Recipe: Venison Potpie

For the past few years, we average Americans have watched the "locavore" food movement take off with the kind of "they'll pay how much for one of my chickens?" amusement rural folks have for anything coming out of San Francisco. As the original field-to-table eaters, hunters have long known the conflicted satisfaction of literally getting our hands bloody in the process of procuring our own food. I admit: It's kind of nice to see the rest of the world realize hunting is a noble undertaking.

In addition to creating Utopia one $30 chicken at a time, the foodie movement has produced some pretty good reading, including my current favorite by Jeff Crump and Bettina Schormann: Earth to Table: Seasonal Recipes From An Organic Farm. Like most cookbooks from the Chez Panisse school, it assumes there's a friendly vegetable farmer just down the road from the reader who would love to have you come over and bother him during harvest.

I don't have that neighbor, or a Whole Foods within 200 miles. So I make do with what I have, which I did with this recipe adapted from Crump and Bettina's Venison Pub Pie with Chestnuts and Parsnips. The recipe says, "Venison is available at specialty butcher shops and farms." Or, if you're a Field & Stream reader, I'm guessing you have some you killed yourself. Apparently, "...chestnuts are also all over the ground this time of year" if you live near a chestnut tree. I don't. No parsnips from the certified-organic garden either, so I substituted a potato. Also, I don't know what a "Pate Brisee" is, so I used Pillsbury Crescent dough in a tube, "Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and/or Cottonseed Oil" be damned.

My potpie may not have cured cancer, but it made a pretty good meal combined with some sliced Brandywine tomatoes and mozzarella with olive oil and basil. Or for you foodies, Insalata Caprese.

--David Draper

Ingredients:

3 tbsp. olive oil
2 slices bacon, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 medium potato, finely chopped
All-purpose flour
Salt and pepper
2 lbs. venison stew meat
3 cups water
1 cup red wine
3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 bay leaves
1 tube Pillsbury Crescent dough

Directions:

• Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

• In a large skillet, brown the bacon in a few tablespoons of olive oil. Add garlic and onion and cook until softened. Add carrot, celery, and potatoes and cook another 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a large casserole dish.

• Dredge stew meat in flour with salt and pepper added to taste and brown in batches, adding more olive oil as necessary. Add meat to the casserole dish and toss with water, wine, and vinegar mix. Deglaze the pan with wine and scrape brown bits into the casserole dish. Add bay leaves.

• Cover casserole loosely in foil and bake in 1 1/2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes. Remove bay leaves.

• Cover casserole with crescent roll dough and bake another 12 to 15 minutes until brown.