Butter Silky smooth Braised Venison

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2019 - Kjell Hedström

  Braised meat dishes is a favorite in my family. With fairly small changes to the setup the braised dishes will have wildly different character. This I think can be seen easily in the MeatEater inspired jackrabbit ragú served over hearty peppedelle pasta to my twist on Hank Shaw’s  pot roasts with red wine sauce infused root vegetables. 

For experimentation I recommend trying out different braise liquids as well as meat. Maybe skip the flouring of the meat and keep reducing it until the sauce is thick. The variations are many and it is a forgiving cooking method that rarely disappoints   

 For braised dishes I prefer gnarly cuts such as neck or shank but you can, in a pinch, even substitute for fine BBQ cuts such as the bottom round. If you use a BBQ cut you should be aware that it often becomes a little dry. An easy remedy that will enhance the experience is to break up the meat in smaller pieces and coat it with the rich sauce before serving. 

The braised venison recipie below is a classic and easy to get right. I have provided some alternatives to play with. The standard red wine is probably my favorite. 

Delicious, red wine darkened gravy, with venison cubes. Some green added for contrast :)

Delicious, red wine darkened gravy, with venison cubes. Some green added for contrast :)

 By habit  I always use aged cuts. A good cut of venison, elk or moose does not have to be aged to be good for braising as long as you took care and avoided cold shortening or premature processesing induced muscle shortening. A meat that has gone through muscle shortening is often recognized as overly dry and tough - more boring - even after the braising.

A proper aged meat that is aged at least 40°C day grades   [1: knowledge,  2: how] should be rich and soft without the tough meat dryness mentioned above. 

For this recipie, if the meat is not aged, or just barely aged past Rigor Mortis I recommend to keep the meat in the marinade for at least 24h to a couple of days.  

Marinade

  • 2 cups of red wine

  • rosemary

Sprinkle some rosemary in the wine. The wine should cover the meat. Let it marinate for a few hours after which you pat the meat dry with a paper towel.  Once the meat is done marinating KEEP the wine afterwards.

Braised Ingredients 

  • 2 lbs venison shank or neck are preferred.

  • 1.5 cups of red wine - A wine that you enjoy drinking. Alternatively: see below for other great braising liquids.

  • 3 carrots, 2” chunks.

  • 3 celery stalks, finely diced

  • 1 yellow onion, finely diced

  • 4 cloves of garlic, depitted and chopped

  • A few sprigs of fresh rosemary

  • salt

  • pepper

  • 1 tbsp of fresh thyme

  • 1 - 1.5 stick of butter or margarine

  • 3/4 cups of flour - Optional: none

  • 1 - 2 cups of beef broth

+ 1 Dutch oven
+ Oven at 350F  (2-3+hours)

 

Instructions  

  • Cut the meat in 2" thick slices. Make tiny incisions in the meat and push garlic pieces, rosemary and thyme into the incisions.

  • Add salt, pepper, rosemary and thyme into a zip lock bag and add the flour. Add the pieces of meat and shake to coat.

  • Set the heat to high. Add a 1/2 stick of butter or margarine to the dutch oven and let it melt.

  • Fry the floured meat pieces a few at a time until they get a browned surface.

  • 2 minutes per side should be enough to get the meat browned.

  • Remove the browned meat to a plate and set aside. Add the next meat slices and put aside until all meat is browned. Add more butter when needed.

  • Melt another 1/2 stick of butter/margarine in a dutch oven on medium heat. Once melted add the onions, carrots and celery and sprinkle with rosemary and thyme.

  • Keep stirring now and then until the onions and carrots have caramelized. This can take up to 10-15 minutes.

  • Set aside the caramelized onions, celery and carrots on a plate.

  • Pour the red wine or braising liquid of choice to the dutch oven and stir with a wooden utensil until all the browned bits are no longer sticking to the pot. These browned bits are taste explosions that will lift the taste sensation of the dish.

  • Add back the caramelized vegetables to the dutch oven lay the meat to rest on top.

  • Add broth until it reaches the top of the meat without drowning it.

  • Put the dutch oven with lid on in the 325F oven.

  • After 1 hour take up the meat and cut it in cubes. Add the meat back into the dutch oven.

  • After another hour taste the meat. It should be fork tender but depending on cut it might need up to 1 hour more.

  • Taste frequently until satisfied.

  • Reduce the braising liquid OR you can thicken up the sauce with your favorite gravy making technique.

Serve with mashed potatoes. 


Braised Alternatives

With some small changes to the liquids the dish will completely change character. These changes will essentially infuse different flavors to your braising and will create very different results.  Some of these alternatives can also be used together. 

Common alternatives:

  1. Can of cream of mushroom added with the red wine.

  2. Can of crushed tomatoes flavored with basil (see the JackRabbit Ragù for example)

  3. Lager beer

  4. Baltic Style Porter beer

  5. Hefeweizen dark beer

  6. Coca-Cola or Dr Pepper

Like most braised dishes the venison will taste even better the next day.  Something magical happens when the meat sits in the cooling liquid and absorbs the flavors of the spices overnight.