Pressure Cooker Venison Chili

Look!  Two recipes in one week!  I must be on a roll.

For those of you who may not know, I was once a professional cake decorator.  It’s a hobby now (you can find photos of some of the cakes I’ve done here on the blog if you do a search for “cake” and sift through the recipes), and I enjoy doing it – so much so that I’ve recently acquired an airbrush and a very nice caddy for my supplies.  Which beats dragging a huge box off the top of the freezer in the garage and digging through it when I need something, let me tell you.

At any rate, the son of our beef farmer is getting married this year and I offered to do the wedding and groom’s cakes.  As payment, I received a box of approximately 50 pounds of mule deer and antelope meat after their hunting trip to Wyoming last fall.

I love the barter system.

We’ve slowly been working our way through all of this wonderful game, revisiting some of our favorite venison recipes.  The antelope is just wonderful – flavorful and sweet; the mule deer, however, is a bit different from the Ohio whitetail to which we’re accustomed.  It definitely has a “gamey” flavor.  Not bad, just kind of strong.

There are things you can do to mitigate the strong, “wild” flavor typical of some game meats.  One is to soak it, either in milk or a good marinade, for several hours before cooking (coconut milk works fine if you have problems with dairy).  Another is to cook it with bold spices and other strong flavors.  I did both with this dish, soaking the venison in milk before preparing it in the pressure cooker.

The result was a spicy, complex and deeply flavored chili, without any hint of gaminess, that is simply delicious.  The coffee and chocolate were inspired additions which contributed to the rich and complex flavor, but it seemed a bit bitter when I tasted it before locking the lid on the pressure cooker, hence the addition of the honey.  You can certainly leave it out if you prefer.

Like most chili and stews, this is even better the next day.  Of course, you can use beef in place of the venison if you like.

Note: If you don’t own a pressure cooker, you can cook this in a cast iron Dutch oven (either enameled or plain) on the stove.  Once all of the ingredients have been added to the pot, cover and simmer until the meat is tender, about 1 1/2 hours, then cook uncovered for another 30 minutes or so, or until the chili has thickened to the desired consistency.

Pressure Cooker Venison Chili.  Rich, delicious chili for dinner on a weeknight?  Break out the pressure cooker!

Pressure Cooker Venison Chili
Serves: 4 to 6
  • 2 pounds venison stew meat, cut into 2″ cubes
  • 2 tablespoons grass-fed tallow
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup yellow onion, diced
  • 1 medium yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 large jalapeño peppers, finely diced
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 cups beef stock, preferably homemade
  • 1 cup brewed coffee
  • 2 ounces high-quality dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons honey (optional)
  1. Heat the tallow in a 4- to 6-quart pressure cooker over high heat. Sprinkle the venison liberally with salt and pepper and add to the lard; cook, stirring frequently, until the meat is nicely browned.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium and add the onions, peppers and jalapeno. Continue cooking until the onion has softened, about 5 more minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients.
  3. Lock the lid of the pressure cooker in place and increase the heat to high until the cooker reaches full pressure (15 psi). Reduce the heat to medium, and cook for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and do a quick release of the pressure.
  4. Carefully remove the lid from the pressure cooker. Stir; bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, or until the chili has thickened to the desired consistency. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed before serving.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 352 calories, 13.3g total fat, 32.2mg cholesterol, 299.9mg sodium, 670.5mg potassium, 22.6g carbohydrates, 4.2g fiber, 12.4g sugar, 37.8g protein

Venison Tenderloin with Blueberry-Red Wine Reduction

I am SO thrilled – I pretty much have all of The Young One’s college finances wrapped up.  We’ll meet the deadline for payment, with time to spare (thank goodness), and then all I’ll have to worry about is getting everything together he needs to take with him by his move-in date.

And then things will be very quiet in our house.

I don’t know how much I’m looking forward to that.  I’ve been a Mom for 30 years, and the whole “empty nest” thing is going to require some adjustment.  (The dog may not survive all the attention.)

If there’s anything I am looking forward to when it’s just me and Beloved, it’s that I won’t have to worry – too often, anyway – about accommodating the palate of a very picky eater.  For the time being, the only time this isn’t an issue is when The Young One is out and about with his friends; yes, that’s been more often than not the last six months, but the last few weeks he’s been kind of sticking close to home.  Separation anxiety, maybe?  At any rate, when he’s avoiding the National Guard safely ensconced in the hallowed halls of Kent State University, I’ll have more time for cooking things, well, like this.

With the exception of a couple of roasts, this is the last of Bambi’s Mom the deer we were gifted last autumn.  Like beef and pork tenderloin, venison tenderloin is quite tender (duh) and very lean, requiring it be cooked on the medium-rare side.  Searing it, then finishing in the oven, is the best way to accomplish this, and the use of an instant-read thermometer is almost mandatory.

Because an overcooked deer is a dry, tough deer.

The blueberry-red wine reduction came about because it is blueberry season and they’re dirt cheap right now.  (Okay, yes, they’re delicious, too.)  Honestly, though, they pair really well with a good quality, dry red wine (I believe I used a red zinfandel) and fresh thyme; the sauce was just lovely and complemented the rich, slightly gamey flavor of the venison really well.

The recipe is not only delicious, but also quite easy – the hardest thing about the dish is the reduction, and it takes all of about 15 minutes.  It would also go quite well with beef or pork tenderloin, if you don’t have the venison.

Venison Tenderloin with Blueberry-Red Wine Reduction. In this classically styled dish, flavorful venison is paired with a sweet-tart blueberry sauce.

Click on the image to enlarge

Venison Tenderloin with Blueberry-Red Wine Reduction
Serves: 2
  • 2 venison tenderloins (about 2 inches thick and 4 inches long), patted dry
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1/2 cup beef stock, preferably homemade
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Generously season the tenderloins with the salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large oven proof skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 thyme sprigs and 2 crushed garlic cloves and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Place the venison in the skillet and sear 2 minutes per side.
  3. Transfer the skillet to the oven for 7 minutes, or until the venison is medium rare, or has reached an internal temperature of 135 F. Remove from the oven; tent loosely with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a wide, shallow sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and remaining thyme and garlic. Season lightly with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds. Add the wine and broth; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until reduced by half.
  5. Stir in the blueberries and honey and cook on medium-low heat for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring and lightly mashing the berries with the back of a large wooden spoon. Pass the blueberry sauce through a fine-mesh strainer, discarding the solids, and set aside.
  6. Cut the tenderloins into 1/4″ slices and plate, fanned out across the surface. Spoon the sauce over the venison and serve.
  7. Nutrition (per serving): 433 calories, 21.9g total fat, 42.7mg cholesterol, 156.4mg sodium, 555.5mg potassium, 26.1g carbohydrates, 2.4g fiber, 17.8g sugar, 18.7g protein

Orange-Glazed Rabbit

Yes, another rabbit recipe.  What can I say – we’ve found a wonderful source for locally-raised, domestic bunny.

Tasty, tasty bunny.

Oh, I kid…sort of.  Really, rabbit is quite delicious when cooked properly and this recipe does it complete justice.  I admit it’s a wee bit involved, but it’s not difficult by any stretch of the imagination – you marinate the rabbit, poach the rabbit in olive oil, then brown the rabbit and sauce it.

And it is absolutely delicious.

I’ll be the first to admit that domestic rabbit is very lean and can be a bit on the dry, stringy side, but poaching it in the olive oil does an absolutely marvelous job of mitigating that.  The meat comes out of the oil unctuous and juicy.  And as odd as it may seem, the sauce of the poached garlic, which is rendered mellow and sweet, with the reserved orange juice, zest, honey and orange liqueur – I used Cointreau – is a beautiful finish for this company-worthy dish.

Use the best olive oil you can find, for both the marinade and the poaching process; I don’t believe it ever gets hot enough to oxidize the more fragile fats and it absolutely imbues the meat with its unique, fruity flavor.  I also used blood oranges, but any good quality orange would be fine.  Don’t skimp on the garlic, either; the flavor isn’t overwhelming at all, and works quite well with the orange and rosemary.

If you can’t find rabbit, or simply can’t bring yourself to eat it, chicken would be perfect in this.

Orange-Glazed Rabbit.  Oranges, olive oil and garlic transform the humble rabbit into a company-worthy main dish.

Orange-Glazed Rabbit
Serves: 6
  • 1 rabbit, cut into serving pieces
  • 3 large oranges
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 8 large cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon orange liqueur
  1. Grate the zest of two of the oranges into a small bowl. Peel the zest from the third orange; seal in a small plastic bag and set aside. Juice all three oranges and combine the juice with the grated zest.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together 1/3 cup of the combined juice/zest, chopped rosemary, wine and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Generously salt and pepper the rabbit pieces and place them in a resealable, 1-gallon plastic bag. Add the marinade; press out as much air as possible and seal the bag. Turn a few times to coat the rabbit and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
  3. Remove the rabbit pieces from the bag and discard the marinade. Place the rabbit in a large heavy pan or enameled Dutch oven with the cup of olive oil over medium heat. Cook, turning frequently, until the rabbit is a light golden color, but not browned. Add the garlic cloves and the reserved strips of orange zest to the pan; reduce the heat to low, cover and poach the rabbit until fork tender, about 30 to 40 minutes.
  4. Heat a wide, heavy skillet over medium-high heat and transfer the rabbit from the pot of oil to the skillet, browning it quickly and lightly on all sides. Move the pieces to a plate or platter; cover and set aside.
  5. Reduce the heat under the skillet to medium-low. Fish the garlic cloves out of the olive oil in the Dutch oven and transfer to the skillet, mashing them lightly. Stir in the reserved orange juice with the zest, the honey and orange liqueur. Cook, stirring constantly, until the liquid reduces a bit and becomes slightly syrupy. Return the rabbit pieces to the skillet, turning to evenly coat them.
  6. Plate the rabbit, brush with any remaining sauce and serve.
  7. Nutrition (per serving): 351 calories, 20g total fat, 64.6mg cholesterol, 48.2mg sodium, 569.5mg potassium, 16.2g carbohydrates, 2.4g fiber, 11.6g sugar, 23.9g protein

Venison Curry

Sunday night, I sent out a plea on Facebook.

“I don’t know what to post tomorrow – Venison Curry or Bang-Bang Shrimp. Help!”

The response was overwhelmingly in favor of the shrimp, which is why I posted it yesterday.  However, about 1/3 of the commenters wanted the curry, and I’m more than happy to oblige today.

Because this was really, really delicious.  The three of us devoured it, leaving very little in the way of leftovers.  Kind of disappointing, actually.

This is a take on a Massaman curry, a Thai dish with Muslim origins.  It’s most often made with beef, but versions made with lamb, chicken, duck and tofu are not uncommon.  I made mine with pressure-cooked deer shanks, after reading a recipe using venison on Hank Shaw’s blog.

Thanks to the wonder that is the pressure cooker, this came together in just a little over an hour and it’s really pretty simple:  pressure cook the venison shanks (oxtail might be a good choice, too) while preparing the vegetables, then shred the meat from the shanks and add them to the curry.  Boom – done.

We might want to note that due to the additions of the peas, which I just loved, this is not paleo.  You can certainly leave them out if you wish, but I’ve been craving spring peas lately (actually, I’ve been craving spring anything lately) and I really don’t think a few once in a blue moon are going to throw my health into some sort of downward spiral.  They certainly don’t have an immediate affect on my well-being the way gluten, MSG or aspartame do.

In fact, if you leave out the peas and switch out the fingerlings for sweet potatoes, this will not only be paleo, but Whole30 compliant.

Note:  I used a canned curry paste that, aside from a tiny amount of added sugar, is pretty clean.  If you want to make your own, Hank’s recipe contains the ingredients and instructions for what looks like a really dynamite homemade curry paste that contains no added sugar or soy.

Edited to add: Apparently peas, despite being a legume, get the “paleo pass” along with white potatoes and white rice.  This makes me…quite happy, actually.

Venison Curry - a sumptuous Thai-style curry that's rich in flavor and simple to make.

Venison Curry
Serves: 6
  • 3 lbs venison shanks
  • 2 tablespoons lard or other fat suitable for frying
  • salt and freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1 quart beef stock, preferably homemade
  • 1 tablespoon lard or ghee
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 pound fingerling potatoes, cut in half
  • 1 can coconut milk (13.5 ounces)
  • 1 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2-inch cinnamon stick
  • 4 tablespoons yellow curry paste, or to taste
  • 1 cup frozen spring peas, thawed
  1. Melt the 2 tablespoons of lard over high heat in the pressure cooker. Sprinkle the shanks liberally with salt and pepper, then brown in the fat. Add the beef stock to the browned venison.
  2. Lock the lid of the pressure cooker in place and increase the heat to high until the cooker reaches full pressure (15 psi). Reduce the heat to medium, and cook for 55 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow the pressure to decrease naturally.
  3. While the shanks are cooking, heat the tablespoon of lard or ghee in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat and cook the onions, stirring frequently, for about 2 minutes. Add the potatoes, coconut milk, fish sauce, cinnamon and chicken stock; stir in the curry paste. Cover and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes.
  4. Once the venison shanks are done, carefully remove them from the pressure cooker and shred the meat from the bones with a fork. Stir the venison and thawed peas into the potato mixture and simmer for an additional 5 minutes before serving.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 455 calories, 24.7g total fat, 27.7mg cholesterol, 1452.5mg sodium, 894.6mg potassium, 26.6g carbohydrates, 5g fiber, 5.7g sugar, 33.7g protein

Balsamic Glazed Venison

No post yesterday and I’m running late today – I’m just busy, busy, busy!  Part of it is I’m waiting on something to tell you all about, but it’s a bit out of my control right now so you get another recipe.

If you remember, last week I posted about the meals we were served when The Young One and I attended “Golden Flash Day” at Kent State so we could tour the College of Communication and Information and attend a seminar on financial aid (which we are in dire need of).  It was basically gluten, carbage and more gluten-y carbage, and toward the end of the post I made mention that I went back for seconds of the venison I made for dinner that night.

This is it.

Yes, I was pretty much starving, but I may have gone back for seconds anyway – something I don’t do often – because this was just delicious.  I used the last of our venison backstrap for the dish, and I’m really mourning it’s passing because I’ve decided it is in the Top 3 of my favorite cuts of meat.  Cooked properly, it is flavorful, juicy and unbelievably tender even when prepared very, very rare, and I’m a medium-rare to medium kinda gal when it comes to red meat.  Served over the celery root-pear puree, it was one of the best meals I’d eaten, ravenously hungry or not, in quite some time.  This recipe is definitely a keeper.

I know the list of ingredients is long, as are the directions, but it’s not difficult at all – you’re simply making two separate components for the dish (which I basely stole from Emeril Lagasse).  When it comes down to it, the most time-consuming part of the recipe is boiling the celery root.

Note:  If you don’t have any venison backstrap – you poor thing – this would work quite well with beef tenderloin.

Balsamic Glazed Venison. Balsamic vinegar adds a welcome tangy sweetness to the mild gaminess of tender venison backstrap.

Balsamic Glazed Venison
Serves: 4
  • 4 venison backstrap medallions, about 6 ounces each
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons ghee
  • 1 cup onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • Puree:
  • 1 pound celery root, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 large pear, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 tablespoons ghee or butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk or heavy cream
  • pinch nutmeg
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. In a large saucepan, cover the celery root with water. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain.
  2. While the celery root is cooking, melt 2 tablespoons of ghee in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the pear, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and continue cooking, until the pear break down and the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat.
  3. Transfer the celery root and pear mixture to a food processor. Add the coconut milk or cream and remaining 2 tablespoons of ghee and puree until smooth. Season with the nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside and keep warm.
  4. Season the venison on both sides with salt and pepper.
  5. Heat the ghee in a large skillet over high heat. Sear the venison until brown, about 2 minutes per side. Remove from the pan and cover loosely with foil.
  6. Reduce the heat to medium and add the olive oil and onions. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions begin to turn golden, 4 or 5 minutes. Add the vinegar, stirring up any brown bits, and return the venison to the pan along with the accumulated juices. Cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, or until the venison is at the preferred doneness. Remove from the heat and season to taste with salt and pepper, if necessary.
  7. Divide the celery root-pear puree among 4 serving plates. Slice the venison medallions and place on the puree; drizzle with the balsamic reduction in the pan and top with the caramelized onions.
  8. Nutrition (per serving): 453 calories, 28.8g total fat, 88.5mg cholesterol, 155.8mg sodium, 750.8mg potassium, 26.1g carbohydrates, 4.3g fiber, 11.3g sugar, 19.2g protein