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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Whitetail Rogan JoshCourse: Uncategorized
1 thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
10 garlic cloves, peeled
2 cups water
10 tablespoons vegetable oil
2lbs venison, cubed
1 ½ teaspoons ground cardamom
3 bay leaves
6 whole cloves
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
4 medium onions, diced
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
4 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons plain yogurt
- In a blender, pulse the ginger and garlic. Add a few tablespoons of water until a paste forms.
- Heat the oil in a heavy pot or dutch over medium heat, then brown the venison in small batches. Reserve to the side and add additional oil to the pan if necessary.
- Add the cardamom, bay leaves, cloves, peppercorns and cinnamon to the oil and stir until fragrant.
- Add the onions and sauté until they begin to soften and brown slightly. Add the garlic/ginger paste and stir to combine.
- Add the coriander, cumin, paprika, cayenne, and salt and stir to combine.
- Add the reserved venison and any drippings back to the pot and stir to combine.
- Add the yogurt and stir to combine.
- Add the 2 cups of water, stir and then reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer for 3 hours, stirring occasionally.
- After simmering, remove the lid, turn the heat to medium-high and reduce the remaining liquid to your preferred thickness.
- Serve over basmati rice, with a dollop of plain yogurt, and chili paste.