I made an a-maz-ing dish last night-from the backstrap of a young buck my son shot.
I used about 2.5 pounds of it-not just the loin part, but the flat muscle underlying it, which has a layer of fat running through it.
I cubed it, dredged in flour, salt pepper, browned well in olive oil-I took my time here since I wanted to start building up a good fond.
Then into the pot went 2 medium chopped onions and 1 pound of carrots, cut into 1-2 inch pieces on the diagonal. Again, well-cooked in the oil, followed by 6 mashed garlic cloves.
At this point I had quite a bit of very dark residue in the pot (my enamel Creuset dutch oven). So I poured in half a bottle of Columbia Crest "Grand Estates" cab and a bouquet from my garden - consisting of a large rosemary spring, the tuft of a sage branch (about 10 medium leaves) five large sprigs on regular thyme and 4 of Greek oregano, and several 2-inch long pluckings of winter savory, as well as a small branch of lavender. I scraped the pot and boiled til reduced by half volume. Then in went a pound of large white mushrooms, quartered, and 1 qt of chicken stock. I brought it all back up to a boil and shoved it in a 350 oven, which after 15 minutes I reduced to 325. This cooked for 2 hours.
At 1.5 hours, I started 1 cup of pearled barley. When it was about 3/4 done (at about 25 minutes, when the grains were starting to soften but still pretty chewy), I drained the water and dumped the barley into the pot. Then back on with the cover, and increased the temperature to 350 for another 30 minutes.
Normally I would be looking to thicken and adjust seasoning at this point, but when this stew came out of the oven and sat, covered, for the time it took me to mix and bake a batch of buttermilk biscuits (15 minutes?) it was perfect. The barley had thickened the broth a bit. The carrots were nice and sweet and the wine added its little touch of zing. All I had to do was take out the bouquet and ladle it out. And it was truly, truly, spectacularly, delicious.
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