Should you ever find yourself with an abundance of venison on your hands (via a generous hunter or a murderous rampage against the buck raiding your flower beds), consider whipping up a batch of Hirschgulasch. This recipe originates from an Austrian restaurant where I used to serve and bartend. I met many a character there, including a cokehead bartender who claimed to have immortality and a kindhearted Turkish law student. We slaved long hours together, hoping for big tips and generosity from chef Thomas, who would save us a portion of the venison Gulasch special when he was in a good mood. After a hard night’s work, there was nothing more comforting than a plate of tender wine-braised game over dumplings. Years after leaving, the dish was still on my mind, so I contacted Thomas for the recipe.
I hope you find Hirschgulasch as memorable as I did.
-1 lb. venison shoulder, trimmed and cubed
-4 small onions, halved and cut into thin wedges
-4 shallots, cut into wedges
-1 Tbsp. flour
-3/4 bottle (450 ml) red wine (I used a light tempranillo)
-1 c. dark beef broth
-1 tsp. beef bullion (staying true to Thomas’ recipe)
-dash each paprika and cayenne
-a few sprigs fresh thyme, stemmed
-1 tsp. fresh minced rosemary
-1-2 cloves garlic, minced
-8 juniper berries
-2 bay leaves
-1 Tbsp. lingonberry jam (or whole cranberry sauce), plus more for serving
-salt and pepper, to taste
1. In a large, heavy pot, heat a few Tbsp. vegetable oil until very hot.
2. Dry venison cubes on all sides with a towel. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Sear in batches in the hot oil to brown and develop a nice crust all over. Remove from the pot with a slotted spoon and set aside.
3. Add the onions and shallots to the pot, adding more oil as necessary. When they begin to turn golden brown, sprinkle with the 1 Tbsp. flour and stir with a wooden spoon. Cook 1-2 min. to allow the flour to color. (At this point, you could also add the garlic. I forgot and added it later).
4. Deglaze the pan with red wine, stirring up the browned bits with the wooden spoon. Return the meat to the pot. Add the beef broth and bullion. Bring to a simmer and reduce the heat to low.
5. Stir in the thyme, rosemary, cayenne, paprika, juniper berries, peppercorns, bay leaves, and garlic (if you haven’t yet). Add 1 Tbsp. lingonberry jam or cranberry sauce.
6. Cover the pot with a sheet of foil and top off with the lid, creating a good seal. Simmer on low approx. 1 hr. (longer if you use a tougher cut), stirring occasionally, until the meat is very tender.
7. Thicken as needed with a slurry of flour and cold water (starting with 1 Tbsp. flour) before serving.
Enjoy over Spaetzle or mashed potatoes with a glass of the remaining red wine.