'm sure had a wonderful (though only 2 year-long) life.
      Oh, Matt (young guy in the pic) is also curing the hide. A process that involves lots of salt and, apparently, turning the concrete front porch into a "Halloween 7" movie set.

      1. re: Missy

        I was with my golf buddy in PA for one of his 3 deer hits that season, and while he was evaluating the damage to his Volvo, I was busy carving out the backstraps, and I picked out the glass from the broken headlamp.

        1. re: Veggo

          Haha, that reminds me of the time when I was young, poor, and just barely pregnant with child #3. My hubby came back unexpectedly from his commute one morning with a button buck that someone ahead of him hit. He was driving to work with my brother and they threw it in the back of the truck, showed up at 8 am and said "Hey look. Chop this up."
          Being of the Mother Earth News cult at that time (1983), I figured, this cant be much more difficult than butchering chickens (which we also did). Just a lot bigger."
          They hung it up from the swingset, skinned it (clumsily), cut out the loin (mangled-ly) and chopped the body up into 4 pieces and dumped them quarters outside the kitchen on the concrete lid of the cistern. Between chasing after a 4 year old and a 2 year old, I managed to get it cut, wrapped and frozen by the end of the day. saved a lot of money on our meat bill that winter! But trust me. Cutting up a deer when you have bad morning sickness and two toddlers is not. fun.
          Besides I kept throwing meat/fat scraps to our 2 kinda big dogs and I don't even want to mention what an awful surprise I had on the kitchen floor the next day. Conveniently appearing after hubby went to work, and just at the same time the toddlers were awakening and I was being sick from the baby.
          Ah the good ol days.

          1. re: Missy

            I'm hoping I have field-dressed my last deer, or at least I avoid the circumstances that require it. Javelinas in Texas, where I lived 8 years, are argueably nastier. But they make for great sausage, and I miss the venison chili.

            1. re: Missy

              You are hardcore Missy! I know plenty of people that will butcher road kill but not me. (It is common in my area and I am not being judgy, my family is just lazy/picky)

              I have noticed over the years as my family and friends have aged, they take the best parts (loin/backstrap) and leave the rest for the dogs. Years ago, every piece was processed, not so much anymore now that the oldsters have passed on and we don't have the community butchering parties anymore.

      2. Awesome! I hail from a hunting family so am very familiar with it. My husband also hunts and I often go along, just to be out in nature. I do not help him dress the meat, though. Have you had venison (and usually pork added) sausage? It can be either very good or very bad. (We've had both.)

        Sounds like an excellent stew. And your photo makes it all so nice and personal.

        2 Replies
        1. re: chefathome

          Sounds great! I just made a stroganoff last night with some loin. Tasty! My SO got a couple Does this year, so lots of sausage, steaks, ground and stew for us. Hopefully stocked up for the winter on red meat.

          I will have to keep your recipe in mind with my next venison stew. Although my herb garden in done for the year! I like your idea with the barley.

          1. re: cleopatra999

            Hey Cleopatra-here in the northern Shenandoah Valley of Va., my evergreen herbs (the thyme, rosemary and savory) still look great. The sage has lots of leaves that are still soft, and the lavender is still soft as well. The oregano has lots of fuzzy green leaves that usually say on it throughout the winter.
            Barley is great. I like it better than potatoes in a stew. If I made this with lamb, I would go with the barely for a traditional flavor, or with canellini beans, kalamata olives, and rosemary, and a can of copped tomatoes for a Med-style thing. Or you could go that way with the venison too.

        2. Sounds good. I hope to get a couple of deer for the freezer this year. It really is delicious meat.