Venison bourguignon (aka How to make the best out of a roadkill situation)

Dinner parties are one of my favorite things in the world. I love to plan the meal, turn on the backyard twinkly lights, and spend the whole day cooking something fabulous. When a hunk of deer turns up in your neighbor’s freezer, you know it’s time for a dinner party of your own.

My own dear neighbors offered up some of their venison (not roadkill, sadly) for last night’s soiree and it was pure perfection. We found a tasty looking recipe on Pinterest and, with a few tweaks, it was soon our very own:
Venison bourguignon with crispy roast potatoes. 
This meal was fantastic and is now firmly established as one of my favorites. The stew was so flavorful (thanks to the fine piece of meat and the entire bottle of wine) and proved to be the epitome of comfort food. The potatoes were crispy yet soft and had a delightful melt-in-your-mouth quality with just a hint of thyme. It was relatively easy to make, but took about 4 hours total (1 hour prep and assembly; 3 hours simmering with the occasional stir).
The recipe was originally blogged by A Spicy Perspective. I chose to cut down the carrots by half, since 2 pounds not only seemed a bit excessive but simply wouldn’t fit in my Le Creuset (hint hint-gift idea-hint hint). I also took a page out of my friend Lydia’s book and shredded the carrots, as opposed to chunking them. I love me some carrots, but three hours in a simmering bath of wine robs them of that delightful carrot crunch and usually just makes it easier for people to push them out of the way on their way to the meaty goodness. Since they are necessary for adding flavor throughout the cooking process, shredding them gives the final product a delightfully thick and luscious texture.
I also omitted the mushrooms (since they are evil and must be stopped) and brandy (since we didn’t have any). I am now remembering, as I write out the ingredients, that I forgot to add tomato paste! It was fantastic without it, so if you forget, too, then don’t worry: no judgement here.
Olive oil
1 large onion
1 lb carrots
6 cloves garlic
12 oz bacon (the recipe originally called for 8, but who doesn’t love more bacon?)
3 lb venison
1 bottle dry red wine
2 cups beef broth
1/2 cup brandy, if you have it
2 T tomato paste, if you remember it
2 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
S & P
3 T flour
3 T butter, softened
Chop up your bacon
And brown it in your dutch oven (medium heat)
Meanwhile, cut up your venison into small, bite-sized chunks. I made my chunks smaller than usual, since venison is a bit gamey and could probably use the extra surface area while cooking.
Remove the bacon from the pan and set aside to drain.
Pat the venison dry with some paper towels, season with salt and pepper, and brown them in the rendered bacon fat (medium-high heat). NOTE: drying the chunks is very, very important. If you place wet meat in the pan it will not brown!
It took about 4 rounds in the pan to brown all of the meat; set aside.
While the venison browns, prep your veggies:
Shred the carrots and finely dice the onion and garlic.
If, like me, you end up with a very brown pan after browning the meat, then reduce it with a bit of wine or brandy and pour it into a small bowl. That reduction is intensely flavorful, so don’t throw it out! Save it to add back to the pan with the other liquids.
Add a bit of olive oil to the pan and add your veggies (medium-high heat).
Cook until softened, then add the meats back to the pan:
Add your wine, broth, herbs, 1 t each of salt and pep, and optional brandy + tomato paste to the pot and bring to a boil.
Reduce to a simmer and let cook for 3 hours, stirring occasionally.
While that did it’s thing I whipped up a chocolate cake
And got the potatoes ready for the oven (they took about 1.25 hours, so plan accordingly!)
After 3 hours of simmering, the stew looked and smelled fantastic.
It had cooked down considerably and all the flavors had melded together like a big vat of gold. I removed the bay leaf and thyme sprigs, then added a paste made from the flour and butter:
This thickened the stew up quite nicely and gave it a wonderful creaminess.
Enjoy your noms!

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