There is just something about stew that appeals to me as a hunter. Warm, soothing comfort food, with complex and layered flavours built through the alchemy of slow braising, stews are how I imagine the earliest hunters rewarded themselves. Some will argue that primal cuts roasted over an open fire represent the origins of wild-game cooking, and that is probably right from a technical sense, but I like to imagine our hunting ancestors started doing what many of us do when we cook; they began experimenting. I picture chopped meat slowly simmering and the hunter and their families adding in whatever else they felt would enhance the taste, only to discover that it made for an amazing meal. Roasted meat was protein procurement. Stews were culinary.
As proof, I offer to look no further than every literal food culture in the world. They almost all universally have some kind of staple stew. They go by many names and preparations across cultures: ghoulash, birria, stroganoff, curry, tajine, or in this case, rogan josh. Yet every one of those dishes can be distilled down to simply meat, regionally available vegetables, and spices, all of which are boiled and simmered until delicious. Stews are truly a unifying human cultural symbol.
I made this dish out of a large, rectangular hip roast carved from the young whitetail buck that I was fortunate enough to shoot this past November. On a deer, the legs do the work and those cuts can sometimes be tough, which is why I opted to go with a stew. As I cubed the meat, though, I was simultaneously pleased and disappointed that the knife was gliding so smoothly. This was no tough hip muscle from a wily old bruiser, but a quite tender chunk of meat from a one-and-a-half-year-old deer that was cruising after a doe when my crosshairs found his shoulder. I could have just as easily breaded and chicken-fried these cuts, and they likely would have been amazing, but the payoff after a long braise in spices, onions, garlic, and ginger was melt in your mouth venison with a richly spiced, aromatic gravy.
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