Sunday, December 7, 2014

Balsamic Venison Stew

This wonderfully rich stew relies on kitchen staples and a slow cooker to bring together classic flavors for a great winter meal. Its perfect for those days you don't want to leave the house and brave the grocery store!

The beauty of stew is that you can take the toughest piece of meat and with the right application of time and heat turn it into a tender and delicious meal. Making a stew takes the focus off of the meat, and highlights the combination of flavors and textures of the whole pot. This is great when you can't afford the best cut of meat, or when your only option is that two-year-old chunk of elk in the back of the freezer. Yes, even old elk can't withstand the power of the stew pot.

Ingredients

1.5 lbs Venison - anything but ground really. Don't waste the loins in a stew, there are way better uses for that great cut. A roast works best.

2 cups Beef Stock - if you have it on hand, otherwise break out the bullion cubes and remember they dissolve best in warm/hot water

3 tbs Balsamic Vinegar

1 cup Red Wine - don't go using a good wine here, unless you're drinking it while you cook. Winking Owl at $3 a bottle is perfect!

1/4 cup Olive Oil

1/2 can Tomato Paste

5 Garlic Cloves

1/2 bag Baby Carrots

1 lb Potatoes - I really like the multicolored jewel potatoes, love the fun colors and small size. If you're going for lower-calorie cut the potatoes down to 1/2lb

1 Onion - red or yellow doesn't make much of a difference here

2 Bay Leaves

Salt & Pepper

4 tbs Flour

Recognizable and delicious 
Begin by coarsely chopping the whole onion and garlic, heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a large skillet to sauté the onions and garlic. This is the same pan we are going to use to sear the meat in - so we want to let flavors build in the pan. 

While the onion and garlic are cooking turn on the slow cooker to high and add the beef broth, we will be adding ingredients to the slow cooker as they come out of the skillet. 

Once the onions are translucent and the garlic is browned transfer them into the slow cooker. 
Next, cube the venison into one inch pieces removing most, but not all of the fat. We want some of the fat to remain to lend its flavor to the stew, also wild version is naturally very lean so there shouldn't be much fat to remove. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour with several twists of a pepper grinder, and a pinch of salt. Toss the cubes of meat in the flour mixture to just coat them. 
Lightly coated in flour, pepper and salt.


Using the same page skillet, heat half the remaining olive oil until it sputters when you flick a few drops of water in the pan. Divide the meat into at least four batches: the idea is to sear each side of the cube, not cook it all the way through and the flour will not cook well if the pan is over crowded. 
Add each batch to the slow cooker as they finish. 

Now the pan should have a mess of goodies stuck to the bottom, bring the heat down to medium and add the tomato paste being sure to spread it all around the pan: don't worry if it gets stuck but keep it from burning. Once the tomato paste is hot, slowly stir in the balsamic vinegar to combine it with the tomato paste and pan goodies and toss in the bay leaves. Note here that the tomato paste will not bubble or simmer.

Once the tomato paste and balsamic vinegar are combined slowly add the red wine the pan, stirring the whole time to maintain a consistent texture. This is where we really want to take the time to lift all of the stuck bits off of the bottom of the pan. Let the combination reduce by a third and transfer to the slow cooker. 

Wash the potatoes and cut them into roughly one inch pieces. Keeping the baby carrots whole lends a nice rustic aesthetic to the finished stew, but it's fine to cut them smaller. Add these to the slow cooker and cover. If the potatoes and carrots stick out of the liquid, use water to get the last of the tomato mixture out of the pan and at it to the slow cooker. Let the slow cooker do the rest, leave it on high for four hours and enjoy.

Ready to simmer.

Pair this wonderful stew with a slice of thin cut peppered toast and a glass of red wine to round out the meal.

Nutritional Information
Makes 12 servings 
  • Calories 259
  • Fat 11g
  • Carbohydrates 17g 
  • Protein 20g
  • Fiber 2.5g