Fall comes, the temperature drops, and a person’s food preferences can’t help but turn to stews. A little heat and spice is always good for the soul, particularly when you get the chance to use wild game with an old school recipe.
One Northwestern Ontario chef strongly emphasizes layering flavors, saying, “You just start at the bottom and work your way up adding ingredients and flavor elements as you go. When I start many of my recipes for soups and stews, I have a tendency to go back to a classic mire poix . . . a mix of finely diced carrot, celery, and most importantly, onion. It becomes the flavor base for your creation.”
Another basic to always keep uppermost in your mind is the seasoning. Do it often and do it subtly, all the way through the cooking process. One trick is to use a bouquet garni. This is the old school sachet. Usually, this consists of “parsley, thyme, and bay leaves wrapped in cheesecloth and tied so you can simmer it in your soup or stew and remove it easily.” You can up your game here by adding “slightly crushed garlic cloves or peppercorns,” or even a flavor such as sage.
Great liquid is vital to a good stew. And not just water. There’s no flavor in water, but that’s not the case with such options as meat, poultry, or vegetable stocks. Beer, wine, and liquor are great flavor adders as well.
How you brown your meat is also important. Give it some room. Don’t just cram it into a pot, or you’ll end up with grey chunks. And to get the full flavor, deglaze the pan.
Stick to these basics, and you’ll end up with a pot of love.
Check out this recipe for deer (or elk) stew with Rutting Ridge Cabernet and currant jelly from Canada’s Richard Moorey (a.k.a. Chef House):
What You’ll Need
- 2-3 lbs. deer (or elk) shoulder, cut into large cubes
- 2 carrots, roughly chopped
- 2 cups turnips or rutabaga, roughly chopped
- 2 onions, roughly chopped
- 3 celery sticks, roughly chopped
- olive oil and butter for frying
- 6 tbsp. flour
- 2 tbsp. red currant jelly
- 2 cups of Rutting Ridge Cabernet wine
- 2 cups of beef stock
- 2 thyme sprigs
- 1 small bunch of parsley
- 6 cracked peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
How You Fix It
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Saute the vegetables in a little oil and butter in a Dutch oven/casserole dish until softened. Season with salt and pepper. Remove vegetables and set aside.
3. Put the venison or elk into a plastic bag with seasoned flour and shake to coat. Add a little more oil and butter to the pan, then sauté the meat over medium to high heat, stirring occasionally until well browned.
4. Don’t crowd the pan—cook in batches if necessary. Set aside with the vegetables.
5. Make a sachet by filling a bit of cheesecloth with the thyme, parsley, garlic bay leaf, and peppercorns. Tie it off with butcher’s twine and set it aside.
6. Add the red currant jelly and wine to the pan to deglaze, scraping up all the bits that have stuck to the bottom with a wooden spoon. Pour in the stock, then add the sachet along with the meat and vegetables. Season again and bring to a boil.
7. Cover and transfer to the oven for about 1-1/2 hours or until tender. Remove from the oven and check the seasoning. Remove the sachet and serve hot with a bottle or two of Rutting Ridge Cabernet on the side.