Venison Pie

Oh, Deer.

You may remember the traumatic Thanksgiving of 2009 (So Long, Bambi) when I witnessed the demise of a very sweet doe from the window. (How could you forget?) Fast forward to three years later, and this time, we came home from Thanksgiving with a few pounds of recently processed, ground venison. (I thankfully was not present for the death of this year's deer.)

Growing up in western Pennsylvania in a family of hunters, I remember eating a lot of venison: big chunks of meat cooked with onions, peppers and cabbage, or thick slices of venison summer sausage with wedges of Colby cheese. Chris and I even served gorgeous fillets of Buck Island Venison at our rustic, Adirondack wedding.  But I haven't cooked it at home...until now.

We didn't have much in our fridge after being away on vacation, so I raided the freezer and pulled out a pound of the ground venison. I wasn't sure what to make, but I figured that a deer gave its life for this, so I should make the best of it. I did some research, looking for a nice recipe, and I stopped at what sounded like a lovely venison ragu with red wine, sage and papardelle--but, I wasn't in the mood to make pasta, so I settled on one for venison pie because it seemed to have a French influence (the ingredients/accompaniments reminded me a wee bit of Country Pâté) and a pie sounded like a nice idea for a chilly winter's eve. Plus, who doesn't like pie?

There are tons of recipes for Venison Pie on the web -- I looked at dozen or so before I decided to come up with my own version. It turned out great, and I would make it long as no other deer are harmed in the re-making of the pie.

1 lb. ground venison
4 oz. thick-cut bacon (or turkey bacon), finely diced
1 med. onion, finely diced
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp Herbes de Provence
Water or red wine
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper
1-2 TBS all purpose flour (Wondra is great for this)
Pie crust (2)

To Do:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Mix together the venison, bacon, onion, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, garlic powder and herbs.
  • Place mixture in a large pan over medium-high heat and add enough water/wine to just cover the entire bottom of the pan.
  • Cook and stir, until liquid has mostly evaporated, meat is no longer pink, and the bacon is cooked. (I used turkey bacon, so it didn't really get crispy, but it did add some nice salty flavor.)
  • Lower heat and gently stir in flour, a bit at a time (you may not use it all), until you have a thick, gravy-like consistency throughout.
  • Test the cooked mixture for seasoning -- add the Kosher salt and pepper to taste. You can also add a bit more cloves, cinnamon or nutmeg if needed. (It should have a nice warm, spicy flavor.)
  • Place one pie crust in the bottom of a pie plate and fill with the venison mixture. Top with the second pie crust, and be sure to vent in the middle.
  • Bake at 350 degrees until the pie crust is golden brown.
  • Let pie cool a few minutes before serving.
  • Assemble olives, pickles, sharp cheese, apples and dried fruits to accompany the pie. 

I served our tasty pie with a quick and hearty squash soup (onions cooked until soft in butter and brandy, diced squash, nutmeg, salt/pepper, and chicken stock, puréed) topped with a dollop of goat cheese, but I was thinking a dab of goat cheese would have been great on the pie, too, along with a spoonful of cranberry sauce or chutney. Still, for my first vension recipe, it tasted pretty terrific. And it wasn't too shabby the next day for breakfast, either.

Mmmm. Sorry Bambi, but you tasted pretty darn good.