Affordable and low fat organic meat — that’s wild venison for you, though you might not have thought of it that way. And luckily for many people, there still is some meat in the freezer. I am blessed with a neighbor who brings venison by pretty regularly because he gets more than his household can eat. I welcome new ways of fixing it, though mostly I cook it as I would beef, and I suspect most of you do, too.
This recipe comes from a hunter’s wife. Our friend Kerry Hardy in Rockland hunts and his wife Kristina found this way of cooking it that we liked a lot. It has a couple of surprise ingredients in it — anchovy paste and apples. Before you say “eww” about the anchovy paste, understand that its distinct flavor absolutely disappears and merely contributes to the overall savoriness. Here’s why.
You probably have heard that our tongues can detect saltiness, sweetness, sourness and bitterness. They also can detect umami, a Japanese word for “delicious flavor,” which most of us would just experience as a deeper flavor. Lots of foods have it: anchovies, parmesan, most meat stocks and cheeses, soy sauce, fish sauce, tomatoes, and you can get it straight from monosodium glutamate. So a squirt of anchovy sauce, or ketchup, or soy sauce or a sprinkle of parmesan can do a lot to increase the savoriness of any dish. Well, maybe not your breakfast cereal.
The apples also disappear into the gravy.
Because the venison is so lean, you may have to give it a helping hand with additional vegetable oil or bacon drippings. The directions say to bake it though you could do this dish on the stove or in a slow cooker, too.
As Kristina recommended, we had our venison on top of noodles. It would be lovely on potatoes, too, if that is what you have.
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Savory Venison Stew
Makes six servings.
3 pounds venison stew meat
2 tablespoons of olive or vegetable oil
1 large onion, sliced
1½ teaspoons anchovy paste
3 cloves garlic
½ teaspoon thyme
1 bay leave
¾ cup dry red wine
2 large apples
2 stalks celery
Salt and pepper to taste
Cut the meat into bite-size pieces. Brown the meat in olive oil in a heavy pot, removing it when it is browned on all sides. Set the meat aside and lightly brown the onions in the drippings, adding more fat if needed, then add the meat back into pot. Stir in the anchovy sauce, garlic, thyme, bay leaf and wine. Simmer for half an hour.
Meanwhile, peel and core the apples and grate them. Chop the celery and carrots. Saute them in vegetable oil for about 10 minutes or until they are just tender. Add this mixture to the meat, and add just enough beef stock to cover the meat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bake at 350 degrees or simmer on low for 2½ hours. Though a gravy will form, check once in a while and add water to keep it from drying out.
Serve on cooked noodles.