Elk, Venison, or Beef Stew

I used to make stew a different way. It was the way my mom made it, which technically happens to be a vegetable beef soup. My "official" stew recipe, this one I'm posting right now, came from Justin's grandmother Rose.

The technique of dredging the meat in flour, then frying, helps to thicken the liquid so it's not so soupy, and it adds complexity to the meat flavor. Simmering the meat in tomatoes also tenderizes the meat very well. It works on tough cuts of beef, which may take longer to really get tender. However, it also works well on wild game meats, which typically don't have as much fat marbling as beef, which would make them more dry.

We actually made our first meal of Justin's elk as stew, the photos shown here are from that meal. I have to admit, I usually prefer deer meat to elk, but this one is especially tender and mild. This summer we had record amounts of rain and apparently, the game had plenty of tender and tasty greens to eat. I also have to credit Justin and his brother Brian for their butchering skills. We've had game meats from other sources that really tasted horrible because the butcher left the silverskin on, or didn't age it properly, or left the bones and fat on the carcass too long...whatever the reason, if you don't clean wild game just right, even good meat will taste off, almost spoiled.

So today, I will rant no more and get down to business. Here is a fantastic, substantial stew perfect for a cool night's meal. Serve it up with French bread and you have a classic comfort meal.

2 pounds stew meat, beef, venison, elk, Big-horn sheep, other wild game meat, or a combination of what strikes your fancy
2 bay leaves
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
1 15-oz can whole stewed tomatoes
2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon ground thyme
2-5 cloves garlic, crushed
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
7 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1 cup whole wheat flour or unbleached AP flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
red pepper flakes
about 1/4 cup vegetable oil (you may need more or less depending on your meat)

1. Prepare seasoned flour for dredging the meat: Place flour, pepper and salt in a pie plate. Mix up. Toss meat chunks into flour so they are evenly coated.

2. Using a large pot (4 or 6 quart), heat about 1/4 cup vegetable oil. When hot, brown the meat in the hot oil until evenly browned. Do not burn.

3. Add the garlic and let cook about 1 minute.

4. Add the canned tomatoes with juices, thyme, bay leaves, and red pepper flakes to taste. Cover and simmer on low heat about 1 1/2 hours, or until meat is tender. Stir occasionally.

5. Add the water if it looks like the tomato sauce is cooking down. You want to keep the meat covered and moist.

6. Add celery, onion, carrots, potatoes, and parsley to pot. Stir and simmer until the veggies are tender, about 30 minutes to an hour.

Serves about 6.


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