Maybe it’s the ingredients; deer meat tenderized by a few hours of simmering, a variety of hearty vegetables taking their natural place alongside, and a thick and rich broth that ties all of the flavors together. Maybe it’s because it’s a deeply satisfying meal, all in one bowl that just makes you feel good all over and warms your insides, too. Maybe it’s the knowledge that your creation is built around the success of a memorable hunt. But, whatever it is; it’s delicious!
A memorable venison stew is easy to make, but it doesn’t just happen. One secret to making great-tasting stew is to cook it on relatively low heat for at least a few hours. It just shouldn’t be rushed. Rich, flavorful and wholesome, venison makes the perfect stew meat and with a long, slow cooking it breaks down even the toughest cuts of meat nicely so that they are tender when you eat them. Even an old gristly buck, that isn’t always the ideal choice for fine dining, can be rendered into an uncommonly tasty stew.
The factor that differentiates stew from soup is the thickness of the broth, which is usually called the “gravy” in stew. The vegetables used, especially the starch added by potatoes, provide natural thickening agents. But, if you prefer your’s a bit thicker, a little cornstarch can also do the job. Now, making beauty of a stew is easy enough, but there is a specific progression of steps to follow for best results.
Cut your deer meat into thumb-sized chunks and if some are a little bigger or smaller, it’s no big deal. Roll the meat chunks in seasoned flour (salt, pepper, garlic powder and other spices you like), coating all sides well. Then brown the meat by covering the bottom of a pot with vegetable oil, heat it up to sizzling and toss in the coated chunks of venison.
You want all the drippings and other materials from browning to stay with the stew, so don’t pour anything off. At this stage, you don’t have to cook the meat completely, just sear it well on all sides, getting a good “seal” on it. You might even want to brown the meat in batches so that the chunks are always in contact with the bottom of the pot, and cooking. Now, add the liquid. I prefer to make a salty broth from beef bouillon, or use beef stock mixed together with a bottle of cheap beer (you’ll just have to trust me here). The bottom line with your starter liquid for stew is, don’t just use water.
Along with the liquids, diced tomatoes should be added now. You can use regular diced tomatoes, or try flavored versions such as garlic or Italian. You’re forming the flavor base of the gravy, and that calls for something with some character to meld the juices from both meat and vegetables.
It’s too early to add vegetables, instead, slowly heat up the liquid/meat mixture and cook the deer meat on that slow/low heat. Monitor the liquid as you go and add as needed, but if you’re cooking slow and low enough, and use a cover, you shouldn’t lose much liquid. Let it simmer at least a couple of hours; but more time is fine for blending your flavors.
Cut up your vegetables at some point while the meat simmers. But, don’t start adding them until the last hour or so of cooking. Start by adding in vegetables that can take more cooking, like potatoes. Wait awhile for carrots and any green vegetables, like green beans or them little green bald-headed peas for only the last half-hour or so.
One of the beauties of venison stew is its flexibility. A little early or an hour late on the stove and all is good! Serve it alone in a bowl, with a few Saltines on the side, or over a bed of rice with a cornbread accompaniment, and it’ll never fail to bring a grin!
As always, I’m grateful for the opportunity to visit with you and I am always available for feedback and suggestions at [email protected], God bless and Good Hunting!