Stew wasn't something I ate much growing up. (Or now, really.) However, it got cold here in Tennessee. Very cold. "Stupid cold," as many of us have taken to calling it. I realize that it may not seem that frigid to people who spend most of their time north of the Mason-Dixon line, but we are not used to single digit temperatures in the South. Stew was the obvious choice for an evening that threatened 1 degree. And we had received an unexpected gift of venison from my sister-in-law. We had just used up the last of our stash, and the deer have gone into hiding this year it seems.
I took a very, very simple approach to this. I wavered on the edge of making a fancy French braised roast with rosemary and herbs de provence, but extreme simplicity won. Sometimes I forget how delicious simple things can be.
This is also kind of surprisingly healthy. I personally think of stews as fatty, gravy laden things. Using venison (or bison, which is often more readily available) cuts out tons of fat! I did use a little bit of butter at the end, but that could easily be cut out. Then putting it over a whole grain instead of cream-heavy mashed potatoes or empty-calorie egg noodles boosts the nutrition and adds a really nice texture.
Venison Stew over Barley
~2 lb bone-in venison roast (or ~1.5 lb stew meat)
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
3 med carrots, cut into large chunks
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 pkt onion soup mix
1 tsp minced, dehydrated garlic
~4 C water
1 Tbsp butter
2 tsp flour
~1/3 sweet vermouth (can be replaced with water or stock)
salt, pepper, oil
Salt and pepper the roast. Over medium heat, sear the roast on all sides in a little bit of oil (~2 tsp). Deglaze the pan with sweet vermouth, scrap up all the stuck on bits.
Place roast in slow cooker, add the deglazed pan drippings. Add vegetables, soup mix, garlic, and water to the slow cooker. (There should be enough water to not quite cover everything in the slow cooker).
Cook on low for 10-12 hours. (If you are using stew meat, it will probably only take 6-8 hours.)
An hour before serving, sprinkle in flour and add butter. Stir so there are no lumps of flour. (I take the meat off the bone and remove the bone at this point.)
Barley: Bring 1 3/4 C water to a boil. Add 1 C barley and 1/2 tsp salt. Return water to a boil. Stir, cover, and reduce heat to med-low/low. Cook for ~40 minutes.
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