Having a front-yard kitchen garden brings us into contact with all kinds of admirers. People stop on the sidewalk to talk about the garden they remember from their grandmother. Or about their own garden. Drivers stopped at the traffic signal on the corner shout encouragement and questions out their car windows. "What you got growing there?"
One day an elderly gentleman from down the street stopped to chat about the Angus cattle he grows on a farm in Virginia and his troubles making any money from them. I suggested he might make a small fortune selling the meat in the local farmers markets. The man's nephew came around to collect some of our tomatoes. A few weeks later he brought a big venison roast as a gift.
This was some beautiful meat, about five pounds I'd guess. I cut it into big stewing pieces, trimmed away the silver skin and set to browning it. I've gotten so much grief from my wife about frying meat in the kitchen--(our pathetic Jenn-Air fan doesn't help much--the grease ends up all over the walls)--I decided to move my braising operation outside to the charcoal grill.
Here you see the meat browning in one of my favorite Le Creuset enameled pots directly over charcoal. Who knew?
The meat was marinated two days with lots of red onion, sliced carrots, celery, a head of garlic sliced in half, a big fistful of thyme sprigs, parsley, and nearly two bottles of red wine--all squished together in two freezer bags. After the long marinade, the meat was well-drained and even squeezed dry in paper towels. I used a lot of paper towels. Season the meat aggressively with coarse salt and freshly-ground black pepper. After browning, the meat is again drained on paper towels.
Perhaps I should not have been so surprised how well everything cooked in a pot set over hot coals. There was a generous layer of brown bits left at the bottom of the pot. After draining the marinade and picking out all the herbs, the remaining vegetables go into the pot to deglaze. Stir in about 1/4 cup flour and cook a few minutes more.
Finally, pour the reserved marinade liquid over the vegetables and press the meat into the liquid.
Cover the pot and simmer for two hours, or until the meat is perfectly tender. The dying coals make a cozy cooking environment for my enameled pot.
"See, look at all the grease spots," says my wife when I invite her onto the deck to see what I've been doing. Indeed, there are flecks of grease everywhere, just the thing she'd been complaining about in our kitchen. "Maybe what we need is a gas grill with a burner," she suggests. Maybe. But now I like making stew over hot coals.