Stew: it’s not just for winter.

Summer is almost over! I want to make this, STAT!

I love having a bay tree. My father gave me a little sapling a few years ago. The first year it didn’t do much, but subsequently every season after that first year it would grow exactly one new set of leaves. They are slow growers, but it’s not like you use bay leaves (fresh ones, no less) every day. Then he needed a bay tree for my aunt, but the one he had for her wouldn’t fit in his car. So we traded, and now I have a big bay tree! They are reasonably attractive, thrive in a pot so you can bring them in during the winter, and reasonably hardy so they don’t die in the 100 degree summers we get, nor do they die when it sits inside for a month or so in winter, nor even when you forget to water it for a spell. The best part about having a bay tree, though, is that you discover that fresh bay leaves have a whole new level of properties compared to the dry ones. The aroma and flavor is brighter and has a subtle sweetness that you just don’t get with dried herbs.

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One thing to keep in mind when a recipe calls for fresh bay leaf is that they are the opposite of all other herbs: the fresh ones are stronger than the dried ones. If you can’t find fresh bay leaves, use twice as many dried.

This recipe is a great summer stew. Any hunter’s abode has stew meat aplenty – but honestly, in Texas our winters just aren’t long enough to eat that much stew. We’d have to eat stew nearly every chilly day. Hence all the “other things to do with stew meat” recipes I so obligingly provide. So here is a stew that is perfectly apt for the summer time. The meat “stews,” but the flavor profile is fresh, light and bright, perfect for late spring or summer. While this is done on the stove (oven heats the house up too much in the summertime) you can definitely stick this in a crock pot on the porch if you really want to keep the heat out of the kitchen and away from your air conditioning bill.

Venison stew recipe

The original recipe called for a spice called Aleppo pepper. It’s (apparently) a not-too-spicy chile of sorts that’s bright and citrusy. At least according to the spice expert at my local bulk bins. Bulk bins which, of course, did not carry Aleppo pepper at that location. Since I don’t do that whole drive-all-over-town-for-one-ingredient thing, I used a pinch of cayenne for the heat and sumac for something aromatic and citrusy.

Red Pepper Summer Stew

Serves 8
Prep time 10 minutes
Cook time 40 minutes
Total time 50 minutes
Website Food 52

Ingredients

  • 2lb venison stew meat, or round steak cut into chunks
  • 2 ripe red bell peppers (seeded and chopped roughly)
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 head garlic (peeled)
  • 3/4 cups red wine vinegar (or vinegar-like red wine)
  • 3 fresh bay leaves (vein removed)
  • pinch cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
  • 2 teaspoons sumac
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Step 1
Put all the ingredients except the venison into a food processor or professional blender (like a Vitamix or Ninja). Blend until smooth and emulsified. If you use a regular blender, slowly stream the olive oil in as everything is blending. Pour 1/2 mixture over the meat and let marinade a half hour or so, while you clean up and prep everything else. Reserve the rest of the mixture for garnish or freeze for later use.
Step 2
Heat a dutch oven or large pot over medium high heat. Add the meat and the pepper puree. Get it bubbling, then cover and simmer for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the meat is cooked through and tender. If the gravy is too loose, heat uncovered for a few minutes until it reduces to your desired consistency.
Step 3
Serve with something starchy, like over rice or with potatoes, and garnish with chopped parsley.
Non game substitution: Any stew meat will work here, or the original recipe used this same marinade with chicken! (Either whole or thigh/drum pieces.) 
Vegetarian substution: This marinade would be really good with a vegetable stew, with maybe a can of chickpeas or white beans thrown in for good measure, especially if you tossed everything with a little feta at the end. :)

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