Poutine with Venison Bolognese

Article Contributed by Field Staff Writer S. West.

The heat, mosquitoes, and stifling humidity of a southern Ontario summer are well and truly upon us, which is difficult for me since I’m not a “summer guy.”  The summer months may be all well and good for those that are into that sort of thing, but for me this time of the year only makes me pine for the chill mornings and crisp breezes of my autumn hunting seasons.  By mid-summer I’ve also managed to work my way through all but the most vestigial remnants of my fall venison.  Often I’m down to a few sausages and the ground venison that has not yet found its way onto my grill in burger patty form.  That’s where this Venison Bolognese Poutine comes in.

This Bolognese sauce recipe is a great standalone sauce for pasta (and it keeps well frozen for up to six weeks), but I’ve also enjoyed it on nachos, or in this interpretation of a classic Canadian comfort food. The inclusion of the venison sausages, while technically not a standard Bolognese ingredient, helps to keep things tender, as I found previous iterations that used lean ground venison only became a bit chewy.  The below measurements serve 4-6 people.

 

THE BOLOGNESE

Ingredients:Bolognese Prep

  • ¼ lb bacon
  • 1 medium onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 stalk celery (diced)
  • 1 large carrot (diced)
  • 4 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1 lb venison sausage, cases removed
  • 1/2 lb ground venison
  • One cup low sodium beef stock
  • 1 cup full-bodied red wine (Merlot or Malbec)
  • 1 large can roma tomatoes (crushed or pureed, depending on preference)
  • One can tomato paste
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp fresh oregano
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup condensed milk
  • ¼ cup ricotta
  • 5-6 fresh sage leaves (finely chopped)
  • 8-10 fresh basil leaves (finely chopped)

Preparation:

  1. Crisp bacon and remove 2/3 the bacon fat.Venison Bolognese
  2. Add onion, celery, and carrot and cook over medium-low heat until the onions are translucent and the vegetables are softened (about 8 to 10 minutes). Add the garlic and cook for a further two minutes.
  3. Remove the vegetables before adding the sausage meat & ground venison.
  4. Brown the venison and add the red wine.
  5. Reduce the wine by 3/4. Add the condensed milk.
  6. Add oregano, salt, pepper, sage, red pepper flakes, cinnamon and nutmeg before simmering for 10 to 15 minutes.
  7. Add pureed tomatoes & tomato paste.
  8. Increase heat and bring to low boil before returning to a medium-low heat.
  9. Return the vegetables to the sauce and simmer, before adding the ricotta. Continue simmering until the desired thickness is reached.
  10. Add the chopped basil & chopped sage last to retain their color and flavor.

 

Poutine is only as good as the fries that form its foundation, and since I’m not big on deep frying, I find these oven fries give a good balance between a crisp outer layer that stands up to a dousing of Bolognese sauce and a light, fluffy interior that goes well with the melting cheese curds.  As is usually the case, russet potatoes are the only way to go when making fries.

THE FRIES

Ingredients:

  • 4 russet potatoes, washed and cut into wedges (peeling them is completely optional)
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • Cheese Curds
  • Chives

Preparation:

  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees F
  2. Place a lightly oiled baking sheet in the oven for 5-10 minutes
  3. Coat the potato wedges with the olive oil and salt in a large bowl
  4. Spread the potatoes onto the hot baking sheet in a single layer.
  5. Cook for 30 minutes, turning or shaking the potatoes occasionally to ensure even crisping and browning.

THE FINISH

  1. Transfer the cooked potatoes to a large platter and sprinkle with the cheese curds.
  2. Ladle a heaping serving of the Bolognese over the curds and fries.
  3. Let sit for a few minutes to allow the curds to melt.

I recommend finishing everything here off with a few dashes (or a more liberal sprinkling if you’re a brave soul) of a Southern style hot sauce, which balances out the richness of the whole dish.  I prefer classic Tabasco sauce in this respect, but I’ve found that other vinegar-based hot sauces will work out just as well.

Pair this dish with a cream ale or a Belgian wheat beer.  Then attack it with gusto.

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