What is it about hunters that makes them so generous? Not only did Darlene and Leon invite us to share their fabulous dinner of venison osso buco, morel omelets, roast root vegetables and apple crisp (all local, I might add), but Leon gave us three hind quarters from a recently nabbed deer. My culinary prowess is a little more plebian than Leon's - I lean more toward peasant stews. So I share with you a great stew adapted from a recipe for pork from Saveur magazine (Dec. 2005).
Venison Stew with Apricots and Prunes
3 lbs venison cut in 1” pieces
Salt and pepper
6 tbsp canola oil
6 carrots, peeled and sliced crosswise
4 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup dried apricots
1 cup pitted prunes
1 lb (about 5) onions
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Flour for thickening (optional)
For the best results, start the stew on the morning or even the day before you plan to eat it.
Heat 3 tbsp of the canola oil in a heavy pot on medium-high heat. Season the venison with salt and pepper. Brown the meat on all sides, about 5 minutes. Stir in the carrots and cook until slightly tender. Add the tomato paste, apricots and 5 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 2-3 hours. Add the prunes.
Test the meat for tenderness. If the venison is not yet tender, simmer longer. At this point, you can turn off the heat and let the stew rest until mealtime.
Before serving, peel and cut the onions into wedges. Heat the remaining 3 tbsp of canola oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until they soften. Sprinkle on the balsamic vinegar. Continue cooking until the onions are caramelized and browned. Stir the onions into the hot stew.
If you like a thicker stew, scoop some of the hot liquid into a cup. Briskly stir in 2 tbsp flour until there are no lumps. Stir into the stew and simmer until thickened.
Serve with boiled potatoes or hardy bread.