As a gift for her 18th birthday, I cooked dinner for Kees’ niece Liza. The center of the dinner was a nice bottle of Barolo from her year of birth, and so I had to come up with a dish that would work well with that. As the season for game and wild mushrooms is starting, that was a nice choice. To stay within the theme, I made a venison and wild mushroom stew in Italian style. This means using the Italian ‘holy trinity’ of onion, carrot, and celery, as well as using juniper berries, cloves, bay leaves, rosemary, sage, parsley, and garlic to flavor the stew. And of course some Barolo wine, for which I used a cheaper (but okay) bottle of Barolo. The resulting stew had great depth of flavor and worked very well with the wine. Here’s what I did…
For 6 servings
1 kg (2.2 lbs) venison stewing meat, cut into 5 cm (2″) cubes
1 kg (2.2 lbs) mixed wild mushrooms, such as chanterelles, horn of plenty, etc.
250 ml (1 cup) red wine, preferably Barolo or other Nebbiolo
100 grams (1/2 cup) diced onion
100 grams (1/2 cup) diced celery
100 grams (1/2 cup) diced carrot
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp juniper berries
1 sprig sage
1 sprig rosemary
1 sprig parsley
4 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp corn starch or arrowroot
flour for dusting
To make it easy to remove them later, I put all the herbs and spices in a hairnet (you could also use some muslin).
Season the venison with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and dust with flour.
Heat 4 Tbsp olive oil in a casserole and brown the venison in batches (to avoid crowding the casserole) over high heat.
Take the venison out with a slotted spoon as soon as it is nicely browned on all sides…
…and set aside on a plate.
Continue until you have browned all of the venison. A nice brown crust should have formed on the bottom.
Add onion, celery, carrot, and garlic, and season with salt.
Cook over medium heat, stirring to loosen the brown stuff from the bottom of the casserole, until the vegetables are getting soft and starting to color, about 10 minutes.
Add 250 ml of red wine.
Bring to a boil.
Add the herbs and spices.
Add the meat, including all of the juices that have accumulated on the plate.
Distribute the meat in an even layer.
Add the mushrooms and season with salt. (Leave them whole. If they are sandy, rinse them very quickly in cold water and spin them dry in a salad spinner. Or use a moist piece of kitchen paper to wipe them clean. That is a lot of work for a kilo of mushrooms, your choice.)
Cover the casserole and lower the heat. Cook over low heat until the mushrooms have wilted and released a lot of liquid, about 45 minutes.
Then remove the cover and continue to cook over low heat, stirring now and then…
…until the meat is tender, about 4 hours. Do not add any liquid during the cooking. If you stir now and then, that is not necessary. The meat does not dry out from lack of liquid, it dries out if the heat is too high and/or if the meat is too lean. The liquid (both from the meat and from the mushrooms) will be reduced gently, thus concentrating the flavor and creating a very tasty gravy.
Remove the herbs and spices.
To thicken the gravy, mix a tablespoon of cornstarch or arrow root with a tablespoon of cold water, then add this slurry to the stew.
Increase the heat to medium and stir until the gravy has thickened, then turn off the heat.
Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Serve the venison and mushroom stew on preheated plates. The stew will be even better the next day, but make sure to reheat it very gently to prevent drying out the meat.
After the intro it is clear that we had a 1998 Barolo with this. It was outstanding. Another full-bodied earthy and/or spicy aged red wine would also work, like a Rioja Gran Riserva or Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
This recipe is so simple that it is hardly worth calling a recipe, but it sure is a delicious way of preparing mussels and so I’m sharing it with you anyway. Impepata di Cozze is a typical dish from the city of Naples. It basically means mussels with pepper, and that is why I made it with two kinds of pepper: both freshly ground black pepper and fresh red chile pepper. White wine, parsley, garlic, and olive oil are all the other ingredients you need for this very tasty dish.