Saturday, October 2, 2010

A Fall Meal

Fall means hearty flavors and warm food that sit in your tummy and make you want to snuggle up for a nap. I want to share a recipe for venison stew that is sure to warm you up. If you cannot find venison you can subsitute with beef obviously. Beef contains more fat so use less oil when searing so you don't end up with a greasy stew.

As some of you may know, I'm currently unemployed & living on a budget. This stew was incredibly inexpensive to make & for a single person I ended up with several meals.

I won't share this as a traditional "recipe" as most cooking is just going with your gut. You can add more veggies, subsitute things you don't like & really make it your own. So, I used about 1 1/2 pounds of venison. Because it was not meat from a grocery store I'm not sure the exact cut. I would guess it was shoulder or some other semi-tough piece that is better for long slow cooking. If you're substituting for beef I'd use brisket, rib meat or plate.

For veg I chose portabella mushrooms, carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic, stewed tomatoes, frozen peas & corn that I had cut & frozen this summer. Feel free to add anything you and your family enjoys.

One thing I won't budge on - even when on a budget - is the type of canned tomatoes I purchase. Make sure when buying canned tomatoes/tomato product you select something either in a glass container or one that advertises a "lined" can. The acidity coupled w/ aluminum in the cans is not healthy.

Method: I started in a cast iron skillet however, I had to switch to a much larger stainless saute when I realized how many veggies I actually had. If you have a large cast iron vessel I reccomend using it. If, not use something stainless. Just don't use anything coated with non-stick stuff.

Add a thin coating of olive oil to your pan and get it hot. I mean really hot. When you can see oil shimmering in the pan add your seasoned cubes of meat and DONT TOUCH THEM. Let them stick to the bottom of the pan. This will give you beautiful caramelization & believe me, they will loosen from the pan when they're ready. I promise. When the meat has detached from the pan on its own turn the pieces. Cook until they're nicely colored. Then, add the onions & garlic. Lightly season the onions & garlic with salt and black pepper. Let them cook down & become fragrant. Cook until there is little liquid left in the pan. Don't let the meat/onions burn but let them go. At this point you want to deglaze the pan.

I chose to use 2 items for deglazing. I used The Bruery - Autumn Harvest Dark Ale and Apple Cider Vinegar. I used quite a bit of beer...maybe 15 or 20 ounces and just a splash of vinegar. I let this cook out for a little while. Until it smelled less like alcohol and more sweet. At this point I added the carrots, potatoes, mushrooms & 1 can of stewed tomatoes with all the juices and water to just cover the veg.Here, I seasoned with a bit more salt & black better, dried thyme and a dash of cayenne pepper. Then, cover the pan and let it be.

Cook until the potatoes and carrots are just tender. Don't let them go to long. Nobody wants mushy carrots & potatoes. Now that the potatoes & carrots are done you can add the frozen peas, and corn. Taste the liquid in the pan and adjust the seasoning if necessary. I find that if I season each component as it goes in the pan you will have to do less adjusting at the end.

Now that your broth is flavorful its time to thicken it and really turn this meal into a stew. I chose to use a cornstarch slurry to thicken mine. Its cheap & doesn't leave a starchy flavor. If you've never used a slurry before don't be scared. Dissolve an equal part cornstarch and cold water. I'd start with a tablespoon of each and work from there. Its much easier to continue thickening to your desired viscosity than it is to thin out goop. Bring the pan to a boil and add the slurry. Stir & let it come back to a boil. Cook for a minute and test the thickness. It is important to note that the slurry doesn't "activate" until it comes to a hard boil. Don't add more slurry until its really boiling again. Be patient. Add more slurry until the stew is thickend the way you like it.

In a separate entry I will post a recipe for easy & delicious buttermilk biscuits that make a great addition to this stew. Enjoy!

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