Rich and gamey, with a delicate perfume of garlic & thyme, slow cooked venison with soft polenta and wild mushrooms is rustic Italian comfort food of the highest order.
Wild venison shoulder is the perfect cut for this dish. Cooked long and slow it yields into meltingly tender chunks of intensely flavoured meat. The braising liquid is then reduced over a high heat to produce a wonderful red wine jus, perfect with the buttery polenta.
The polenta should be made at the last minute as it will solidify fairly quickly after cooking. Pour 1 litre of water and 1 litre of milk into a large pot, add a few pinches of salt and bring to a simmer. Gradually whisk in 500g of polenta and continue whisking, over a low heat, until smooth. Whisk in 100g of butter and 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan. Season to taste, adding more Parmesan if you like it cheesy. Remove from the heat and beat in a teaspoon each of chopped marjoram, chives and flat leaf parsley.
Wild mushrooms are cooked in much the same way as cultivated ones, the main difference is in the preparation, as they can be very gritty. It’s best to try and avoid washing them as they soak up water and can become soggy, so brush off any grit with a pastry brush and then sauté in olive oil, with a pinch of salt, for a few minutes until golden. Add chopped garlic, thyme and a knob of butter for the last 20 seconds, tossing it all together.
Slow cooked Wild Venison with Soft Polenta, Cavolo Nero & Wild Mushrooms – serves 6 generously
Preparation time – Marinade overnight. Cooking time – 3 hours
1 wild venison shoulder – boned and diced 3 carrots 1 large onion 2 cloves garlic 1 bouquet garni – bay leaf, thyme, sage 2 star anise 500ml red wine 500ml chicken or beef stock
- The day before, place the venison, carrots, onion, garlic, anise & bouquet garni in a large plastic container and pour over the wine. Marinade in the fridge overnight & then strain through a sieve, reserving the liquid and separating the meat from the vegetables.
- Pat dry the venison chunks with kitchen paper & season with salt & pepper.
- Heat a thin layer of vegetable oil in a large frying pan and sear the venison in batches until nicely browned. Don’t overcrowd the pan or the meat with stew in its own juices, rather than sear in the hot oil.
- In a large casserole pot melt a knob of butter and gently cook the onions, garlic & carrots until the onions have softened. Add the browned meat & the bouquet garni. Pour in the wine & chicken stock and bring to a gentle simmer. Reduce the heat to its lowest setting & cook for about 2 hours.
- Once the meat is tender, strain of some of the liquid & pass through a fine sieve. Bring to a quick boil & reduce until it has thickened into a nice sauce.
- Reheat the venison in the reduced sauce & serve on top of the soft polenta with buttered cavolo nero. Scatter over a few wild mushrooms & some chopped parsley.