I happen to love venison – that’s deer meat, in case you weren’t sure! I am fortunate to have access to it every deer hunting season thanks to our family’s farm manager, who is an avid hunter, and also thanks to our butcher who saves me cuts of meat which his other hunting clients don’t want. Venison is a wonderfully lean red meat which can be used in many different ways you’d normally use beef – for instance, in a hearty winter stew.
The recipe that follows is one I adapted from a classic Italian Beef Stew with Red Wine and Vegetables, as presented by chef Marcella Hazan. I used some different vegetables and adapted the cooking time to lean venison instead of beef, and was very pleased by the results. I hope you will be too!
Why should you eat venison? Especially if you can get wild harvested (that is, hunted) venison meat?
For one thing, you can be assured your eating meat without additives or hormones! No factory farming with its often cruel, overcrowded conditions, where animals are fed heavily to quickly pack on pounds, or with diets high in additives that may not be good for our own health.
Venison is higher in iron than any other kind of domestic red meat, and it is also a great source of vitamins B6, B12, riboflavin and niacin.
Venison is also high in protein while extremely lean, low in fat, and low in cholesterol.
That said, one must make sure that the venison you eat has been harvested and butchered properly, as with any game meat. In some areas, Chronic Wasting Disease is a problem in the deer population and can limit what deer can be safely hunted and consumed.
Some people also find the “gamey” taste of venison not to their liking. The best solution to this is to marinate your venison meat before cooking (this also makes it less likely to get tough and dry out because it is so lean), or to cook it very slowly over low heat with a nice mixture of seasonings and vegetables. One hint: if making a venison roast or slow-cooker stew, add some cored, half-apples to your pot. The apples tend to draw out the gamey taste and will also add a sweetness to the final meal!
Venison Stew with Red Wine: The Recipe
Cooking time: Approximately 2 hours.
Recipe Notes: This stew would work equally well served over rice, with mashed potatoes, or with just a thick crusty bread on the idea, instead of tossed with pasta as I’ve done here. (My sweetie just adores pasta so I tend to use it a lot!) You could even leave out all of that if you are eating low-carb instead, and simply enjoy it with a nice green salad on the side.
Use a good quality, hearty red wine in this recipe – not supermarket “cooking wine”, please! You should in fact use the same red wine as you plan to serve to drink with the stew once completed cooking.
1.5 pounds venison stew meat, cut into 1-1.5″ pieces
3 medium white onions, peeled and quartered
2 carrots, peeled, cut into 3″x 1/4″ slivers
4 stalks celery, cut into 3″x 1/4″ slivers
1/2 pound green beans, ends trimmed and cut into 3″ pieces
1 cup mushrooms, quartered
Vegetable oil, for frying
1/4 cup olive oil
1.5 cups good red wine
4 cups dry pasta shapes, such as mezzi rigatoni or farfalle
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1. Choose a saute pan with a tight-fitting lid and large enough to fit all of the venison meat. Add enough vegetable oil to go about 1/4″ up the pan and heat over medium-high heat. Add venison and fry until browned on all sides. Remove meat from pan and pour off oil.
2. Add 1/2 cup of the red wine to the pan and raise heat; deglaze and scrape up any meat drippings, about 2 minutes.
3. Return venison to pan along with quartered onions, olive oil and the rest of the red wine. Lower heat and cover; cook for 15 minutes.
4. Add carrots, stir to mix well. Re-cover and continue cooking for another 30 minutes.
5. Add green beans and celery to the pot. Stir and re-cover for another 30 minutes. Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil.
6. Add mushrooms to the stew. Stir and season with salt and pepper. Start testing venison to determine if it is tender; add more red wine or water to the pan if necessary and if the stew is getting too dry. Meanwhile, cook pasta until al dente.
7. Drain pasta and add to stew. Mix and check salt and pepper; add more as necessary.
8. Spoon into serving bowls and serve topped with fresh Italian herbs (basil, parsley, rosemary) if desired.
For my venison stew recipe, I took inspiration from Marcella Hazan’s Beef Stew with Red Wine and Vegetables from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking – easily my most beloved and regularly used cookbook of all time. I changed and added some more vegetables to it, along with adjusting the cooking time for the venison as compared to stew beef. But her original recipe was a wonderful starting point for explaining how to slowly build flavors in a meat-based stew without needing a lot of different spices – really none at all except for salt and pepper to taste.
If you could only ever have one Italian cookbook…if you are looking to learn about Italian food the way it is authentically prepared in Italy…then this is the book you must own. This book combines Marcella Hazan’s out of print The Classic Italian Cook Book and More Classic Italian Cooking into one perfect volume. All the classic dishes are here, presented with easy-to-follow, detailed instructions to ensure your recipes will be a success. Many recipes do not require a lot of or hard-to-find ingredients; it’s all about the method of preparation, freshness, and attention paid to the details. There is not a week that goes by that I’m not cooking something from this book, or at least turning to it for advice, ideas and cooking methods. Frittatas, pasta (from scratch), beef roasts, veal chops, risotto, polenta, lasagna…it’s all here.