Venison Ragu at Quarter-to-Two

21 Apr

You just can’t help when hunger strikes.  My, uhh, eccentric schedule often leads to late-night/early-morning dinners.  Despite being well-past 1AM, a quick perusal of my dismal food stock left me with a meager line-up of ingredients.  The protein that jumped out at me from the back of the freezer being a pound of ground Italian-style venison sausage, courtesy of my father’s hunterly pursuits.  A humble can of tomato sauce,  a small can of tomato paste, an onion, a little garlic, and a few condiments later had me replete with a rich ragu or meat-based sauce fit for topping any matter of pasta or pasta-like applications.  Just because it’s 2 in the morning doesn’t mean you need to resort to frozen pizzas and Hot Pockets.  Real, simple, tasty food can be made with just a modicum of patience and even less formal training.  Just say no to the jarred stuff.  You can do it yourself, and no jar of Prego is going to give you that rich, savory sense of satisfaction that only comes from a home-cooked meal.

Venison ragù

Ingredient rundown:

  • 1 lb ground venison (Italian-style, if you will)
  • 1 14 oz can tomato sauce (I normally don’t use this and would have made a basic tomato sauce from canned tomatoes myself, but, well, I didn’t have any.  I had this.  So I used it.)
  • 1/2 small can of tomato paste
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 2 tbsp rendered bacon drippings (venison is a very lean meat and can often use some help in the fat department to avoid drying out with cooking.  I save all my drippings from cooking bacon in a container in my freezer for just such occasions)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, for sauteing onions, but also helps with leanness of venison
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-3 large mushrooms, diced (I used baby ‘bellas)
  • 1 tablespoon of capers and their brine (optional, but I think their brininess worked great here)
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • splash of red wine
  • pinch of dried oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary, paprika, red pepper flake, garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

How I did it:

  1. Saute onion, mushroom and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until translucent (~5-8 minutes).  I used a medium cast iron skillet that is quickly becoming my favorite kitchen item.
  2. Add ground venison and bacon drippings, season, and brown for ~10 minutes
  3. Add beef stock, tomato sauce and paste, capers, red wine and parmesan cheese.  Mix well and continue to simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally for at least half an hour, but up to several hours.  It will continue to thicken and develop richer flavors the longer you cook it.  Add more beef stock if it reduces too much.
  4. Serve over pasta, in a lasagna or in any other application where a rich, meaty sauce is called for.

Just like Mom used to make, except for, you know, with deer.  I realize everyone doesn’t have access to ground venison, but this is Wisconsin, damn it.  You know someone who hunts and people who hunt always have extra meat unless they’re not very good hunters.  You could make a perfectly serviceable ragu with ground beef or veal, lamb, heck – just about any red meat – but I hold a soft spot for venison and have a nearly endless supply of it, so I try to use it when possible.  You should, too.  It’s good for you.

One Response to “Venison Ragu at Quarter-to-Two”

  1. Mozer April 21, 2010 at 8:44 AM #

    Trav, this looks amazing. Really glad you posted it to FB–didn’t know about the blog otherwise. You and Steve should start swapping recipes: check out

    And I really wish we’d landed some venison this year so i could make this.

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