When Rick and I got married, though I possessed a decent degree of skill in cooking, my meals were rarely balanced (“chicken breast is dinner… what to you mean what else are we having?”). It took some time for me to learn that a meal included more than one thing. But there was an exception to this; soups and stews.
I grew up in a home that made soups and stews regularly. They were a staple in my parents’ home. Both of my parents worked outside the home, so my mom is proficient at pressure cooking which made soup an easy weeknight meal. She is also the master of slow cooking a stew for hours to get it just right. I used to tell people my favorite foods were easy to remember; sushi, steak and soup! (Mom makes a mean rare rib-eye too). It’s tradition for our family to have a big pot of potato soup on Christmas day, which keeps everyone out of the kitchen and allows us to spend time together as a family instead.
I don’t know how Rick felt about stew before we got married. I don’t get the impression that he had it much growing up. For me it’s soul food. There is nothing so good as a hot, delicious soup to warm you up at the end of a long or cold day. I think our kids feel the same way. If you were to ask Henry what is favorite food is he will either tell you potato soup or chicken noodle soup – the homemade stuff – which is my favorite as well.
Naturally, having wild game in the freezer means venison stew shows up on the menu pretty often in our home. This recipe is one that I’ve developed by marrying my mom’s beef stew with elements of a venison recipe that an ex-coworker of mine shared with me from some now-forgotten cookbook.
8 slices of bacon, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 lbs venison, cut into 1-inch cubes
3-5 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed with a garlic press
12 oz beer – something you like to drink, but not Guinness
4 cups water
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried marjoram
2 dried bay leaves
1 tsp salt
¾ tsp black pepper
3 carrots, peeled and sliced into ¼-inch rounds
3-4 potatoes, peeled or not, cut into 1-inch pieces
¼ cup fresh parsley, snipped
In a 4 quart dutch oven or other large pot, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and save for later. Saute the onions over medium heat in the bacon grease until translucent, about 5 minutes. Turn the heat up to medium-high and quickly brown the venison. Add the garlic and saute for about 30 second. Turn the heat back to medium and add beer, water and spices including salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, partially covered for about two hours.
When venison is nearly tender, add the carrots and potatoes. Simmer, uncovered for another 20-30 minutes until the potatoes are fork-tender. Taste for salt. If you wish, thicken the stew by mixing 1 cup of cold water and 1/3 cup flour in a separate container and slowly add it to the stew while stirring. Reheat the stew to boiling for 1 minute. Serve topped with reserved bacon and snipped parsley.