Venison Ragout with Walnuts and Celery Fries

Venison on a cold autumn night is always a welcome treat. Wild venison can, however, be tough due to age, and strong in flavor due to the deer’s diet of pine needles and juniper berries. I like to go for the ranch raised deer. If you know someone who can get you a deer, make sure that they handled it professionally. I like to make this dish with celery fries. The secret of good celery fries is frying them twice. First at a low temperature to blanch and cook the celery, then a high temperature to crisp and color them. The fries should be soft in the center and crisp.

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Venison Ragout with Walnuts and Celery Fries  Serves 8

3 lbs, venison rump roast (Beef can be substituted), 2 tbsp. flour, 4 tbsp. butter, 3 chopped onions, 1 chopped carrot, 1 chopped celery stalk, 1 thyme sprig, 2 bay leaves, 2 cups red wine, 4 cups venison stock, veal or chicken stock, salt and freshly ground pepper

Garnish: 1 tbsp. butter, 1 celery stalk sliced into thin strips, 2 oz. walnuts

Celery fries; 1 celery head, 3 oz. duck fat ,vegetable oil for frying

To make the ragout, cut meat into cubes 1 x 1 inch and 11/4 inches thick. Dust meat lightly with flour. Melt butter in a large skillet and brown meat. Transfer meat to a plate and sauté vegetables. Add red wine, stock, thyme sprig, and bay leaves to pot. Season with salt and pepper. Place meat in sauce and let simmer with lid on 1-1½ hour. Transfer meat to a plate. Remove lid and reduce sauce by half.

To make the garnish, melt butter and sauté celery strips and walnuts 1-2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

To make the fries, peel and cut celery into stick 1/4 inch thick and 3 inches long; keep them in cold water until ready to fry.

To fry, drain celery sticks and pat them dry with a paper towel. Melt duck fat in a large skillet and fry celery sticks over low heat until soft but not colored or crisp, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted metal spoon, transfer fries to paper towels to drain. Repeat with remaining celery sticks. Set aside.

To finish cooking fries, heat oil to 360°F and deep fry celery sticks again until golden brown and crispy, 2-3 minutes. Drain on paper towels and season with salt.

To serve, divide celery fries among 8 warmed plates. Spoon ragout onto plates and garnish with celery and walnuts.

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