Venison Stew with Morel Mushrooms Recipe
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Venison and morels, with their aura of woods and wilderness, are natural complements. If you don't have access to morels, use whatever mushrooms are available.
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1 ounce dried morels
3 pounds venison
1/2 cup flour
3 teaspoons salt, and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon paprika (optional)
1/2 cup canola or other vegetable oil, for browning(you may not need all of it)
1/4 cup olive oil or butter, divided
2 onions, medium to large
6 large cloves of garlic
1/4 pound ham (substitute bacon, diced)
1 bottle (750 ml) dry red wine
2 cups water
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried
1 tablespoon juniper berries (optional)
4 pounds potatoes, preferably small reds
:heavy skillet, large dutch oven or stockpot
Preheat oven to 325°F, unless you will be cooking the stew on the stovetop. Soak the dried morels in one cup of very hot water.
Trim venison, if necessary, and cut into fairly uniform pieces, about 3/4" - 1". Mix together flour, salt, pepper and paprika. Dredge the venison in the flour mix. In a heavy skillet over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons oil and brown the venison well, in small batches. Add oil as necessary for each batch. Put browned meat in dutch oven or stockpot.
Finely chop onions, carrots, garlic and ham (or bacon). Melt butter or heat oil in skillet used for browning. Add carrots, onions and ham and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Stir into browned meat.
Drain the morels, saving the soaking water, and coarsely chop them. Add to the meat. If the soaking liquid has any dirt or grit in it, strain through a paper towel or coffee filter, and add to the meat.
Add water, wine, bay leaves, thyme and, if using, juniper berries which have been slightly crushed and tied into cheesecloth or put into a non-reactive teaball. (This allows the juniper berries to be easily removed later).
Bring stew to a boil, cover, and put in preheated oven. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until the meat is very tender. For the stovetop version, adjust heat to a slow simmer and cook, covered, for 1 hour. Stir in the potatoes and cook for another 30 minutes, or until meat and potatoes are tender.
While the stew cooks, prep the potatoes. Scrub but don't peel, and if using small reds, pierce skin with a fork and leave whole. For larger potatoes, cut into pieces about the size of a small egg. Rub with olive oil , salt lightly, spread on a rimmed baking sheet and put in the oven for the last 45 minutes of the stew-cooking time. Check after 30 minutes and remove if done.
To serve the stew, remove the juniper berries, stir in the potatoes, and taste for seasoning. Ladle into shallow bowls with a generous amount of the flavorful broth. Serve with good crusty bread for dipping into the broth, a green salad and a hearty red wine.
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