Venison is a great alternative to beef in a bourguignonne, and this is a dish I like to put on the menu at The Vineyard restaurant when venison is in season, usually as the “dish of the week.” My modern version of the French classic is finished with dark chocolate, providing a hint of tobacco and bark, which combines beautifully with the earthy flavor of the wild mushrooms and woody aroma of the star anise. To bring the dish together, you need to use a robust red wine, such as one from the southern Rhône region, which also has a hint of spice and chocolate. All in all, a magical combination. I like to serve this with mashed buttered rutabaga or turnip.
– PREPARATION TIME 20 minutes, plus making the stock and at least 3 hours marinating.
– COOKING TIME 2 hours 25 minutes.
– 1¾ pounds boneless venison haunch, cut into large cubes.
– 1 quart red wine, such as French southern Rhône.
– 2 thyme sprigs.
– 3 garlic cloves, crushed with the blade of a knife.
– 1 star anise.
– 3 tablespoons Cognac.
– ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil.
– 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour.
– 2½ cups Beef Stock.
– 1 bouquet garni, made with 1 thyme sprig, 1 parsley sprig and 1 bay leaf, tied with kitchen string.
– 2 carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise and cut into chunks.
– 12 pearl onions or small shallots.
– 1 ounce dark organic chocolate, 70% cocoa solids, grated.
– ⅔ cup diced thick pancetta.
– 2 handfuls mixed seasonal wild mushrooms, such as girolles, horn of plenty and chanterelles.
– 1 handful flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped.
– sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Step 2: Heat 4 tablespoons of the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the venison and cook at least 20 minutes until very well colored on all sides, but not burned. Season with salt and pepper, then sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring, 2 to 3 minutes longer until the meat is lightly coated. Add the stock and the reserved marinade and bring to a boil, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface. Add the bouquet garni, carrots and onions, turn the heat down to low, partially cover and simmer 1 hour 50 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the meat is very tender and the sauce has become rich and silky.
Step 3: Five minutes before the venison is ready, transfer 2 ladlefuls of the sauce into a bowl. Whisk in the chocolate until it melts and is combined. Return the chocolate-flavored sauce to the pot and stir together well, then re-cover the pot and turn off the heat.
Step 4: Heat the remaining oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta and fry 2 to 3 minutes until it is just colored, then stir in the wild mushrooms and fry 1 to 2 minutes longer until it is just tender. Add everything to the venison and stir through. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then stir in the parsley, taking care not to break up the venison.