Recently I made up a recipe for deer stew, and it came out quite well. To be fair, it was based on a recipe I worked out for lamb stew a decade or so ago, but I’m counting this as making it up because I went from memory. I got the idea to try this kind of stew when I made a roasted venison shank in the same way I would roast a lamb shank and it came out very well.
If you’re interested (it should work just as well with lamb, which will probably be more accessible), here’s the recipe:
- 2lbs venison, cubed
- 4oz bacon, chopped
- 1 small butternut squash, cubed
- 1 large orange sweet potato (“yam”), cut like for mashed potatoes
- 2 sweet onions, quartered and sliced
- 2tbsp thyme
- 1tbsp basil
- 2tsp salt
Cook the bacon on low in a large stock pot. Once the fat has been rendered but before the bacon turns crispy, add the venison. Turn up the heat slightly and stir frequently, so as to brown the meat a little. Once at some of the meat has been browned (you don’t want to thoroughly cook it at this stage), add in the onions, sweet potato, and butternut squash. I like to add them in that order, and a bit at a time, stirring so as to thoroughly mix things, though that’s probably not essential. If you don’t stir as you put the ingredients in, at least stir to make sure there are no air pockets. Add the smallest amount of water necessary to barely cover the ingredients, preferably with a few bits just poking out of the water. Add the spices (adjust to taste), then stir to mix the spices in and cover.
Cook on low for about an hour, stirring occasionally. The ideal heat will produce the occasional bubble coming to the top after the stew has been covered for a few minutes, but you do not want a full-on boil. The stew will be done when the sweet potato has dissolved into mush and the butternut chunks break apart with slight pressure from a wooden spoon. Depending on the amount of water you added in the beginning, you’ll probably want to uncover it and cook for another 15 minutes, stirring frequently, to concentrate the stew.
Once the vegetables have the right consistency the stew is ready to serve, though for the sake of the skin on the inside of people’s mouths, it’s a good idea to let it cool a little.
NOTE: if you cook the stew on too high a heat (which isn’t very high), it will burn on the stew on the bottom of the pot. You can tell that this has happened because you will feel resistance when you draw a wooden spoon across the bottom, rather than the normal feeling of the spoon sliding across flat metal. If this happens, turn the heat down and don’t try to scrape the bottom up. That part of the stew is lost, but if you leave it on the bottom, the burnt flavor won’t get into the rest of the stew. Be careful when ladling the stew out to leave that on the bottom.