Whoever created the endless Christmas soundtrack you hear every time you walk into a shop post-Halloween, has a lot to answer for. Bing, Frank, Nat and Co. must literally be rolling in their graves as the holiday season approaches. And spare a thought for the shop staff who are subjected to this torture every day. Surely the UN Human Rights Convention has something to say about this?
Yes, we know the weather outside is frightful. Yes, we know the fire is so delightful. So go ahead and snow already. And don’t even get me started on Frosty…
The only solution is to tune out and hunker down. Close the curtains and stoke the fire. Rustle up something hearty and warming to ease your way through a day that’s more dark than light. Find the advent calendar tucked in a box in the attic. Deck the halls – okay, forget that last one but you get what I mean.
It’s the perfect season for a stew laced with chile and winter vegetables. The great thing about this dish – and trust me, there is a long list – is that the longer it cooks, the better it tastes. I’ve used venison here but you could substitute beef or pork. The red wine creates a rich sauce that hugs the meat like a warm embrace.
Winter vegetables? Potatoes, carrots and turnips – baby ones if you can find them – are a natural but you could use parsnips, hard squashes or leeks too. This makes a big enough batch for a spot of pre-holiday entertaining or you can freeze the leftovers to tide you over during the long nights ahead.
Serve with a glass of red wine, a salad with a tart, mustardy dressing and silence. Sounds like heaven, doesn’t it?
Venison chile stew with winter vegetables
2 lbs. diced venison
1 red onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
½ cup flour, seasoned with salt & pepper
½ cup tomato puree
½ bottle red wine
7oz baby turnips
10oz carrots (about 4 medium)
10oz small potatoes (about 15 or 16)
Salt & pepper
Preheat oven to 250º
Gently sauté the onion in olive oil in a deep, heavy, oven proof casserole dish until the onion is soft but not brown. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute or two. Remove from the casserole and set aside. Dredge the venison in the flour and brown in olive oil in the casserole. Don’t overcrowd the pan – you’ll need to do this three or four batches depending on the size of the pan. When you’ve browned all the venison, deglaze the pan with some of the red wine, scrapping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan.
Add back in the onions, garlic, and browned venison. Stir in the tomato puree and more wine until the meat is just covered. Add in the two dried chiles, cover and place in the oven and cook for 3 hours or more, until the venison is tender.
While the venison is cooking, prep the vegetables. Peel the carrots and slice on an angle into chunks. Scrub the potatoes and the turnips. Either steam or blanch the vegetables until just cooked through.
Take the casserole from the oven and remove the two dried chiles. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning. The chile should be warming but mellow but of course add in additional chile powder if you want more of a hit. The sauce should be thick and coat the meat. If not, strain out the meat and reduce the sauce on the stove top. Add in the vegetables and stir to coat with the red wine sauce and serve with any baby turnip leaves, chopped.