It’s been chilly in the Midwest. As in, highs in the low teens, lows in the single digits to negatives. So much so that I was fearing a return to the weather we had last year for opening day. Anyhow, this weather is weather for hearty, hot meals. Soups, stews, braises. In two days, I’ve made two soups.
The first one I made with chicken, and thus won’t touch upon here (but if we get grouse, I’ll definitely make it again). But last night, I made a recipe I’d been meaning to make for a year or two, but kept forgetting about. I found it a long while ago on Pinterest, stuck it to my cooking and hunting boards, and promptly forgot about it. It’s a recipe for a French-style stew made with beef and red wine, served over mashed potatoes. But don’t let the French descriptor scare you away- it’s far from fussy. And really, you could make just about any kind of stew and ladle it over mashed potatoes. I’ve had Irish lamb stew like that before (at an Irish pub in San Francisco). The pictures at the original website are far and away better than mine (I need to paint my kitchen and get some new plates). The lighting in my kitchen is awful.
So anyhow, make your stew. If you’ve never made stew, it typically involves dredging your meat in flour, and then browning all sides of it in oil in the pan you plan to throw everything into. You take it out when it’s still about med-rare. I used venison here, but I also thought about using bear. Bear would be really good here, and honestly, I could imagine pork or duck or just about anything in it. Then, once you brown the meat, you sweat your veggies- typically carrots, onion, and celery. Then you deglace the pan- in this instance, with red wine- scraping up all the bits from the bottom. I’ve seen beer or plain stock used before. Then you add all the rest of the liquid, the meat, and the seasonings and cook it over low heat, just simmering, for a few hours.
I cooked this stew for a bare 2 hours, but then my pot also was not very full. I only had about half a pound of venison stew meat ready to go for it. As it was getting near done, I cut up and boiled some russet potatoes. I think Yukon golds would be excellent here, as would reds. Bear might be good ladled over sweet potatoes. I leave the skins on mine- I can’t be arsed to peel potatoes, and I like the skins anyhow. I didn’t have any garlic on hand, but I think making the potatoes colcannon style would also be good, especially with, say, a very gamey deer or any version of goat. Colcannon is just taters with a green mashed in- I like scallions or spinach. No cabbage for me, thanks.