Venison Stew. Bambi gets what’s coming to him….

I want you to imagine my youngest daughter. She is an innocent thing who likes small animals and fluffy things. She loves Disney cartoons. One of her favourites is Bambi. She finds the various scenes of innocence touching. When she watches it, she will be heard to say things like “Ahhh, so pretty.” and “Ohhhh, aren’t the chipmunks so cute.”

I am telling you all this because I recently suggested that I cook a rabbit stew for the family. This led to the following unfortunate conversation:

Benign Father: What would you think of a nice rabbit stew?

Youngest Daughter: No way! You can’t cook cute bunnies.

BF: But you eat chicken. They are cute too.

YD: Not as cute as bunnies.

BF (In slight desperation): What about venison? You ate Bambi before.

YD (Dismissively and with finality): That doesn’t matter. Thumper is the cute one in that film. You are NOT going to cook Thumper.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have gone to the Bambi place. It was not very mature of me. But, when the Wicklow Hunter told me he had a haunch of Venison hung and ready for me, I decided that Bambi was going to get cooked and the family was going to like it. No discussion. No weakening of my resolve. Thumper would have to wait for another day. Run free little bunny, for today, it’s Daube of Venison with Chive Mash.

The ingredients proudly presented. Except that I forgot to show the beef stock, garlic, flour and the pickled onions. Why do I always forget something?

Here’s what I used:

  • A nice big piece of venison. (I think this piece was from the top of the leg).
  • 5 onions
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 10 carrots
  • mushrooms
  • bacon lardons
  • 3 dried bay leaves
  • Rosemary from my garden
  • Dried cranberries (what you see in the photo)
  • Pickled onions
  • 2 large teaspoons of cranberry jelly
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika (My brother sent me the brilliant Ben Hur brand from his home in Tanzania.)
  • A pint or so of beef stock
  • Flour for dusting the meat
  • Salt and pepper to season the flour
  • 2 bottles of good wine (One for the stew, one to drink while preparing and ultimately eating the stew.) I find that using the same wine for cooking as accompanying gives great harmony of tastes. Don’t use cruddy wine in your cooking. It’ll make the dish cruddy too. Whatever you do, don’t drink cruddy wine either, unless you’re into that sort of thing.
  • Potatoes
  • Chives for the mash

Here’s how to cook it

Chop those onions nice and fine. Chop the garlic too. Add them both to a some oil in a casserole dish and sweat them over a low heat for about half an hour, stirring occasionally.  Venison is not the most overtly flavoursome meat though it is quite strong. It is exceptionally lean and a Daube needs to have the layers of flavour built as you go. The onions and garlic are the first layer.

Side note: The new WordPress stats page tells me that I am getting a lot of visitors from the US of A. Howdy folks. WordPress does its spell check in American and suggests I spell flavour as flavor. I won’t. Sorry America.

Building layers of flavour part 1. The two types of onions and plenty of garlic start to sweat in the pan.

While the onions are sweating away, get your hands on the meat. Trim, debone and generally prepare it for going into the stew (Daube sounded a bit fancier so I used it in the title).

Gratuitous meat photo number 1. Face it. The meat had to be chopped.

Gratuitous meat photo number 2. If you are offended, read a different blog.

When the onions have done their thing and gone pretty translucent and have filled the house with cooking smells, spoon them out, add a very little oil and fry off the lardons. I probably could have done with more but I did not have more.

Building layers of flavour part 2. Bacon lardons lardoning in the pot. That is, if a lardon can lardon, if you know what I mean.

Scoop out the lardons and when you have dusted the meat in flour, add more oil to the pot and brown the meat in batches.

The dusted venison browning in the pot.

When it is browned remove the last batch. You hopefully have not burned the excess flour and have instead some nice dark brown residue at the bottom of the pan. Add back in the onions and garlic. On to layer three. It’s all in the photo:

Building layers of flavour, part 3. Onions, garlic, wine, bay leaves, Ben Hur paprika, and lots of rosemary.

Add the beef stock (layer 4) and the venison. Then spoon in the cranberries and cranberry jelly. Add the orange zest (layer 5).

Zest of about a quarter of an orange was added. I love that photo!

Put this on a low heat and clean up the mess you have made. If this takes you two to three hours, that’s good because that’s how long the stew needs to do its thing.

The stew doing what its name implies. Stewing, or Daubing if you prefere.

Then add the carrots, mushrooms and pickled onions. Yet another layer or three. Let it stew (or Daube) for another half hour. While this is happening, mash the potatoes that you have so expertly timed to be ready at this time. Add the chopped chives and mash some more.

Lots of chopped chives required to add a bit of colour and counterbalance to some of the sweetness in the Daube.

Now serve it to your hungry and soon to be appreciative guests. In truth, venison is not at the very top of my list of meats. However, a gift from the Wicklow Hunter is not to be refused and with the right treatment, it produces a pretty excellent Daube (or stew).

The finished dish. While my thoughts are with the deer, it was pretty delicious.

Now that’s out of the way, I need to think a bit about those cute little bunnies…..

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Latest comments
  • Did I?

    • Yes you did. I am afraid to say how long ago….

  • With that beautiful plate of stew, you can spell flavor anyway you want!

  • Ka-POW, take THAT vegetarianism…

  • You really know how to put this stuff together. I feel slightly amateurish – i tend to stick it all in and hope for the best. That might be because I use three bottles of wine for this sort of thing – one for the pot, one whilst I’m cooking and one for the table. mmm.

  • I’m sorry that your daughters still haven’t come around on “Thumper” (there’s always still hope!), but this recipe looks delicious!

  • Hope your daughter isn’t old enough to be reading your blog yet — imagine what else she’ll uncover about the dinners she’s consuming. Great story and the stew sounds delicious even though you are eating Bambi. 🙂

    • Bit late. She is 20!

      • How did I miss that in the story? 🙂 Maybe it was all that talk about flavor vs. flavour!

  • Oh, I just adore cooking game meat! Lovely meal, yet again. I was telling my boyfriend how much I adore your blog and described it as ‘unadulterated food p0rn’. Keep it coming 🙂

  • Is the first comment from your daughter??? Very cute story. We have deer and elk stroll through our yard all year long and I have wanted to take my kids hunting but I am not sure they are going to go for it because it will be like shooting our nieghbors.

  • Great post Conor, should have saved it for Christmas Eve!

    Can’t wait for your braised Bunny at Easter. Sure why not go all out and do some snake on Sunday, oh, actually you can’t. I forgot, they’re all gone!

    F*** you Paddy and your whistle.

  • Haha, nice story. So what was your daughter’s reaction after she ate the stew? And I’m with you on on the spelling bit. Yes, take that America. 🙂

    • She loved it. However, I feel the rabbit may be a stretch for her…

  • Conor – don’t know what happened..am subscribed to your blog but I am no longer getting notifications of posts. So, I re-subscribed… recipe looks good!

  • Looks mouthwateringly good as usual. I’ve never had venison before, but I do eat rabbit with some regularity. There is a woman that sells rabbit at my local farmers market. I was reluctant at first, but after trying it, I buy a pound of rabbit most weeks. There is definitely a hesitation with the cute factor, but once you get over that, rabbit meat is great. Maybe you could try ground rabbit to ease into rabbit meat.

    Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

  • Conor – I think we may be kindred spirits. I’m picking up Thumper and his brother tomorrow. Will be trying my hand at stuffed rabbit. And yes, take that vegetarians. 😉

    Slainte.

    TWTG

    • Please post it!

      • I plan on it. I don’t do all that hard work in the kitchen for nothing (well, I did for years but now I do it for my loyal subjects – you’ll have to read back to see why I’m HRH) 🙂

      • Rabbit post is up. Hope you enjoy!

  • Looks delicious. Connor. I’ll have to share this with my brother, who’s a great cook and hunter.
    Two questions:
    1- Are bacon lardons just cut up bacon? (Yeah, ignorant Okie here.)
    2- Pickled onions . . . ? Not one of my pantry staples. Do you cook with them a lot? Just curious. They sound like something I’ve seen on a movie floating in a martini.
    I enjoyed your blog. You have a great voice.

    • Hi Susan, Thanks for visiting. Yes, lardons are just that – bits of bacon. Pickled onions are a new ingredient for me too. The Wicklow Hunter suggested that they add a bit of acidity to counteract the sweet stuff in the stew. They did. Use olives in the martini.
      Best,
      Conor

  • You have received the Sunshine Award! Please visit the following link:
    http://fourbluehills.com/2012/03/18/sunshine-award-2/

  • We raise rabbits for meat (It’s a new venture) and ate Thumper twice in the last two weeks. They were my first rabbit meals, the first better for me than the second. I posted them both if you’re interested. 🙂

    http://thejourneyoftwo.wordpress.com/2012/03/06/italian-braised-leg-of-rabbit/ – First

    http://thejourneyoftwo.wordpress.com/2012/03/18/rabbit-roast/ – Second

    Your dish looks, de-lish. I love venison. Had another venison and wild hog chili this week too. Mmmm…

  • I love your conversation.

    This looks delicious but a lot of hard work. How about if you just invite me round when it’s done?

  • Fully agree about your statement not to cook with (let alone drink) bad wine!

  • Looks absolutely gorgeous. The Bambi/Thumper debate is a tricky one indeed! Glad you got at least one yummy meal out of the Disney classic 🙂

    • I love the broader concept. It would be a great series. Cooking Disney characters!

  • That’s it, I’m gorging on venison and bunnies BEFORE I have kids. Who needs all that noise… 😉

    • The youngest is having a 20th birthday party next week. Who needs THAT noise?

      • Ohhhh, my condolences. But you, my friend, can cook. For the record, I just invited myself to dinner at your place the next time I cross the pond

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