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IMG_6056Venison is one of the most flavorful kind of meats and one that takes well to marinating for days in a hearty mixture of red wine, herbs and vegetables. The longer you marinate the venison, the more tender and flavorful it will be. Be sure to marinate at least 24 hours. It is a very lean meat. Serve this with thick noodles accompanied by a tossed green salad and, of course, a robust red wine such as a red Côtes du Rhône. Oh, and do not forget some baguette to mop up all that delicious sauce.
This was my first time cooking venison and it was not a planned meal but rather a very unexpected meal. You see we had some French friends over for apéritif a few days prior and the husband is an amateur hunter. Hunting is a very popular thing in rural France and is strictly controlled by law. The hunters are only allowed to kill a certain number of animals each season for population control purposes, may only hunt on certain days of certain months, must record all kills with the authorities etc. In the Dordogne they hunt deer, wild boar and some birds. Now, Stuart and I are not hunters and do not allow hunting on our land but it would be hypocritical to eat other meat and not game. But, so far, I had never bought any. I did have a desire to try some wild boar recipes as I have eaten wild boar (sanglier) saucisson, ham and pâté and loved the strong, rich taste. Well, Monday morning, there was a knock at our door and our friends were standing there with a large white plastic bag. On the bag was printed: “the hunters of Dordogne would like to offer you this gift” – in French of course, and then instructions for number of days game could be kept in the refrigerator and/or frozen – very organized. As you have no doubt guessed by now, our friend had been hunting on the Sunday and he had killed a deer and was very kindly bringing us the entire hind leg! I immediately set to work researching every recipe I could find about cooking venison, roast, stews, BBQ. The leg was too large to fit in my oven, (it is not a big oven), so I could not roast it and I had no tools to cut it into two. My husband offered to take it to the workshop and try with an axe or saw but that idea strangely enough did not appeal to me. So, stew it was going to be. I narrowed it down to a few recipes and then decided on one from my Cordon Bleu cookbook. The important thing with venison is to give it time to marinate as it is an incredibly lean meat and it needs to tenderise for at least 24 hours in a good, hearty, red wine. I set upon the task of cutting the meat off the bone, feeling like quite the butcher. Half I packaged and placed in the freezer and half I used to make this recipe. I told you it was a huge piece of meat. The following day, I cooked the stew. It is a very easy one dish meal. Don’t you love those dinners? Minimal washing up. Just remember to start early as it needs about 2 1/2 hours cooking time. The end result was unbelievably delicious and tender. I served it with hot buttered noodles and a green salad. Well worth it. Now, I just need to wait for my neighbor to bring me some wild boar, which he has promised to do next time he gets one. Another new experience to look forward to.

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A rich hearty game stew.

Serves 6

Ingredients:

1 ½ kg / 3 lbs boneless venison, cut into cubes
2 medium carrots, diced
1 large onion, diced
3 garlic cloves
Small bunch fresh parsley
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 Bay leaves
15 black peppercorns
1 bottle Côtés du Rhône Red wine
125 g / ¼ lbs bacon or lardons, in small pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons flour
15 to 20 small white onions
2 Tablespoons butter
225 g / ½ lb white button mushrooms, sliced
2 Tablespoons cognac
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preparation:

Day 1:
Combine venison, carrots, onion, garlic, 2 sprigs of parsley, thyme, bay leaves, peppercorns and wine in a large bowl
Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours to tenderise the meat
Day 2:
Preheat oven to 160 C / 325 F
Take venison out of the refrigerator at least one hour before cooking it Sauté the lardons or bacon in a dutch oven over medium heat until crisp
Remove the bacon and set aside
Remove the venison from the marinade and blot dry with paper towels
Strain the marinade into a bowl, discarding the herbs and veggies, set aside
Season the meat with salt and pepper
Add oil to the bacon fat in the pot, increase heat to medium high
Add the venison and brown on all sides; work in batches so as not to crowd the pot
Return all meat to the pot, sprinkle flour, add bacon
Cook, stirring constantly for about 1 to 2 minutes
Add the reserved marinade
Bring to a boil
Cover and place in oven for 2 to 2 ½ hours
While the meat is cooking, melt the butter in a sauté pan over medium heat
Add mushrooms and onions and cook about 8 minutes
About 30 minutes before the end of cooking time, add the small white onions and the mushrooms to the stew
Remove the pot from oven, add cognac
Chop the remaining sprigs of parsley and sprinkle over the venison
Serve with pasta, rice or chunks of baguette
Enjoy!

 

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