Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Braised Venison Neck with Cream Cheese Polenta

One of Rick's favorite dishes is braised beef shanks. It's part of my repertoire of go-to recipes, one that I can whip up with just a few ingredients-- vegetables, red wine, stock, and beef. When shanks are on sale, I stock up and stick them in the freezer. Basic ingredients like onions, carrots, celery and beef/chicken stock are always in our pantry. And we drink wine fairly regularly, so there's usually a bottle around. This is such an easy, foolproof recipe. You will end up with flavorful, tender meat every single time, and it works just as perfectly with venison neck. After braising for two and a half hours, all the sinew and fat in the neck melts to become as tender as any pot roast you've ever had. This is a hearty meal that's a great way to utilize venison neck meat. 

What's been going on with us? The edits for our book Hunting for Food have been sent in, and we've been enjoying the nicer weather. The last couple weeks have been characterized by temperatures in the 50s, 60s and even 70s , which has been a relief after February's frigid temps. All the ice has melted and our ponds and lakes are open. Last week Rick and I were able to take out our kayaks for the first time this year-- which was way earlier that we expected. We did a little bit of fishing, though we had no luck. 

Green grass is also beginning to pop up. Before I moved out here, I never-- in my wildest dreams-- thought that I would ever get excited over watching grass grow. Though it has gotten cooler this week, we did get some nice rain yesterday, which we desperately need because we had a very dry winter. Here's to hoping that we don't experience another drought this year... 

Servings: 2
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 3 hours
Ingredients: 
- one side of boneless venison neck
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- all-purpose flour
- salt and pepper
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 large carrots, chopped
- 3 ribs of celery, chopped
- 1 cup of red wine
- 2 cans of beef broth
- 3 sprigs of thyme, fresh or dry
- 1 sprig of rosemary  
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup of yellow cornmeal
- 4 1/2 cups of water
- 4 ounces of cream cheese (or goat cheese)
- 1 tablespoon of butter
- chopped parsley for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a Dutch/French oven over medium-high heat. Rinse venison neck under cold water, pat dry with paper towels. Liberally sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides, dredge in flour then brown in the oil on both sides, 3-5 minutes each side. Set browned neck aside. 
2. Add more oil if necessary to the pot. Lower heat to medium then add chopped onion, carrot and celery, along with a pinch of salt. Sweat vegetables and sauté until onions turn translucent, 5-7 minutes. 
3. Add the wine and scrape the bottom of the pan. 
Add the venison back to the pot, then pour in 2 cans of beef broth. Add thyme, bay leaf and rosemary. Cover the Dutch/French oven and braise in a 350 degree F oven for 2 1/2 hours, or until neck turns fork tender. 


4. Flip the neck halfway through and check to make sure that the liquid has not evaporated too quickly. If so, add more broth to keep meat from drying out and burning.

After 2 1/2 hours, the meat should be fork tender. Shred venison neck into smaller pieces. Taste for seasoning. Discard thyme, bay leaf and rosemary sprigs before serving.  
5. To make polenta, bring 4 1/2 cups of water to a boil. Whisk in cornmeal and a generous pinch of salt, no lumps, then cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Once polenta is cooked, mix in cheese, butter and more salt, if necessary. 
6. Spoon polenta into a bowl then ladle braised venison and vegetables on top. Garnish with parsley. 









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