Deer Stew with Herbes de Provence

Imagine large, tender chunks of venison slowly simmering away in a broth of hearty red wine, sweet brandy, ripe tomatoes and fragrant herbs like lavender and thyme. After a few hours, this stew will fill your home with the most inviting smells.  Following the French tradition, a lot of alcohol was used along with a small handful of herbes de Provence, a mixture of herbs indigenous to the Mediterranean, Southern part of France. Ladies, this is the perfect meal to welcome your beloved hunter home. After a cold day of being out in the field, he will surely appreciate this warm meal. (All political correctness aside-- I usually go with him, but when it's cold, I volunteer to stay inside. I'd rather stay home and cook than freeze my butt off. Let the man bring home the meat. You know what I'm sayin'?) And for all you gentlemen out there, she'll appreciate you helping with the dishes. Rick does and I love him for it. ;-)

Servings: 6
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 2.5 hours
- 3 lbs.venison roast
- 2 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 cup of shallots, thinly sliced
- 2 tbs. brandy
- 2 tbs. tomato paste
- 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 2 tsp. herbes de Provence
- 2 cups of hearty red wine
- 1 14.5 ounce can of whole, peeled tomatoes
- 4 strips of orange zest (2.5 inches long, removed with a peeler)
- 1 lb. (2 cups) of carrots, cut into 3/4 - 1 inch thick chunks 
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- fresh parsley for garnish, chopped (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Position rack to the lower third of oven.

Trim venison roast of all silver-skin and fat. Cut into 1-1/2 inch cubes. Lightly sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
2. Over medium heat, heat oil and bacon in a 7-8 quart Dutch oven until bacon is browned but not crisp. Stir occasionally. About 5-6 minutes.

Remove bacon bits to a small plate.
3. In the same grease, brown venison cubes in batches, in a single layer, until cubes turn a rich brown on all sides. Do the same for remaining cubes. About 10 minutes. 

Set browned cubes aside in a plate. 
4. Turn the stove up to medium-high heat. Using the same grease, add shallots, a pinch of salt and some black pepper. Saute until shallots begin to soften. 1 minute.
5. Add brandy and let it boil away.
6. Add tomato paste, garlic and herbes de Provence. Mix well and saute for another 1 minute.
7. Add the wine. Stir and scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to dislodge all the yummy crusties at the bottom. Bring to a boil.
8. Pour in the juice from the can of whole tomatoes, holding the tomatoes back with your hand.
Then, one by one, crush the tomatoes with your hand over the pot and drop them in. 

Be careful though...
Because this is what happens when you get too excited ... Stand back, everyone!
9. Drop in orange zest. Bring to a simmer.
Return the browned venison along with the meat juices. Return the bacon bits.
Finally, add the carrots. 

10. Cover the pot. Slide into the oven and cook for about 2.5 hours, or until meat is fork tender. Stir every 45 minutes. 
When it comes out, it should look like this. Yours should look wetter. We went to San Diego and left the stew going for 3 hours. 2.5 hours would be perfect. 
Enjoy with the rest of your wine (and brandy). And homemade mashed potatoes.

This week's wine was Long Arm's Red Blend, one that we got from Trader Joe's for about 6 bucks. It's not what you call a "pedigreed" wine, but Rick still gives it two thumbs up.