Good Eats

Venison Stew for a Cold-Weather Crowd

By Jed PortmanNovember 26, 2012

If you see a special on the menu at Southern Soul Barbeque, in St. Simons, Georgia, that looks a little fancy for the chalkboard at a roadside barbecue joint, credit chef Comer Smith.

Earlier this year, following stints at white-tablecloth eateries in southern California, Chicago, and France, Smith returned to his coastal hometown to be closer to his family. He has been pushing the boundaries of south Georgia barbecue at old friend Griffin Bufkin’s acclaimed restaurant ever since.

“Being at a barbecue joint, I can’t get too far out of the box with my specials,” he says. “But that’s fun and creative in its own way, coming up with dishes that are fresh and exciting but not over-the-top.”

Smith built this venison stew, a chef’s take on a deer-season classic, on a chilly day earlier this month. It’s a hearty cold-weather dish, bolstered by rich chocolate that cuts the gaminess of the venison and gives the stew the swarthy depth of a mole.

(Photo credit: Griffin Bufkin)

Southern Soul Venison Stew
Serves 10-12

4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
¼ cup high-quality olive oil
2 carrots, diced
2 large yellow onions, diced
4 ribs celery, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs. cubed venison
2 bay leaves
24 vine-ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, & diced
2 quarts chicken stock
2 cups frozen peas
¼ cup 67% chocolate, chopped
4 tbsp. high-quality Worcestershire sauce
10 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
Salt and black pepper to taste

In a large pot, blanch potatoes and set aside. In a large cast-iron Dutch oven or stock pot, sweat carrots, onions, celery, and garlic in olive oil over medium-high heat until translucent. Add venison to the pot to brown. When venison is browned, drain fat and add bay leaves, tomatoes, and chicken stock. Simmer until venison is soft. When stew can coat the back of a spoon, add cooked potatoes, peas, chocolate, Worcestershire, thyme, and Dijon mustard. Heat through and season with salt and pepper.

Serve with crusty sourdough bread and enjoy with a cold beer.