What takes venison stew up a few notches? Dumplings made with duck fat, that’s what.
I was in one of these restaurants with a friend that has lots of plaid-clad and bearded waiters, persnickety bartenders slinging fancy craft cocktails and waaaaaaay overpriced chicken and waffles (even though it’s also kind of worth it). I was describing this dish to my friend right as our waiter walked up and he said, “OMG, where do you get that?”
To which I replied, “Umm, at my house.”
Yes, I know, I’m awesome sauce, thankyouverymuch.
I’d been wanting to do a “stew and dumplings” thing for a long time, but in Texas the window is rather short, seeing as how stew season is typically only mid-December to mid-February and the rest of the year is spent marinating in varying stages of butt sweat. I found a recipe to start from and noticed the dumplings had quite a lot of fat in them. The original recipe called for suet, which is a form of beef fat that’s rendered, but hasn’t quite become tallow. It’s also very hard to find in America. However, as a shameless foodie, I happen to have some duck fat in my fridge that I never quite know what to do with and, voila! The duck fat dumpling was born. Something about the flavor makes this already comforting dish even more so, and the dumplings are flavorful and flakey and soak up that delicious stew gravy without becoming too soggy. It’s perfection.
Duck fat is also somewhat hard to find in America, but not impossible. You do typically have to order it online. I got mine from Fatworks, but it’s still not even as easy as going online and buying some. I had to sign up for their special “I want duck fat” mailing list so they would alert me when they had it in, at which point you can only buy the big jar in a combo pack. Apparently ducks are seasonal or something. I know, it’s so inconsiderate of the ducks to be a seasonal gourmet food item, isn’t it?
If you don’t want to mess with ordering duck fat, etc, I suggest using another very flavorful form of fat, like rendered bacon fat. Just wait for it to cool off a little before mixing it with the dough! Once you render out that bacon fat, it probably also wouldn’t be a tragedy to sprinkle the crispy bacon pieces you have left right over the whole stew. You could also use butter if you must, but if you’re just gonna use butter I suggest throwing some garlic or something in there with it.
The only thing to keep in mind with this recipe is that the more liquidy your stew is, the more the dumplings will want to sink in. If you have a lot of extra liquid, evaporate some of it off before adding the dumplings and add some corn starch and water to help thicken it.
Non-game substitution: Use Beef!
Venison Stew with Duck Fat Dumplings
For the Stew
- 2lb venison stew meat
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 4 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
- 10oz pearl/boiler onions (peeled)
- 2 stalks celery (chopped into large pieces)
- 2 carrots (peeled and chopped into large pieces)
- 2 Large rutabaga (or 3 small, peeled and chopped into large pieces)
- 1 1/2 cup red wine
- 2 cups beef stock or water
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- 6-10 branches of fresh thyme (a good little handful)
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- salt and pepper to taste
For the Stew (Optional)
- corn starch and water (for thickening if needed)
For the dumplings
- 125g plain flour (plus extra for dusting)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- pinch of salt
- 1/3 cup duck fat, bacon drippings or butter
- enough water to make a dough
|For the stew|
|Heat the butter in a large stew pot over medium-high heat. Add the stew meat with a little salt and pepper and brown. Sprinkle the flour over and cook another few minutes.|
|Add all the veggies and garlic and stir a few minutes. Then add the stock, wine, herbs, Worcestershire sauce and balsamic vinegar. Cover with a lid and cook covered on medium (on the stovetop) or in the oven at 350 for about 1 1/2 - 2 hours, until the meat is tender and the vegetables are cooked.|
|Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Add the duck fat and enough water to form a dough and mix until everything is well incorporated. Roll spoon fulls of dough into little balls. Preheat the oven to 350. When the stew is about done, place the dumpling balls on top of the stew and bake uncovered for about 20 minutes, until they are all cooked through and the tops are golden. Serve warm.|