Winters in the Carolinas typically aren’t harsh, at least not for more than a few days at a time, but there will be a few times it’s nice to have a pot of something simmering and ready to eat to help warm up. 

The past few winters have had at least one snow or ice event where some warm, comfort food that is ready to eat is a good thing and always welcome. The enticing aroma wafting from this stew or soup goes straight to your senses and kicks your hunger into high gear — and that’s not bad. This is one of those meals your grandparents would have called “Good and good for you too!”

While it’s the shortest month, February can usually be divided into two weather segments. The first couple of weeks might be cold, like a normal winter, but by the middle of the month, the days are usually warming, and there will be several stretches of sunny days with high temperatures reaching the 60s and occasionally 70. Sportsmen are still afield chasing quail, rabbits and other small game, and some are fishing, and this stew hits the spot when they walk into the lodge or hunting camp hungry and cold. 

Blackened venison stew

There are numerous recipes for venison stews, and most are good. It’s difficult to go wrong when simmering venison in a hearty stock with potatoes, carrots and onions. The ingredients are tasty individually, and they’re even better simmered together.

The difference in this recipe begins with soaking the meat in root beer and Mexican hot sauce. The carbonation in the root beer will help tenderize a tough, older deer and also help hide the beginnings of freezer burn on a package that got shuffled under something and lost for a while. Mexican hot sauce, like Texas Pete Sabor, has a nice flavor that isn’t particularly hot and also adds to the tenderizing. 

Blackened seasoning began in Louisiana as a way to cover issues with older meat and gradually worked its way into a mainstream seasoning. I use it lightly to medium and find it is all the seasoning the stew needs. Don’t fully cook the meat, but sear it just enough to add the blackened flavor, and then use the drippings to wilt the onions and to flavor the roux that begins the stew. Since I’m usually cooking this inside, I use vegetable oil instead of butter for the sear, as it doesn’t smoke as much. If you’re outside, using butter will make the stew a little richer, but be careful not to burn it.

The taste can be tailored to your preferences. If you want it really spicy, use a lot of the blackened seasoning, and if your palate, family or friends prefer a milder flavor, then just dust the meat. The flavor can always be kicked up a notch or two for those who prefer a more robust flavor, but it’s near impossible to tone it down without diluting the stew’s broth.

The mini golden potatoes and carrot slices were started simply as ways to make the preparation easier. However, the golden potatoes are very creamy and add more than just being easy and filling. If you can’t find them in mini size, use large, golden potatoes and cube them to about an inch or so. They really  do taste better than other potatoes.

This recipe came about as a way to make something different from most venison stews, a little heartier and with a little more kick for folks who would enjoy it — and to add some variety to the lunch that had been cooked at a hunting club the previous several weekends. 

Hopefully, you have some venison in your freezer and would like to try this. If you don’t have stew pieces, you can cut up a couple of steaks or a small roast. It tastes good enough you’ll be glad you did. Enjoy!   

Tip: If you don’t have meat already cut in stew-sized pieces, you can cut up a roast or steak and get the same effect.

Tip: Marinating meat in a carbonated beverage like a soda product will help tenderize it.

INGREDIENTS:

1-11/2 pounds venison pieces

1 pkg. (11/2 pounds) Little Potato Company Boomer Gold potatoes. You may substitute full-sized potatoes, but golden potatoes are best.

2 sweet onions

11/2 cup carrot slices

Blackened seasoning (to taste)

1 tbsp flour

3 cups beef broth

2 tbsp vegetable oil

11/2 cups warm water

Root beer

Texas Pete Sabor Mexican-style hot sauce (to taste) 

1 cup wild rice. An option is to serve in sourdough mini loaves.

PREPARATION:

Cut venison into approximately 1- to 2-inch pieces. Put 11/2 cups of room-temperature root beer in a Zip-Lock bag and mix in a few drops of Texas Pete Sabor sauce. Add the venison pieces to the bag. If the root beer doesn’t cover all the meat, add enough root beer to barely cover it. Swish in bag to mix throughout, then squeeze the bag remove all air. Allow to marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour.

Cut potatoes in half and chop onions very coarsely. Pour root beer off venison pieces and squeeze to remove as much as possible. Sprinkle blackened seasoning onto venison, and turn with hands to coat all sides. For a spicier dish, add more blackened seasoning; use less for a milder taste. 

Put the vegetable oil in a large, deep, cast-iron pan and heat on high until it begins smoking. Dump the venison into the frying pan and stir well for two to three minutes. Remove the venison and reduce heat to medium. Use the venison drippings to heat the onions to opaque while stirring frequently, then remove them. Mix the flour thoroughly with the warm water. Pour the water/flour mixture into the pan and stir while it thickens. When the water/flour mixture starts to brown and become a roux, stir in the beef broth and continue warming to a low boil. When the broth boils, add the potatoes and carrots and return to a low boil.

Preheat the oven to 375. Boil for 15 minutes, then stir in the venison and onions and return to a boil. Cover the pan and place on the middle rack in the oven for an hour. This can be done on the stove over low/medium heat, but requires stirring every few minutes to prevent burning. Prepare the wild rice by the directions on its package. Serve the venison stew over the wild rice (or in a hollowed-out, mini-loaf of sourdough bread).  

This is a pretty complete meal. The only thing I would consider adding is some warm sourdough bread to help get the last out of the bowl. If by some chance you aren’t full after eating a bowl of this stew and would like a little dessert, bread pudding is an excellent choice.