We had planned to make a very rich casserole using some cubed shoulder of wild venison that we had picked up just before Christmas. With all the festive excitement it had been popped in the freezer. Once defrosted I was a little disappointed to see that the cubes were a little smaller than I had thought – it was clearly not destined to make a venison equivalent of “Daube of Beef”. A quick rethink took us from France to Italy and from Daube to Ragu! The recipe is simplicity itself.
Firstly, take some pancetta and produce some small Lardon (or as we have moved to an Italian recipe; pezzo di lardo) add these to the dutch oven and cook with the Bay leaves until they begin to release a little oil. We were using the last of our home made pancetta (I must get down to writing about the recipe some time as it is so easy!!)
To this was simply added a sofrito mix of finely chopped onion, carrot and celery. The onion and garlic were added first with a little more oil and sautéd until it began to become transparent. The rest of the sofrito mix was then added and cooked for a little while longer.
At the same time, in a separate pan, the pieces of venison were browned off a few pieces at a time and when they were golden brown they were added into the slowly cooking sofrito mix. This is the only time consuming part of the recipe, apart from the slow cook itself! Once all the meat had been added, it was time to add the wine. If cooking in a conventional oven I would have brought the liquid to above the meat but the BGE retains liquids so well experience suggested adding a little less (it can always be topped up during the cooking). We used a combination of some Italian red wine and the remnants of some white sparkling wine that was still in the fridge! all that was left to do then was to boil off the alcohol from this and then add the remaining ingredients and gently stir them into the pot!
The BGE had been set up for indirect cooking and brought up to a temperature of 120-130C. We added a little cherry wood for a very gentle smoke taste.
The Dutch oven was placed in the BGE without its lid so it could take on the delicate smoke flavour and left for around 5 hours. We visited it 2 or 3 time in that period to give it a gentle stir and at one point to add a little water as the sauce was beginning to thicken as the sofrito broke up.
Once the meat is beautifully softened it is time to adjust the seasoning if necessary. The only thing left to do then is to gently break up the venison using the back of a large spoon against the side of the pot – this is perfect for making a ragu where the meat clings to the pasta rather than sitting on top of it. How much you break it up or whether you break it up at all is really a matter of taste and certainly a personal choice! All that was left to do was to portion up the sauce (it freezes beautifully) and then indulge in the 2 portions we had reserved for our evening meal. Served very simply with some Pappardelle and a little Parmesan cheese – for a few minutes we were transported to a hot and sunny Tuscan hillside!!
Do give it a try ………….. I am sure you will love it!
Footnote:- we were also cooking a small smoked gammon yesterday (recipe here). Normally I would do this over a drip pan to collect the lovely juices released by the ham to use later. This time we put the gammon on a grill (from the BGE Mini) over the ragu to allow it to drip directly into the ragu – fantastic – but absolutely make sure you leave any seasoning to the end if you try that!
Footnote 2 – This recipe with tagliatelle rather than pappardelle can be found here
Smoked Venison Ragu
Rich smoked venison ragu to serve with Pappardelle
- 3 thick rashers of streaky bacon/pancetta cut into lardon
- 2 onions finely chopped
- 2 carrots finely chopped
- 2 sticks of celery finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves finely chopped
- 1Kg cubed venison shoulder
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 6 cloves
- 2-3 glasses of red wine (optional 2-3 glasses of champagne/prosecco)
- 3 heaped tablespoons tomato purée
- Olive Oil
- Step 1 Fry off the pancetta and Bay leaf until the pancetta gives off a little oil. Add the finely chopped onions and garlic and add a little more oil if needed and sauté until begin to become transparent. Add the rest of the ‘Sofrito’ and continue to sauté.
- Step 2 At the same time, in a separate pan, brown off the pieces of venison and when golden add to the sofrito.
- Step 3 When all the meat has been added finish off by adding the cloves and cinnamon stick and then the red wine so the meat is nearly covered. Allow the alcohol to boil off.
- Step 4 Stir in the Tomato purée
- Step 5 Set up the BGG in indirect mode with a little cherry wood and bring temperature to 130C – Add the Dutch oven without the lid and leave to cook slowly for around 5 hours until very soft.
- Step 6 If necessary add a little water when cooking
- Step 7 Before serving gently crush any of the meat cubes that have not broken up.
- Step 8 Serve with freshly cooked Pappardelle and a little Parmesan