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William C. Altreuter
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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Most of the venison recipes I see are some variation on "Marinate the hell out of it in "Italian" salad dressing. This makes a kind of sense: if you hate deer so much that you hunt them down and shoot them, why wouldn't you desecrate their delicious bodies? Here's what I do:


Bill Altreuter’s Venison Carbonnade
                Beer is to Belgium as wine is to France. Other places make both, but beer and wine are art forms in these places in a way that they are nowhere else—and don’t let the Germans tell you any different. This dish is the Belgian equivalent of a French daube. Since our Flemish friends have beer on hand they use beer instead of wine, and the result is fantastic, a complex layering of flavors that is perfect for fall evenings. The challenge with venison is to avoid processes which make the naturally lean meat tough without marinating it into mush, or overpowering its natural flavor. Pay attention to the process—it makes a difference.
Ingredients:

-3 lb. venison stew meat, cut into 2-inch cubes
-2 Tbsp. butter
-4 slices bacon, chopped
-3 yellow onions, chopped
-1 Tbsp. dark brown sugar
-1 large carrot, chopped
-4 cloves garlic, minced
-16 oz. Community Beer Works Belgian ale (or other, inferior beer--  your call)
-1 cup (or so) chicken stock
-1 bay leaf
-1 tsp. dried thyme
- 6 crushed juniper berries (about a tablespoon)
-1 tsp. apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice)
-1⁄4 cup chopped parsley
-Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

La Technique:
Season your venison with salt and pepper. Be generous. The salt breaks down the protein in the meat and prevents it from becoming tough when you sear it. Do this first so that it has time to work—it should rest for 20 minutes or so, and longer won’t hurt.
Render the bacon lardons in a Dutch oven. The idea here is to add fat to the dish, because the venison doesn’t really have any. You want to slowly sweat the bacon, until it is just about brown, but not quite. At this point I add the knob of butter and let the bacon render a little bit longer. You do not want the fat to be brown, so when it is more or less golden remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and reserve.
Raise the heat to a high medium. Brown the venison in small batches so that you aren’t crowding the pan, and cooling off the fat. I like to get the meat nice and dark, with a bit of a crust on it, but take care not to over-cook. “Sear” is a good word for what you are trying to do here.
Remove the last of the venison to a warm platter and set aside. Reduce the heat to low and add the carrots and the onions. Your goal here is to break the onions down into something nearly like marmalade—you are looking to release the sweetness of both the carrot and the onion. This should take about 20 minutes. About half way through, when the onions are getting nice and soft, add the brown sugar. When the onions are golden brown add the garlic. I mince it, you might just want to crush the cloves. Depends on how you feel about garlic generally I suppose. Give it two or three minutes—enough to be able to smell the garlic, but before its starts to brown.
Raise the heat to medium high, and add the beer. This is a good time to pour yourself a glass as well. Bring to a boil. Deglaze the bottom of your Dutch oven, then add the venison, bacon, chicken stock to cover, and your juniper berries, thyme, and bay leaf. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the venison is tender. I’d give it two hours.
When you return, raise the heat to a fast simmer. You want to reduce the liquid to a sauce, which will probably take about 10 minutes. Avoid boiling- you’ve worked hard to make the meat tender, so don’t screw it up by being impatient. Stir in the vinegar or lemon juice, and serve as you’d serve stew. Belgians have it over noodles, and we’ve established that they know what they are doing, so you should at least consider egg noodles. I like a little parsley on the top.

| Comments:
Could we have this for our first supper at your house on Dec. 23?

Alos, where did you get the venison?
 
We maybe could-- it will have to depend on whether we have the venison on hand. One of A's partners gave us a very generous gift of it last season, and we are hoping he'll get his deer again this season. (He gave us a ton of it-- I've made this several times in order to get it down, along with several other nice dishes.) Venison can be tricky, but this works really well.
 

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