Last week was a big week of firsts for The BF and I. For starters we successfully acquired a “household” Costco card. On Wednesday of last week, yours truly had finally achieved one of her life’s dreams: to own a Costco card of her own to buy ridiculous amounts of products that no single individual could ever need or use in a reasonable amount of time. Yes, this is true. Do I want four-dozen eggs, five pounds of bacon and a literal sack of flour? No, I don’t. But can I buy it? Absolutely. Will I buy it? The magic eight ball is saying “Chances are high.” I am about to have a very crowded and over stocked apartment, dear friends.
The second big event? Our first ever couples retreat. Yeah, that’s right. We whisked our lovely friends off to the wonderful world of rural Vermont for a weekend of booze and over indulging in food. How did we stock up for this monumental event? A trip to Costco of course, where I purchased $50 of booze that was quickly consumed in one evening. It was a sodden and glorious weekend of communing with nature, board games and a crackling fire.
Our dear friends Nora and Mango were married at the start of October. They were our final round of weddings in what I now fondly refer to as “Wed-maggedon” that consumed our early fall weeks. This wedding was particularly awesome because we didn’t have to leave our neighborhood (we literally walked two blocks to the church) and were able to party with good friends on someone else’s tab. Fantabulous. The happy couple left immediately for their honeymoon, which consisted of two weeks of travel in Southeastern Asia, and arrived home the weekend before Halloween, before we trundled them off to Vermont just over a week later.
During this trip we consumed a case of wine, nearly a whole case of beer, several bottles of prosecco, and several pounds of delicious junkfood. I graduated to my big girl drinking pants as I held my own with the best of them. Not surprisingly, I do not remember much from the weekend, other than it was awesome and we had a marathon session of playing board games.
On a slightly more sobering note, we spent Saturday afternoon exploring the downtown. The specific town The BF has his winter home in is Wilmington, Vermont. Perhaps you recognize the name. It’s the town that got nearly washed away when hurricane Irene stalled over the Appalachian Mountains and proceeded to drop unholy amounts of water in an unprecedented amount of time.
Both The BF and I have been going to Mount Snow since childhood; he had the home that his parents bought and we went every winter staying in cute little condos. We both learned to ski there, and have a fairly strong connection with the area. To see the amount of damage done to this quaint little town so soon before their big tourist season was truly one of the saddest things I have ever seen.
But despite the number of boarded up businesses and missing buildings, there were only a handful of places that were not rebuilding. I was so worried that so many of these places would not be able to recover from what happened, but I was thrilled to see that Dot’s Restaurant, a staple of the area, though nearly washed away and barely clinging to its foundation, is intent on rebuilding. And on that happy note, I made a delicious venison stew for round two of drinking Saturday night.
A fun fact about my family: my father grew up in west-central Pennsylvania and was practically born a hunter. He and his older brothers own a legitimate hunting cabin out in the backwoods of Pennsylvania near some town I can never remember and I’m sure you’ve never heard of. I remember visiting it once, and I all I can recall is that it was cold, there was no electricity, no toilets and we slept on the squeakiest bunk beds known to mankind. To the best of my knowledge they still own that cabin. And every fall right around Thanksgiving they go deer hunting.
I refused to eat venison when I was a child, though I found out much later that many of the meatballs my mother made actually had venison in them. Sneaky, sneaky. Even now I get a little nervous about venison even though I know I actually like it. It’s just something about the super dark color of the meat that makes me second-guess myself. However, this stew recipe is so sublime, and the backstrap meat cooks for so long that it just shreds when you touch it with a fork. Mango was practically ready to suck up the extra broth with a straw he thought it was so good. And for once in my life as a home cook, I had no leftovers. I was pretty proud of myself.
*Just a note: while this dish is for venison, a good piece of beef roast, cut into cubes, will work just as well. Also, I accidentally made my stew with chicken stock when I meant to use beef stock, so if all you have is chicken stock on hand, rest assured it will taste just a delicious. This cooks all day, and you don’t have to adjust it as often as I recommend if you’re busy. Simply add the potatoes and carrots 1-2 hours before serving to ensure they’re cooked all the way through and add almost the whole quart of stock at the start of cooking. Then let cook for a solid 8-10 hours.
Venison Stew with Pasta
1 lb. venison backstrap, or beef roast, cubed
1 quart of beef stock (or chicken stock in a pinch)
12 oz. of a dark stout beer (I used some kind of “imperial stout” I can’t remember what exactly)
4 shallots, finely diced
2 cups of cubed small potatoes
2 cups of carrots, diced
2 tsp thyme
8 oz. of pasta, cooked aldente
Heat a skillet over medium high heat with enough olive oil to coat the pan. Once warmed, add the diced shallots and cook until soft and translucent, about 8-10 minutes. Add the shallots to a crockpot with the venison, beer and ½ a quart of beef stock. Turn the crockpot to low and let simmer for four hours.
After four hours, add another cup of beef stock and turn the crockpot to high, leaving the lid slightly askew to allow steam to escape and the broth to reduce. After an hour add the carrots, potatoes and seasonings and more stock if necessary. Leave the lid askew for another hour while the stew cooks on high. Reduce heat to low for the last three hours of cooking.
Just before serving, cook the pasta in boiling, salted water for 8-10 minutes, or until aldente. Scoop pasta into bowls and ladle stew over top.
Stew can be frozen in containers for upto a month or kept in the fridge in an airtight container for a week.