Carbonnade is a traditional, rib-sticking Belgian stew made with beef, onions, and a spike of dark beer. Adapted for venison, it’s the perfect remedy for a cold day in the field, and a sly way to integrate the two primary hunting-camp food groups (those being meat and beer). Meat from deer or moose will be equally good here.
3 lb. venison stew meat, cut into 2-inch cubes
2 Tbsp. butter
4 slices bacon, chopped
3 yellow onions, chopped
1 Tbsp. dark brown sugar
4 cloves garlic, minced
16 oz. Belgian dark strong ale or other dark flavorful beer
1 cup (or more) chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice)
1⁄4 cup chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the butter and bacon, and cook until barely crispy. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon, reserving for later. Dry the venison with paper towels, then salt and pepper generously. Add the meat to the pot, in batches to avoid overcrowding, and raise the heat to high. Sear the meat well on all sides, then remove to a plate.
Add the onions and brown sugar to the pot or Dutch oven and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes, or until the onions are soft and caramelized, with a deep golden-brown color. Stir in the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes.
Raise the heat to medium-high. Pour in the beer and scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to dislodge any tasty brown bits. Bring to a boil, then add the reserved bacon and the meat along with any accumulated juices. Add the chicken stock (you may need more than a cup to cover the meat), bay leaf, and thyme, and bring to a low simmer. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the meat is very tender, about 2 hours.
Before serving, uncover and raise the heat to medium to bring the stew to a fast simmer. Simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the liquids are reduced to a saucelike consistency. Stir in the vinegar or lemon juice, and check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed. Serve the stew over buttered egg noodles or dumplings, if desired, topping each bowl with a sprinkling of parsley.
This story originally appeared in the October 2012 issue of Field & Stream.