Many hunters and cooks confine their affections to the tenderest portions of venison, such as the loin and rib cuts. That's unfortunate, because tougher portions such as the shoulder, shanks and even neck are richly flavorful when they're slow cooked to tenderness. For example, gently braising your venison in tomatoes in a slow cooker results in both tender venison and a richly flavored sauce to serve with it.
Plug in your slow cooker and preheat it on the high setting for 10 to 15 minutes while you prepare the venison.
Wipe your venison with clean paper towels, removing any stray hairs or debris from the meat cutter's saw. Trim away any surface fat, which will give the venison a gamy flavor.
Brown the venison in a heavy skillet, turning it until all sides are well seared. This step is optional, but makes the venison more flavorful. Season the meat generously with salt and pepper or any other flavorings you like with venison.
Transfer the browned venison to your slow cooker. Add onions, garlic or other aromatic ingredients, if you wish. Pour in canned tomatoes with their juice, until the tomatoes come halfway up the sides of the venison. You can also use ripe fresh tomatoes and pour in canned tomato juice or beef broth for the rest of your cooking liquid.
Replace the lid on the slow cooker. Simmer the venison on the "High" setting for three to five hours or the "Low" setting for six to eight hours, until it's fork-tender. The exact time will vary, depending on the size and cut of your venison.
Transfer the meat to a serving tray and let it rest, loosely covered with foil, for at least 10 to 15 minutes. While it's cooling, cook down the tomatoes to a thick, sauce-like consistency. Serve the meat and sauce with your choice of side dishes.
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- On Cooking: A Textbook of Culinary Fundamentals; Sarah Labensky, et al.
- Montana Outdoors: Venison Alchemy
- Canned tomatoes have a richer and more consistent flavor than store-bought fresh tomatoes, for most of the year. If you're fortunate enough to have good-quality fresh tomatoes, by all means use them.
- Peeling your tomatoes before adding them to the slow cooker gives them a better appearance, and prevents your sauce from containing leathery pieces of tomato skin. Good kitchenware stores sell special peelers with serrated edges, which work well for tomatoes. Alternatively, drop the tomatoes into boiling water for a few seconds. This loosens the skins, making them easy to remove with a paring knife.
Fred Decker is a trained chef and prolific freelance writer. In previous careers, he sold insurance and mutual funds, and was a longtime retailer. He was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. His articles have appeared on numerous home and garden sites including GoneOutdoors, TheNest and eHow.
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