With a depth of wild flavor bathed in red wine and a bouquet of herbs, this Venison Bourguignon is a Southern backwoods expression of a classic French dish. There are flavors here that tantalize: Wild game simmered down in a dark roux-infused gravy spiked ever-so-gently with red wine and punched with fragrant herbs, umami-rich mushrooms, fresh carrots, and onions—a truly inspired dish.
Leave it to South Louisiana camp cooks to elevate the haute cuisine of Paris with inspiration and creativity. The caliber of cooks that don an apron and fire up the pots in the kitchens of hunting camps across the South is astounding. And I can emphatically state that these are mostly men, and they are passionate about their recipes.
My friend Ben Thibeau is one of them. His specialty is hunting deer, and he has a bevy of recipes that never waste an ounce of the tasty game meat. Sausage, tenderloin, roasts, stews, gravies, and sauce piquante are just a part of the recipe arsenal he brings to the table. And this one for Venison Bourguignon is one of his favorites.
Ben will freely admit that he is inspired by Julia Child’s classic recipe for Beef Bourguignon with his version using deer meat. With a Cajun twist or two, he has perfected this tasty take on a classic. Like me, you should make friends with a hunter and get your hands on some cuts (Ben uses backstrap, tenderloin, and neck meat) of venison for this recipe. You can also purchase farm-raised venison on the Internet at a variety of online options. And if you must, this Cajun version of the French classic is tasty with beef stew meat or short ribs.
But I’m lucky to have a friend like Ben Thibeau, and for me, it’s Venison Bourguignon on my Acadiana Table. I’ve tinkered a bit with his recipe, but once you read through the steps, you will see how easy this dish is to make. Fresh ingredients, delicate spicing, and long, gentle cooking time are the keys. Like Ben, I cook mine in a black iron pot, but I will admit that a slow cooker or even one of those new-fangled Insta Pots will work here.
So, if you’re hunting for a new recipe with a dramatic twist on a perennial favorite, then try this Venison Bourguignon.
- 3 strips smoked bacon, chopped
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 3 pounds deer meat (venison), cut in bite-size chunks
- 2 cups chopped yellow onion
- 1 large yellow onion, sliced
- 3 cups mushrooms, button or creminis (baby portobellos), halved
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups dry red wine, such as Burgundy
- 3 cups beef stock, plus more if needed
- 4 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons dark Cajun roux, such as Rox’s Roux
- 2 large carrots, chopped into large chunks
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 cups pearl onions, root end and top skin removed
- 2 cups chopped curly-leaf parsley
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
- Pinch of Acadiana Table Cajun Seasoning Blend, see recipe here
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 6 cups cooked pasta, such as bowtie or long-grain white rice, such as Supreme
- In a large black iron pot with a heavy lid over medium-high heat, add the bacon and cook until crispy and the fat rendered. Remove the bacon pieces and to the remaining grease, add the venison pieces. Brown the meat on all sides and remove to a paper towel-lined platter.
- If needed, add the vegetable oil and heat until sizzling hot. Add the chopped and yellow onions along with mushrooms. Saute until browned, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add the flour and stir into the vegetables and cook just until the raw taste of the flour is gone, about 3 minutes.
- Add the wine and cook at a slow boil until most of the alcohol cooks off and it reduces, about 15 minutes. Add the venison and the reserved bacon pieces. Add enough of the beef stock to cover the meat along with the tomato paste and roux, and stir to incorporate. Add the carrots, thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, pearl onions, and half of the parsley. Add the salt and pepper.
- Lower the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook on the stovetop until the meat is tender, 3 to 4 hours. Along the way, check to see that there is enough stock in the pot and it doesn’t become too thick; if so, add more stock. Remove the bay leaves and any excess oil by skimming the top of the sauce.
- Once the meat is fork tender, taste and season with more salt and pepper, along with a delicate pinch of Cajun seasoning. Add a knob of butter to the pot and swirl it into the sauce for richness and sheen.
- Serve over pasta or white rice along with a sprinkle of the remaining chopped parsley. Serve with hot sauce on the side for added heat.
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