In case you didn’t notice all of the pickups driving a little bit slower down the highway…or that blaze orange and camouflage have suddenly appeared as a fashion statement…or, you know, your husband/boyfriend/significant other has been missing since last Friday come think of it, I am here to remind you.
It’s deer hunting season.
I think I’ve mentioned it before here, but deer hunting season is a holiday around here with its own set of traditions. Kids get out of school, basement poker becomes a popular activity, beer gets a new, hunting appropriate look and clean-cut men grow beards, wear vests, drink whisky, wake up at the butt-crack of dawn to walk miles and miles in the whipping wind only to sleep together in close, smelly quarters in the middle of nowhere, rain, shine or snow, in what is known up here as “hunting camp.”
Now hunting camp seems pretty rustic and masculine for the city boys whose main outdoor chore is weed eating around the rose bushes. Those boys itch for the day they can pack up their duffles with camouflage, bourbon, bullets and only one change of underwear and head for the hills and to their manly roots. Somehow it doesn’t ring as particularly romantic to the man who chases cattle out of his yard on a daily basis and frequently finds deer legs on his front porch, a gift from the canine friends he feeds perfectly decent dog food every morning.
But regardless of the man’s living situation, hanging with the guys at hunting camp is a staple of hunting season. Because really, after the big bucks are stalked and spotted and the farting, burping and scratching is freely is underway, what the season is really about is camaraderie and fellowship and getting back to the primal need of man to hunt and gather in order to feed his people.
Yes, it’s about the food. It always comes back to the food. So what an appropriate time for Cowboy to whip out his famous and simply rustic hunting camp stew. Because the second best thing to the whiskey at hunting camp is, hands down, the chow.
Our family takes great care when a wild animal is taken from our ranch. We prepare and put to use as much of the meat as we can, so this recipe is the perfect solution for those cuts of meat that aren’t as savory and tender, but still deserve a place on your plate.
I haven’t mastered the art of cooking wild game, but I tell you when I leave it to the men in my life, they do not disappoint.
The following recipe is made with wild elk meat from an animal taken by pops from our ranch earlier this fall.
Elk meat, when prepared properly, is tender and lean and can be ground up to make delicious burger, steaks and roast. We use the leftover cuts of meat that don’t fit in those categories to prepare stir fry, appetizers, fajitas, chilli and, of course, this stew, but this recipe will be equally delicious if you want to use beef or venison.
So let’s get to it shall we?
Cowboy Cooks Hunting Camp Stew
Step 1: Grab a glass
First things first, put on your snarky apron, neckerchief, sexy cowboy hat and pour yourself a drink…oh, and remember to not say the words “sexy cowboy hat” in hunting camp.
This evening’s drink of choice: Black Velvet
Which brings up another hunting camp rule: avoid singing Alannah Myles’s “Black Velvet” at the top of your lungs while pouring yourself a drink. That will go over about as well as “sexy cowboy hat.”
Ok, when preparing himself a glass of whiskey, Cowboy sometimes likes to make his own, manly version of the famous and classy “whiskey sour”. So he adds a splash of lemon juice and an ice-cube.
No, it’s not your gramma’s drink.
Alright, now that we have that out of the way, let’s move on.
Step 2: Gather the ingredients:
Here’s are the simply, basic ingredients that you’re gonna need besides whiskey.
- 2 lbs elk meat (or venison or beef) cubed into bite sized pieces…man bites
- 10 whole cherry/Roma tomatoes
- 4 medium potatoes
- 1 cup of fresh or frozen corn
- 1 cup of fresh or frozen peas
- 3 large carrots
- ½ large purple onion
- 1 T black pepper
- ½ t red pepper
- 1 t thyme leaves
- ½ t rubbed sage
- 3 fresh garlic cloves
- salt to taste (and don’t go easy on the salt ok)
- ½ stick butter
- 8 cups water
- 2 cups flour
Now if you are a man in a hunting camp, you more than likely packed and prepared for this hearty meal. If you are a woman in a little house in the middle of nowhere who put “go grocery shopping” on the bottom of her to do list, right behind the laundry, you will have to run to the neighbor’s to get potatoes and onions…and then come back home only to realize you don’t have carrots either…
Ok, now that you have everything, lets move on.
Step 3: Prep your ingredients
Bring your cups of water to a boil in a large pot. And when I say large, I mean it. We had overflow people…making this a two pot stew…for two people.
You heard me, now go scrounge up that giant pot you save for cooking giant things…
Ok, now while you’re boiling the water cut up some things:
Cube the meat into man-sized pieces
Dice three garlic cloves
Dice 1/2 purple onion
Ok, now your water should be close to boiling.
Drop the potatoes and carrots in there to get them cooking.
Step 3: The meat
Now we are going to deal with the meat.
Warm up your skillet on medium/high heat and add ½ stick butter (and a little bacon grease left over from breakfast ) and melt. Use olive oil too if you want..or just butter…or just olive oil…whatever…it’s hunting camp, you can do what you want.
Now we are going to prepare a little flour coating for the meat.
Measure 2 cups of flour in a flat tupperwear or open bowl. To the flour add the black pepper, red pepper, thyme, sage and plenty of salt.
Mix this concoction together with your hands because you are manly like that.
Then give your meat a little dusting of salt and then coat the pieces in the flour mixture.
Now make sure your skillet is nice and hot and add the meat…then grunt like Tim the “Tool Man” Taylor because that’s what you do at hunting camp.
Cook the meat to very rare. You won’t want to cook it all the way because it will have more cooking to do when you add it to the pot.
Go ahead, give it a taste.
Ok now you can add it to the boiling water with those delicious chunks of carrot and potato. Boil for about 20 minutes or until potatoes are nearly done.
Step 4: Finishing it up
When your carrots and potatoes are done to your liking (about 15 minutes prior to serving) add the rest of your colorful ingredients:
In goes the corn…
and the peas…
and the tomatoes
*queue tomato dropping action sequence*
Now add some of the leftover flour mixture to the stew and cook until desired thickness
Simmer for about 15 minutes or until everything is cooked to the proper consistency.
Also, don’t forget to taste your work. I like a little more salt in my stew, others might want a little more heat, so adjust the seasoning as you go along your merry, manly way. This stew is pretty basic, which leave room for any kind of seasoning your manly heart desires.
Oh, and while your waiting, have someone make biscuits to go along with your hearty meal.
I am pretty gifted as far as baking goes, so I took on the task.
Alright, now we’ve found ourselves adequately whiskied up and things are smelling a bit better in the hunting camp, I think it’s time for our final step.
Step 5: Eat!
Now if you’re actually in a hunting camp instead of a tiny house with your wife, I would like to imagine that you would serve this up in some of those tin camping bowls. But my white dishes with the blue design will have to do for today.
Now stand back in your apron and not-sexy at all cowboy hat as the rest of the men at camp give you some grunts and thumbs up while they devour your stew.
There won’t be any left over for lunch I guarantee…I mean, playing poker and swapping stories around the fire is exhausting.
Happy hunting everyone!