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Home plate: Something new to stew about

Assuming that the hunt has been (or will be) successful, we add a few more venison recipes to the gourmand gallery of game. 

Venison Stew  This rich, complex stew is worthy of a holiday celebration. If you have a choice of cuts, use the chuck or rump, as it’s most tender.  And the best part; you set it afire (briefly) before the final cooking begins.

Marinade  2 cups dry red wine  Juice of 1 lemon  Juice of 2 limes  2 large bay leaves  2 whole cloves  1 large yellow onion, peeled and sliced  3 carrots, peeled and chopped  Top leaves of 2 celery ribs  1 large garlic clove, peeled and crushed  ½ teaspoon dried tarragon  Pinch of dried thyme  6 whole peppercorns, crushed  1 juniper berry, crushed  ½ teaspoon salt

Venison  3 pounds lean venison, cut in 1-inch cubes  8 tablespoons (one stick) unsalted butter (plus more if needed)  2 tablespoons gin  3 tablespoons ¼ dice lean salt pork  ¼ pound fresh mushrooms, as small as possible  Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste  12 to 18 tiny pearl onions  6 chicken livers  

Combine the marinade in a large glass bowl and stir well. Add the venison, cover and refrigerate for 1 day. Turn the meat 1 or 2 times in the marinade.  

Remove the meat from the marinade and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Reserve the marinade.  

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Brown the cubed venison a few pieces at a time. With a slotted spoon, transfer them to a bowl. Add a little additional butter to the pan as needed.  

Transfer all the venison to an ovenproof casserole. In a small saucepan, warm the gin then remove from heat. Pour the gin over the venison and, using a long match, ignite it away from anything flammable. Shake the casserole slightly as flames die out.  

Sautè the diced salt pork in a small skillet over medium heat until golden. With a slotted spoon, transfer the pork to casserole.  

Remove the mushroom stems  (save for another use or discard). Wipe the caps with a damp paper towel. Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add the mushroom caps and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms and cooking liquid to the casserole.  

Bring one quart salted water to a boil. Drop in the pearl onions and boil 1 minute. Transfer the onions to a bowl of ice water, when cool peel and add them to the casserole.  

Strain the marinade and add it to the casserole; stir well. Set the casserole over medium heat. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes.  

Meanwhile, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a small skillet over medium heat and cook the chicken livers until they are firm but still pink inside, about 5 minutes. Cut into large dice.

 When the venison is tender, add the livers to the casserole. Taste, correct the seasonings and serve.

West Virginia Venison Stew  Even before the western part of Virginia broke away from the state in 1861 to form a separate Union government, frontier settlers, who depended heavily on wild game for survival, organized church and civic get-togethers called “soups” or “stews” where everybody contributed some corn, potatoes, onions and meat to a huge stew pot. Today in mountain regions dotted with isolated cabins and low-income housing, small communities continue to celebrate wild game, huckleberry, maple sugar and pumpkin seasons by throwing a “soup” or “stew.” And in the remote areas – the mountains – is not unusual to see moonshine being poured.    

1 cup all-purpose flour  Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste; Cayenne pepper to taste; 2 pounds boneless venison shoulder, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1 ½-inch pieces;  4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter;  1 cup sweet vermouth;  2 tablespoons red currant jelly;  2 ribs of celery, leaves included, chopped;  ½ teaspoon dried thyme;  ½ teaspoon dried rosemary, crumbled;  1 bay leaf;  3 cloves;  2 cups beef broth;  12 small new potatoes;  6 small white onions, peeled and scored at the root ends;  3 medium carrots, scraped and cut into rounds;  2 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes  

In a bowl, combine the flour, salt and pepper and cayenne pepper and dredge the venison in the mixture, tapping off excess flour.  In a large, heavy pot, melt the butter over moderately high heat, add the venison and brown on all sides.  Add the vermouth and jelly and stir well, scraping any browned bits off the bottom of the pot. Add the celery, thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, cloves and broth, reduce the heat to a low simmer, cover, and cook 1 hour. Add the potatoes, onions, carrots, parsnips and salt and pepper to taste, return to a simmer, cover, and cook until the venison is very tender, about 1 hour longer, adding more broth if necessary.