A rich Catalan game stew, simmered in fruity red wine and fresh herbs.
Venison is the star civet ingredient during deer hunting season, which runs from September to February. The abundance of red wine and the long marination time tame the lean meat’s faint gaminess. Ladle the stew over mashed potatoes enriched with olive oil or serve with roasted vegetables for a cozy cold-weather meal. If you can find fresh pig or beef blood—a traditional civet add-in—stir in ⅓ cup along with the chocolate. Temper the blood in a bit of the hot cooking liquid before incorporating into the stew to avoid curdling. (If the liquid curdles when tempering, it’s best to leave out the blood altogether as it can ruin the sauce’s smooth texture.)
- 2 lb. boneless venison, preferably leg meat, silver skin removed, cut into 2-in. chunks
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 15 peeled garlic cloves (⅓ cup)
- 3 large yellow onions, coarsely chopped (4¼ cups)
- 2 medium celery stalks, coarsely chopped (¾ cups)
- 2 medium leeks, dark green tops discarded, cleaned and coarsely chopped (2½ cups)
- 3 bay leaves
- 3 thyme sprigs
- 2 rosemary sprigs
- Two 750-mL bottles fruity red wine, such as garnacha
- ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ cups olive oil, plus more as needed
- 2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (¼ cup)
In a large bowl, season the venison generously with salt and black pepper and toss to coat. Add the garlic, onions, celery, leeks, bay leaves, thyme, and rosemary, then pour over the wine, cover, and refrigerate for 8–48 hours.
Over a large bowl, strain the venison and vegetables; reserve the wine. Wipe out the empty bowl, add the flour to it, and set aside. Leaving the vegetables in the strainer, use your hands to transfer the venison chunks to a paper-towel-lined baking sheet to dry slightly, then add them to the bowl with the flour and toss to coat.
To a large Dutch oven set over medium-high heat, add the oil. When it’s hot and shimmering, cook the venison in 2–3 batches, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 7 minutes per batch. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a plate and set aside. Keep the pot on the stove.
To the empty pot, add the reserved vegetables and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Turn the heat to high and add the reserved wine and venison. When the liquid boils, skim any scum that rises to the surface and turn the heat to medium-low. Cook until the meat is tender, 2½–3½ hours. Use tongs or a slotted spoon to transfer the venison to a plate, leaving the vegetables and wine in the pot.
Fish out the bay leaves and any woody thyme or rosemary sprigs. Using an immersion or regular blender, thoroughly purée the liquid. Whisk in the chocolate until melted, then return the venison to the pot and cook, covered, until heated through, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.