Damn you emigration! – Venison Shank Casserole

Venison shanksI blame the lingering recession / bank crisis / political ineptitude (pick whichever one you fancy) here in Ireland for young families following so many from previous generations and emigrating. Back then, it was a big thing. Children left and lost all contact with parents. It was a real life sentence. Nowadays, there’s a lot of emotional claptrap spoken about this, usually by people who like to look backwards into our fraught history rather than forwards into a brighter future. With low-cost air fares, Skype and generally improved living standards, the long journey is not the trauma it once was. The other end of the world, yes. But not the end of the world.

My big emigration problem is that my friend the Wicklow Hunter (WH) has taken his brood and departed for Perth. My venison supply has disappeared along with him. The result – I had to buy these venison shanks! I’m not used to that. I know my friend has a primary responsibility to look after his family’s welfare but this is just too much to bear.

So, while WH is sipping laté and walking on the beach, we are hunkering down for the long Autumn and Winter ahead. What better way to do it than to cook a Venison Shank Casserole with Celeriac Mash.

I was standing on a chair to try and get all the ingredients in. The garlic and thyme are hidden behind the celeriac.

I was standing on a chair to try to get all the ingredients in. The garlic and thyme are hidden behind the celeriac.

Ingredients:

  • 6 venison shanks
  • 250 gramme piece of pancetta
  • 500 ml robust red wine
  • 500 ml chicken stock
  • 3 to 4 carrots
  • 3 onions
  • 4 sticks of celery
  • 16 to 20 mushrooms
  • 1 small handful of juniper berries
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 bunch of thyme
  • 1 dried chili
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • flour for dusting
  • 1 celeriac
  • 5 or 6 potatoes

Side note on the emigration in this dish: The juniper berries came from my sister in Norway (she emigrated three decades ago). The wine came from Uruguay. The pancetta came from Italy. The garlic from France. The chili from Texas, USA. The black pepper from Vietnam.

There is a fair amount of preparation. The good news is that you can do this early in the day as this dish takes six hours in the oven. First chop the pancetta.

Lovely, salty pancetta provides the oil for browning the shanks.

Lovely, salty pancetta provides the oil for browning the shanks.

Then fry the pancetta off in the bottom of the casserole dish (Dutch oven).

I trimmed the skin off the pancetta. That supplies fat and flavour too.

I trimmed the skin off the pancetta. That supplies fat and flavour too.

There is very little fat in the rest of the ingredients. The pancetta supplies plenty. Remove the lardons.  Dust the shanks in seasoned flour and brown in batches in the pancetta fat.

They take a while to brown. It's worth it.

They take a while to brown. It’s worth it.

Use the browning time to chop the garlic, onion, celery and carrots.

The basis of any good casserole, onion, celery, garlic and carrot.

The basis of any good casserole, onion, celery, garlic and carrot.

Sweat the vegetables in the remaining fat on a low heat until soft. Add the shanks and then the juniper berries.

This is what I mean by a small handful.

This is what I mean by a small handful.

Then the bay leaves, the thyme, the pancetta and the stock.

A break in the ingredients adding sets up a pouring shot.

A break in adding the ingredients sets up a pouring shot.

Then pour in the wine, keeping enough back to have a glass for yourself.

I had planned some other pouring shots but, I did not manage to capture them.

I had planned some other pouring shots but, I did not manage to capture them.

Next, place the lid on the casserole and put it in the oven at 130º C for six hours or so.

Yes, six long hours in the oven. Time to fly to Australia, if you are so minded.

Yes, six long hours in the oven. Time to fly to Australia, if you are so minded.

After 5 hours, it will look something like this.

The meat was literally falling off the bones. Delicious.

The meat was literally falling off the bones. Delicious.

Time to add the mushrooms and return to the oven.

The mushrooms add another meaty dimension, as if it needs it!

The mushrooms add another meaty dimension, as if it needs it!

Use the time to peel the celeriac and potatoes.

The celeriac is one ugly vegetable. It tastes great though.

The celeriac is one ugly vegetable. It tastes great though.

Soak the potatoes to remove some starch. Get the chopped celeriac into boiling salted water for about 15 minutes. Then add the potato. Boil until both are soft. Drain, add some milk and butter, then mash until smooth. Get your timing right so they coincide with the shanks.

After 6 hours, remove the shanks from the dish, spoon a couple of tablespoons of the gravy over them and put them back into the oven.

You would be disappointed if we did not have a totally gratuitous meat shot.

You would be disappointed if we did not have a totally gratuitous meat shot.

Place the casserole on the stove top and reduce the remaining gravy by about one-third. Serve the shanks with a couple of big spoonfuls of the vegetables, mushrooms, pancetta and gravy.

Note my dressing the table with Autumn leaves. Very creative!

Note my dressing the table with fallen leaves. Very creative!

This is a fantastic Winter favourite. Venison is meat from which many of us shy away. If you aren’t planning on leaving the country any time soon, give it a go. Next time WH is back to visit, I might just cook it for him.

At the risk of looking like an obsessive, here’s a few other venison recipes:

Venison Chili
Venison and Winter Vegetable Stew
Slow Cooked Leg of Venison
Venison and Plum Stew
Daube of Venison with Chive Mash

Enjoy them, we certainly did.

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Latest comments
  • When do you start taking bookings?!

  • It looks and! sounds yummy. We can’t get venison here in Australia – or at least, not without a second mortgage – so I’m wondering if this would work with kangaroo. Another lean, slightly gamey meat that responds well to long cooking… I shall have to try!

    • Do try it Kate. Let me know how it cooks please.

  • Looks fantastic as always! Ever thought of applying for Masterchef Ireland?

    • I am under enough pressure in the home kitchen without taking on the pressure of providing broadcast entertainment through my failures. I’ll stick to cooking for friends and family for now.

  • Talk about fall of the bone tender!!! Your venison flanks looks great and the ingredient list as well. It is quite funny how the world is becoming a very small place as the internet and telecommunication brings us together. Sending warm breezes from Hong Kong. Take care, BAM

    • Thanks BAM, we could do with those warm breezes right now!

  • Having to buy your own venison makes you wonder if that’s where the expression ‘dear dear’ comes from.
    Sorry about that. Looks bloody marvelous though.

  • Your venison shanks sound wonderful even if it was store bought meat. I can’t buy it but It is still deer hunting season. I’ll have to put in a request to a friend that hunts to save me a couple of shanks if he is lucky.

    • Do that Karen. It is beautiful meat, if you get a young one.

  • Shame about the Wicklow Hunter – I hope he likes hunting rabbit and kangaroo.
    Very good venison regardless 🙂

    • Thanks MD. He probably will end up cooking both possibly in a three bird roast kind of way using one of those toads that are invading Oz as the inner one.

      • You’d better warn him off the Cane Toad – just biting it kills most small mammals!

        • Thanks MD, as you probably worked out, I could not remember the name of the damn things.

  • Looks like another winner! Maybe I should emigrate to Ireland? You live where? Just wondering so that if I do, you might invite me over for dinner! 🙂

    • Barb, you are welcome any time.

      • As you are here Conor! Thanks and will call before I show up at your door! 🙂

  • Your friend Wicklow is a real selfish bastard! 🙂 These look delightful, despite the fact you had to buy them.

    • I love it! He probably will too when he reads this.

  • Oh, the humanity! The deer; the bunnies… Not the WH! How sad for you.

    This looks spectacularly good, especially the addition of the celery root.i might try an American Spinoni it and use your recipe and technique with bison.

    • Thanks Flori. I would love to see your version. Bison sounds interesting.

  • perfectly pitched. thank you.

  • Well that’s a shame. I hope you can find another source that is just as good. I’ve had venison before but it was dry but this looks really tender and delicious. I think people just treat venison as steak and cook the hell out of it.

    • I think there are some misconceptions around venison. If one is unlucky to get old, stag meat, it will be dry, tough and pretty awful. It will also have a strong odour. Young doe meat is tender, tasty and delicious. The lack of understanding allows unscruplous vendors pass off the poorer meat.

      • Oh I’m sure. Plus on the leaner meats people tend to kill it again.

  • That is my kind of cooking! It looks delicious and so good with celeriac mash.

    I have a friend who’s a deer hunter who happily hasn’t yet emigrated. He’s stopping by tomorrow with a haunch of the good stuff so I’ll be checking out your other venison recipes.

    • And I look forward to the post. I am interested to see what you do with it.

  • Looks very tasty indeed my friend. It’s been 30C+ down here lately, but I
    would still happily sit down to that beast!

  • I guess you could say “shanks” for the memories………..

    ….*ahem*…………

    I’ll get my coat.

  • OMG what a delicious braise. My home town is big on hunting deer so I would be involved with the venison process from start to finish. I love the combination with celeriac as well. What beautiful photos and such a hearty, gut-warming meal. Yum!

    • Thanks Amanda. Venison can have a bad rep in some parts. Nice to meet an aficionado.

  • Wow Conor, this casserole is like the United Nations. How very worldly of you. Not that I ever thought anything else. Looks like a wonderfully hearty meal for a horribly cold winter’s day. I love it.

    • Thanks Tommy. I her things have chilled a bit in Texas at present too. Get out the guns and get some deer.

      • I don’t mind eating Bambi on occasion, but I’m not one for hunting him down. I’ll save that for experts.

  • Yum, this looks absolutely delicious! I’ve never seen venison shank before, but I bet it tastes great. I like how you pair it with mushrooms (porcini would have been nice too…), pancetta and a chile pepper. Also the combination with celeriac is spot on. Not to mention the use of the pancetta fat for browning. Although my supplier of game has not moved to Australia, I do have a similar problem as my employer has sold the location near my supplier of game (in the Dutch forests) and so now it is very much out of my way. I’ll have to ask him about venison shanks and perhaps that may be worthwhile to drive 100 kms one way for… I will probably ask for some more bones and scraps and make venison stock as well 😉

    • Thanks Stefan. A good call on the stock. That is pretty inconsiderate of your employer. I have recently received a supply of very fine porcini and will be using them very soon.
      Best,
      Conor

      • Good. I was starting to worry they had been lost in the mail.

  • Reblogged this on and commented:
    Another excellent recipe showcasing the merits of venison shanks.

    • Thanks for the reblog and for the nice comment.

  • where did you buy these cuts in Dublin Conor? If you dont want to say the actual establishment name, the right hint/locale will do

    • Hi Anto, there is a weekend market in Kilruddery House, just south of Bray. It is well worth a visit. One of the butchers there has various game cuts at great prices. Sorry, but I don’t know the name. They are operating Saturday and Sunday until Christmas, I believe.

  • Somehow don’t think your WH will be hunting much on four legs in Perth ~ just a job, a house he can afford and decent schools for his kids post-Yule 😉 !! All things may not be in the category of ‘milk and honey’ in the Lucky Country either!! Meanwhile a fantastic recipe [with somewhat of a carbon footprint 😉 !] for which I may just try and find a some mutton shanks from my friendly butcher!!

    • I fear not for his prosperity. He is both hard working and inventive. Despite the long cooking time, the low temperature compensates. Give it a go.

  • Don’t even know what to say…this leaves me speechless! It’s an absolutely gorgeous meal Conor. I grew up on venison and I must say I never saw it brought to the table looking like this. Very well done.

    • Thanks, that’s very kind of you to say. It was very toothsome.

  • conor, by now i have figured out you are a great cook. you know how to prepare your ingredients in the perfect way to produce the exact results you are looking for.

    but your seasonings are what blow my mind. the combinations of spice you use are borderline scientific. juniper berries? a single dried chili? it is those accent pieces (which most people would never think of) that make your recipes a tier above the rest.

    i’m both jealous and in awe.

    • Misha, you are too kind. Tough, this one worked well, I have my share of dark secrets.

  • I prepare lamb shanks in a similar way, Conor, and love them. I can only imagine how good your venison tastes — and imagining the dish is about all I’ll ever do. I was the one emigrating, leaving deer country, where people don’t know what to do with all the deer meat, to the Big City, where the only deer people ever see is Bambi. 🙂

    • So true John. Chicken makes life too easy for them!

  • I would so be tempted to eat that shank as if it were a drumstick — with my hands. I think I’ll be trying to get my hands on some elk shanks and ‘shrooms. Outstanding!

    • Good call Adam. The downside is that the meat just fell off the bones. You would end up with a lap full of meat.

  • Man, the perfect cold weather dish. Despite all the deer running around this island we don’t really get venison- unless I take up hunting. I’d have to mail order or get it in Seattle I think.
    I love the shanks and sauce and then the mashed potatoes. I wish I could show this to friends and tell them to make it and invite me over for dinner. cheers.. wendy

    • You are welcome to dine here any time Wendy. That is, if you can get off that lovely island.

      • I’ll get back to you on that. Ditto for us if you are ever in the Pacific Northwest:)

  • Looks great, Conor! You know you could take up hunting, and provide your self some free meat for your creations, and entertainment for those of us reading!

  • I’m glad I’m not the only one who stands on chairs to take photos. I also put food on the tiled floor to get a shot (the food is on a plate obviously). I did celariac mash once but put it on a pool of red wine sauce. The sauce bled into the mash and it looks peculiar. I wasn’t going to post it but I might now, as an example of ‘when celeriac mash goes wrong’. Thanks for the angle!

    • Thanks be to goodness, I am not alone. I was standing on the table the other day when the Wife came into the room and admonished me.
      I look forward to your post.

  • Hi, Conor–I’d eaten a lot of venison over the years, but never a shank until this last one. Delicious! Really lovely, but very rare on the ground here. I don’t know what they do with them. Anyway, your recipe sounds spot on–celery root is a great compliment. Happy holidays! Ken

  • Lovely recipe you have there…just glad to have stumbled upon your blog today 🙂

  • Yup, celeriac cost me about 45-50 US$ for a kilo here in Indonesia…
    you just cook it right, the gamey braised venison would be the best pairing then, don’t forget to provide the dringking straw to enjoy the bone marrow then!

    • Hi Dedy,
      That is an outrageous price. It is very inexpensive here and oh, so tasty.

  • Dang, my mouth is actually watering – this looks fantastic. The first 10 words about emigration got me in – hook, line and sinker. Looking forward to making this when I get home!

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