This Use-What-You-Got stew is perfect for the long winter months ahead. Basically, you take whatever game you’ve got stocked in the freezer and the hardiest vegetables from your root cellar and throw them in a pot. It also doesn’t matter what cooking method you use. This recipe easily translates from the Dutch oven to slow cooker to Instant Pot.
I like to do stew differently than most recipes I’ve come across. I prefer to brown my meat first. It really adds a layer of flavour that you don’t want to miss. If you are making this in the Dutch oven you could probably skip this step if you need to save time, as braising it this way adds a fair bit of patina to the meat. However, if you choose the slow cooker or Instant Pot, the meat could use a boost from taking the extra step and dirtying a pot on the stovetop first.
Besides browning the meat, I also like to give it a head start on cooking. This way my meat gets extra tender and the veggies aren’t mush. I also find that wild game needs a bit more cooking time than beef does, so this method helps. These extra steps mean it isn’t exactly a set it and forget it meal, but I promise it is worth needing to add ingredients partway through.
If you want to up your game, double or triple the part where you saute meat, onions, add in spices, wine and broth and let it cook…then when it’s done, scoop out a quart (if you triple it, you’ll be scooping out roughly two quarts) worth of the tender meat and amazing broth…cool, label, pop in the freezer to be a quick start on another meal such as my stroganoff, pot pie or another delicious stew.
The leftovers of this stew can easily be used to make a pot pie- simply make the crust in my pot pie recipe, dump the stew into a 9×13 dish, top with the crust, and bake. A great way to make leftovers not feel like leftovers! You can make the pot pie the next day, or you can simply freeze the leftover stew. I love these containers because they hold up well to several uses.
Wild Game Use-What-You-Got Stew
- 2 lbs stew meat from moose, deer, elk, bison, beef…any red meat really
- Salt and pepper
- 1 onion chopped up
- Bacon fat, butter, lard, olive oil
- 2 tsp dried thyme
- 2 tsp dried rosemary
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cups broth/water
- 1/2 cup white or red wine
- 3-4 garlic cloves chopped (or sub 2 tsp dried garlic)
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 2 cups chopped carrots
- 1-2 cups chopped parsnips or beets optional, but adds a lovely sweetness
- 4 cups chopped potatoes
- 2 tbsp flour
- 1/4 cup water
- 1-2 oz frozen chopped kale, spinach or other greens
Other delicious optional last minute add-ins:
- A couple cups frozen corn
- A couple cups frozen peas
- Sprinkle your meat with a good dose of salt and pepper. A little heavier than if you were doing it on something you would eat straight as it's going to help season the whole pot.
- If you plan to brown the meat first, either heat your Instant Pot on saute, or a heavy-bottomed pot on medium heat. Add bacon fat, butter, lard or olive oil and brown your meat in 1-2 batches, depending on the size of your pot, as to not crowd your meat. Add in your onions and saute until they’ve got a bit of colour.
- If you dont plan to brown, just add the meat and onions to your pot of choice and proceed.
- If you’re using the Instant Pot, add the thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, broth/water, wine and garlic along with the meat and onions. Put the lid on, set to sealing and cook for 30 minutes on high pressure. Let it naturally release for at least 20 minutes before flipping the vent, doing a quick release can make your meat tough/dry.
- If you’re going to use a slow cooker, add the thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, broth/water, wine and garlic along with the meat and onions. Put the lid on and cook on high for 2-3 hours or low for 4-6 hours.
- If you’re using a Dutch oven in the oven, add the thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, broth/water, wine and garlic along with the meat and onions. Bake at 300F for 2-3 hours.
- After the first time is up, check that your meat is tender. It does not need to be fall apart tender but if it still feels like shoe leather…it should maybe go a bit longer on its own…
- Then add in your celery, carrots, potatoes, and optional parsnips and beets.
- Instant Pot for another 15 minutes…
- Slow cooker for another 2 on high or 3-4 on low…
- or in the oven for another 1-1.5 hours.
- When the time is up, check that your vegetables are fork tender and easily mash if you press a chunk against the side of the pot with a fork.
- If you’d like to add any of the frozen vegetables, do so now. I do it at the end so they maintain their bite and don't become mush. We freeze a lot of chopped kale for soups, stews and smoothies in winter!
- We like our gravy thick in our stew, so this next step is optional, but really quite delicious. Omit or use cornstarch to keep it gluten-free.
- Put the flour and water in a canning jar with a lid, shake it up well, then stir it into the stew. In a slow cooker this needs a bit for it to actually thicken, so I wouldn’t suggest doing it in the slow cooker if you’re in a time crunch. In the Instant Pot, simply turn to saute and let it bubble and thicken. If you’re using a Dutch oven, put it on the stovetop, turn onto medium heat, and let it bubble and thicken.
- Taste your stew, does it need salt? Pepper? Add as needed.
- Serve up, enjoy with recipes such as sourdough biscuits, sourdough drop biscuits, sourdough focaccia, gluten free/dairy-free cornbread or a good ol’ crusty sourdough boule.
- Leftovers keep 3-4 days in the fridge, or freeze for quick meals another day!
Looking for a great serving idea?
- Sourdough Biscuits
- Heavy Cream Sourdough Drop Biscuits
- Sourdough Foccacia
- Skillet Cornbread
- Basic Sourdough Boule