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The Joys of Venison; or What to Do If Someone Gives You Bambi Meat [Fierce Foodie]

Pennsylvania is a weird and wonderful state. Two relatively artsy and liberal cities are surrounded on all sides by mainly conservative folks who enjoy the local wildlife, albeit often on the wall or in a stew pot. Venison was never on the menu at my house when I was growing up. The only thing my father, an Iranian psychiatrist, ever hunted was cashews in the bowl of mixed nuts he enjoyed with his nightly martinis. My mother, a Filipina psychiatrist, would eat octopi ink and fetal ducks over deer meat any day. So after falling for a Pennsylvania boy from the red part of the state, I found myself a little mystified the first night I stayed in a guest room populated with antlers and shotguns.

I learned to eat venison in stages. At first the gaminess of venison turned me off. But a little research soon revealed the secret to properly cooking wild meats: garlic, herbs, and red wine. Marinating or slowing stewing venison in a combination of the three removes much of the gaminess while tenderizing this very lean meat. For steaks, I recommend a long wine bath and a short searing on the grill, while stew cuts need 24 hours of marinade and a slow cooking.

Here is a recipe that honors both the sacrifice of the animal and the palate.

Venison Stew
(Adapted from Provencal Venison Stew at


6 ounces of olive oil

1 carrot, sliced

1 onion, sliced

½ bunch of celery, cut into one inch chunks

½ cup red wine

½ cup red wine vinegar

1 Tbsp tomato paste

4 or 5 stalks of parsley

4 shallots

5 cloves of garlic

1 teaspoon dried thyme

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon rosemary

6 black peppercorns


Heat the olive oil and slightly brown the carrot, onion, and celery.  Add the remaining ingredients to the browned vegetables. Simmer for 30 minutes.  Let cool and then use as marinade for the venison.


3 pounds of venison roast, cut into large slices

2 tablespoons bacon fat

Fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary, oregano, marjoram) about ½ cup total or the same herbs dried, 1½ tsp each

4 cloves of garlic, crushed

4 carrots

¾ pound pitted olives, black and green mixed (do not use canned)

Salt and pepper

4 fresh chopped tomatoes

Marinate the venison in the marinade for at least 24 hours. Remove the venison, reserving the marinade, and then sauté the meat in the bacon fat, browning both sides. Place the meat in an ovenproof casserole. Pour the marinade over it and add a little more wine if you like. Add the herbs, garlic, carrots and the olives. Check seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Cover the meat with tin foil, put the lid on the casserole, and bake in a slow oven (about 275 degrees F) for at least 3 hours, or until meat is tender. Ten minutes before serving add the tomatoes to the sauce. Serve with egg noodles, dressed with a bit of olive oil and Parmesan cheese and a ladle of sauce from the stew, or garlic mashed potatoes also do the trick.

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featured image credit: Another Pint Please