Saturday, December 13, 2008

Venison Stew: Delicious for You

I love that a number of the farmer's markets around the city continue to operate through the winter. In fact, the St. Albert one joined that list finally this year. A couple of weekends ago, I hit up the Old Strathcona market, mostly just to wander around and get some pyrogies. As I wandered, I was drawn to a number of the stands selling meat. I am without a doubt a carnivore, and I do not limit myself to chicken and beef. I love looking for something a little different to give a try, and on this particular visit, it was destined to be venison.

I have never worked with venison before, so I randomly picked a package of "stir-fry" pieces. They looked very lean, and the gentleman at the stand gave me a little leaflet with tips on how to cook it (also detailing benefits of the meat he was selling - I love buying from the guy who can actually tell you how your meat was raised!). I tossed the bag in the freezer and waited to get an idea.

Well, as I keep pointing out in my posts, it is cold out now. The weather has a very significant impact on the kind of foods I want to eat. Yet another good cold weather choice for working ladies (not THAT kind of working lady), or working men for that matter, is stew made in the slow cooker. The idea came to me on the weekend, so Sunday morning, I took the venison and a pack of four pieces of bacon out of the freezer to defrost. Sunday evening, after my soccer game, I got a start on it to save myself from an early Monday morning.

Venison Stew (serves 3-4 or 2 until stuffed and a good sized lunch):
1 package of meat for stir fry (same size as the pack of stir fry beef or chicken bits that are in the grocery store)
4 slices of bacon
1/2 onion chopped
10-15 button mushrooms chopped
2 tbsp wine (red will go better, but I would use white in a pinch)
1/2 tsp thyme
salt and pepper to taste
2 bay leaves
A good handful of green beans chopped
2 good sized potatoes cut in half and then into 1 cm thick pieces
2-3 cups beef stock
2 tbsp flour

First slice up the bacon and brown it in a large frying pan. I start with the bacon so that everythingelse gets to be cooked in the delicious bacon fat (especially since the venison is so lean, good to add some fat back if it is going to be cooking all day). Put it off to the side to cool on a plate. The venison gets browned next and put on the plate as well. I set the liquid it produces to the side to be added back later. Finally toss in the onions and mushrooms and brown them a bit too and set aside to cool.

Grab a tupperware container, throw all the ingredients you just browned, and the liquid that came off the meat in with the thyme, salt and pepper and bay leaves. Swirl the wine in the pan to loosen up any remaining flavored bits stuck to the bottom and drizzle it over top. Put it all in the fridge until morning. Slice up the potatoes and green beans and put them in a tupperware, cover with water and put them in the fridge too without cooking (if you are making this in the morning, the fridge part isn't necessary, it is just so I don't have to get up early to prepare things before work).

When morning comes, toss your two containers of stuff into the slow cooker, and add stock as necessary to cover everything. Flick it on to low heat and head out for the day. Try not to spend all day obsessing about the magical goodness that you will be arriving home to. If the stew is still very liquidy when you get home, crank the heat to the high setting and dust in a bit of the flour. Cook uncovered for an extra half hour so that the sauce has a chance to reduce and thicken.

Don't forget to take the bay leaves out. Serve up in bowls with bread on the side so that you can mop up the gravy at the end. My husband actually said "that was good" at the end of this meal, which amounts to rave reviews from a generally silent guy like him.

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