Friday, February 15, 2013

Venison and Barley

 Sometimes it pays to cook all of the components of a dish together, especially if it is a slow cooked meal.  However, other times it is preferable to cook a dish such as this in separate stages in order to get the most out of each component of the recipe.  This works better as the latter.  The use of a slow cooker and cooking in stages makes the actual active cooking time fairly short and spread out.

  • 3-4 lbs of venison leg roasts, cut into large chunks (or any other red meat)
  • 4 cups of beef stock
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 10 cloves of garlic, whole
  • 2 cups of barley
  • 1 pound of mushrooms (shitake and crimini) 
  • Fresh rosemary 
1)  Start off by browning the meat in a large pan with some tallow.  Any red meat would be fine, I used venison because I have a freezer nearly filled with it.  Beef, lamb, horse, goat, or any other red meat would work just as well for this.  Transfer the now browned meat to a slow cooker and add the onions, garlic, and stock.  Cook this on low overnight (or for 8-10 hours).  Remove everything from the slow cooker except the stock and reserve.
Put the meat, onions, and garlic in the refrigerator for now.
2)  Par boil the barley in a large pot of water.  I always partially cook barley before I put it into a soup or a stew because it has an ungodly capacity for liquid absorption.  In fact, this dish was going to be a stew, at least conceptually.  While you are doing this, clean the mushrooms and cut into a rough dice.  Add them to the stock along with the rosemary and the drained barley.
mushrooms float; barley sinks
3)  Cook the mushrooms and the barley for another 8-10 hours in the slow cooker.  The barley will probably have absorbed all of the stock from the pot, and you will have only a mix of barley and mushrooms.  I feel like no matter how much stock I would have started with, the barley would have just sucked it all up.  This is fine, really, as all of the flavor and nutrients of the beef stock have been incorporated into the barley, which in and of itself is pretty bland.  Remove the rosemary at this time, unless you enjoy picking little sticks and hard leaves out of your teeth later. 
the stock has been completely incorporated into the barley and mushrooms
4)  Shred the venison and add it back into the slow cooker along with the onions and garlic.  Stir everything together and allow the meat to heat up.  Plate into a heated serving bowl.  Rosemary makes a good garnish.  You can pour some more heated stock over this when you serve it if you'd prefer a more soup-like presentation.  I served up the first batch as pictured below, but later on I ended up adding anther quart of stock cut with some water just to have more of a soup...the barley absorbed most of this liquid, too, when I put those leftovers in the fridge.

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