Christian Goerner, who grew up hunting in West Texas, devised this lush venison pasta when he was in the kitchen at New York City’s Barchetta. The green olives and lemons give the ragu a brightness that feels just about right for springtime. Meyer lemons bolster that with a touch of sweetness, but if you can’t find them, look for standard lemons on the small side.
31⁄2–4 lb. venison stew meat or shoulder, cubed
1⁄4 cup vegetable oil
2 yellow onions, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery roots, peeled and chopped
1 bunch fresh sage
1 bunch fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
1 pint cracked and pitted green olives
1 tsp. chili flakes
1 head garlic, cloves peeled and crushed
2 bottles dry white wine
1 lb. tomato paste
5 Meyer lemons, cut in half and seeded
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Fresh pasta and grated Manchego cheese to serve
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Season the venison heavily with salt and freshly ground black pepper. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat until just beginning to smoke. Carefully add the venison pieces in a single layer and sear on all sides until deep golden brown. You may need to do this in batches, depending on the size of the pot. (Add more vegetable oil to the pan if necessary.) Do not overcrowd the pot, or the venison will steam and not sear. As the venison pieces brown, remove them from the Dutch oven and set aside, reserving any oil in the pot.
2. With the Dutch oven still on medium-high heat, begin to add the onions, carrots, celery roots, fresh herbs, bay leaves, olives, chili flakes, and garlic. Season generously with salt and pepper. Sweat the vegetables until they just begin to soften. Add the venison pieces back to the pot, nestling among the vegetables. Add the white wine, bring to a boil, and cook down until it is reduced to almost nothing (the pan should be relatively dry at this point).
3. Combine the tomato paste with enough water to cover the meat and vegetables and add to the pot. Add the Meyer lemons. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook in the oven for about 2 hours. When done, the venison should easily shred with a fork.
4. Remove the meat and pick through it, discarding any cartilage. Remove the lemons, chop coarsely, and add them and the meat back to the sauce. Add white wine vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.
5. Serve with fresh pasta, such as pappardelle or fettuccine. Before serving, grate Manchego generously over the top. Serves 6–8
Photograph by Plamen Petkov