STEWED VENISON NECK
RED COOKED VENISON NECK
A friend gave me assorted cuts of venison a few months ago. There were steaks and tenderloin, which I cook like the best beef: no marinade, salt and pepper, high heat, medium to medium rare. But included was a cut I had not cooked before: the neck. What does one do with 4 pounds of venison neck? What one would do with 4 lbs of any other neck: stew it low and slow. I had hoped to prepare a blistering pot of vindaloo. But this would have eliminated at least one, and probably two of the lucky diners from the meal, which is really not the intent of cooking. Cooking isn’t an avant-garde performance that measures its success by the number of fleeing audience members. So I decided to stew it in the Chinese style called red cooked. Red cooking is stewing in dark soy sauce and rice wine. It is flavored primarily by star anise. Sugar is added in greater or smaller quantities depending on the region. I simmered the neck for four hours, strained the liquid and added reconstituted shitake mushrooms and turnips. I also made a fiery dried chili and garlic paste so those who wanted a blast of heat could have one.
4 lbs venison neck
2-3 T oil
1 large onion roughly chopped
1 inch piece of ginger sliced
4 cloves of garlic smashed and peeled
3 star anise
1 T coriander seeds
1 T black pepper corns
1 cinnamon stick
a couple piece of dried tangerine peel
½ cup dark soy sauce
1/3 cup rice wine
1 t salt
10 dried shitake mushrooms
2 cups cubed turnip
1/3 cup rice wine
2 T sugar
I used an iron Dutch oven large enough to fit everything. You are going to cook this on top of the stove, so use any pot you’d use for a stew that is going to simmer for a long time.
Prep the venison: the most important thing with venison is to remove all fat and whatever connective tissue you can. The neck is not as complicated as the shoulder, but there are multiple muscles. You will go crazy if you try to remove all of the silver side, tendons and connective tisse, and you will end up with a pile of tiny pieces. Instead, feel along the muscles and cut out what ever pieces of fat you find. Then, again cutting with and then against the muscle grain, cut the neck into two inch cubes. Remove the silver side that is exposed as you work, by slipping a very sharp paring knife between the tissue and the meat. Do not pursue perfection! This isn’t haut cuisine. You’re making peasant food.
Heat the pot over high heat and stir fry the meat, searing as best you can. This is not French cooking either, you’re not looking for beautifully browned meat. When it loses its bloody look and is taking on color, remove to a bowl and add the onions, garlic and ginger. Stir fry just until wilted and add all of the spices, heat them through (do not scorch, if the pan is too hot lower the heat) until fragrant and then add the meat back. Stir fry together, add the soy sauce, continue to stir until it takes on color and then add the rice wine. When it bubbles add just enough water to cover, bring to a simmer over low heat: do not boil, but wait for tiny bubbles to break out across the surface. Cover and allow to cook gently for 4 hours, stirring occasionally. In the meantime, reconstitute the mushrooms: cover them in a bowl with boiling water for about a half hour. Retain the soaking liquid. Peel the turnips and cut into cubes. Trim the stems from the mushrooms and cut in half.
After four hours scoop out the meat with a slotted spoon and let rest in a bowl. Strain the cooking liquid and return to the pot. Add the mushroom and the soaking liquid (do not add the sediment, either strain through a paper towel or pour very carefully). Bring to a gentle boil, and cook for 20 minutes. Add the turnips and the venison, add 1/3 cup rice wine and 2 T sugar. Taste for salt. Cook until the turniups are tender, 10-15 minutes. Finish with a few teaspoons of sesame oil and a little vinegar. Taste again. Serve with rice.
¼- ½ cup of whole Chinese dried chilies (if using Thai or Indian, use less)
2 cloves garlic
Pinch of salt
Over low heat slowly toast the chilies in an iron frying pan until dark and rich. Allow to cool and pound in a mortar and pestle until group, not a powder, but into flakes. Remove, add a pinch of salt and pound the garlic into a paste. Add the chilies and pound together. Slowly add a tablespoon or so of vinegar, then drizzle in oil until it has the consistency you desire, a thick dark hot and garlicky paste. Use abundantly or sparingly!
Serve all this with lots of hot rice, beer or Riesling (we drank Riesling, Keuka Lake) and zucchini stir fried with garlic and ginger.