The challenge? Use up the leftover venison that’s in the freezer before the start of deer season, use it in recipes that my picky teenagers will eat, and make it gluten-free for myself.
I started with Alton Brown’s Shepherd’s Pie recipe, which has been a favorite in our house for years (meaning the picky teenagers will eat it). There were two issues to address: the venison and the flour.
Venison is a very lean meat and, in our experience, could become rubbery, not the texture we’re used to with this recipe. To fix that, I did two things:
- Treated the meat with baking soda to help tenderize it, a trick I learned from America’s Test Kitchen.
- Replaced the canola oil with olive oil and increased the amount used to add moisture and help with the texture of the stew.
Instead of coating the browned meat with flour, I made a slurry of cornstarch and water to thicken the sauce, another trick learned from ATK.
There are some additional modifications from Alton’s recipe. We like more mashed potatoes on our pie, and I’ve always added celery and shallots just because we like them. I like dried Herbes de Provence when I can’t get fresh herbs, so I replaced the fresh stuff with the dried. I also add a splash of madeira from the V. Sattui Winery.
Here’s the recipe. Enjoy! 34 days until deer season.
- 2 lbs ground venison
- salt and pepper
- 4 tablespoons water
- ½ tsp baking powder
- 2½ pounds russet potatoes
- ⅓ cup half-and-half
- 2 ounces unsalted butter
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 egg yolk
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 2 shallots, chopped
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced small
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1½ pounds ground venison
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons tomato paste
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- ¼ cup madeira or port
- 2 teaspoons herbes de provence
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
- ½ cup fresh or frozen English peas
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Mix 2 tablespoons of water, 1 tsp salt, ½ tsp pepper, and baking soda together. Toss over the venison until combined. Let the meat rest at room temperature for 20 minutes
- Dice the potatoes into ½ inch pieces. Place in
saucepan, cover with cold water, cover pan and bring to a boil. Uncover and reduce heat – cook 10-15 minutes until tender.
- Warm the butter and half-and-half in the microwave.
- Drain the potatoes and return to the saucepan. Mash with the melted butter, half-and-half, salt and pepper. Whip in the egg yolk until blended.
- Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saute pan. Once the oil shimmers, add the onion, shallots, celery and carrots and cook until the onions start to color, 3-4 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Add the venison mixture and season with salt and pepper. Cook until browned.
- Make a slurry of the cornstarch and 2 tablespoons water. Add to the meat and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Add the tomato paste, broth, Worcestershire sauce, madeira, bayleaf and herbs and stir. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and cook for 12 minutes.
- Remove bay leaf. Add the corn and peas to the meat. Spread evenly into glass baking dish. Scoop mashed potatoes on top of the meat mixture and spread to cover the meat completely.
- Bake for 25 minutes. Cool on a rack 15 minutes before serving.