Today is a little bit of a special edition blog post as I think this particular dish is the birthplace of my love for cooking. When I think of making meals growing up with my dad and sister, this is the meal that really sticks out in my mind. All of my memories are of cleaning the meat, cutting up the veggies, hovering over the stove, stirring and fishing out black peppercorns. If you’ve ever prepared fresh venison from the wild, you know how much work goes into cleaning the meat. This dish is a process and was always something we planned in advance and had a few days to get excited about it. I’ve never had this recipe written down until now and even though it may not be the exact meal we prepared growing up, it’s roots are the same and I always get a warm fuzzy feeling any time I make and eat this. You can make this same dish with beef if venison isn’t your thing, but my hope is to push you out of your comfort zone a bit and get you making something you never thought you would!
2-3 lbs Venison Meat (cleaned and diced)
4 Cloves of Garlic
2 Cups of Wine (red or white, whichever you prefer)
24 Whole Black Peppercorns
2 Bay Leaves
1 cup of Milk
3 Tbsp. Butter
2 Tbsp. Flour
Start by chopping your veggies and cleaning up your meat. I’m not going to do a full butchering lesson here, but with wild game, you want to get rid of as much fat and ‘silver’ pieces as possible. You basically only want meat. Once the meat is clean, dice it into ½ inch cubes and rinse thoroughly. I usually do 3-4 rinses.
Preheat your oven to 350℉. Fill a pot with water, add your meat to it and bring it to a rolling boil. Once it starts to boil, it will become foamy. Using a serving spoon, skim off anything that floats to the top. Continue to do this until there’s almost nothing on the top of the water- should be about 7-10 minutes.
While you’re waiting for the meat to boil, add enough oil to the bottom of a heavy bottom pot or Dutch oven. Note: this needs to bake in the oven for 3 hours, so a Dutch oven is preferred. Add your onions, salt them well and sauté until translucent. Next, add your carrots and sauté for about 5 minutes- no need to keep going until they’re soft, there will be lots of time for that. Finally, add your garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Now it’s time to add your meat. Drain the meat, or use a slotted spoon, and add it to your stew. Give it a quick mix and add your wine. Now, traditionally I would use red wine for this, but I must say, I used a white wine recently and absolutely loved it. So choose your own adventure! Let that simmer together for a few minutes.
Next, I add my bay leaves and peppercorns. Now guys- I learned at a young age how much it sucks to bite into a whole peppercorn. My dad hated it too, so we would always count how many peppercorns we were putting into the stew so we could make sure we removed every single one at the end of the process. It was also a really easy way to get us involved in the process and we loved it!
Add enough water to cover the meat, put a lid on it and put it in the oven for an hour. I use water in this recipe instead of stock because it really doesn’t need stock. I would rarely say that, but in this case it’s true. There’s so much flavour in the meat that you’re going to want to taste it as is. Unless you have venison stock, then use it.
After an hour, take it out of the oven, give it a mix and put it back in for another hour.
At the end of this second hour, add your mushrooms, mix to combine and put it back in the oven for another half an hour.
Now we’re at 2.5 hours in the oven. You could go a little longer if you want, but I like to finish it off on the stove top. Put the stew over low heat. You don’t really want to cook it anymore, you just want to maintain its heat, so low and slow for this last part.
Now you’re going to add your milk and give it a nice mix. Sometimes I use milk, sometimes I use heavy cream and I’ve even used buttermilk before- whatever milky creamy product you have is fine. Now is when I begin fishing out all of the peppercorns and removing the bay leaves. It takes a while, but I promise you it’s better than chomping down on a full peppercorn.
Once you fished out all of your peppercorns, it’s time to add your butter and flour to help thicken up the sauce. What I like to do is use room temperature butter and mash it together with the flour until it's a fully combined flour/butter ball. Since it’s so late in the cooking process and I don’t really want to make a separate roux, this helps avoid flour clumping. It also helps with emulsification- I don’t know how, but it just does. Once your butter is melted and your ‘szaft’ has thickened, it’s time to eat.
Serve with nokdeli (spaetzl) or mashed potatoes and pat yourself on the back. You did it!