Venison Carbonnade

Venison Carbonnade

Preparation time: 10 minutes | Cooking time: 3.5 hours | Serves 6. By Tom Dickson.

This story is featured in Montana Outdoors November–December 2016 issue

It’s a classic conundrum for people who like to cook: Prepare a recipe you know will produce a fantastic dish, or take a chance with something new? 

I face that every time I pull a package of duck, pheasant, or venison from the freezer. I’ve been cooking long enough to have discovered delicious recipes to last me and my wife a lifetime. With three pounds of lovely elk shoulder in front of me, why not make John Besh’s Braised Venison, or Marcus Samuelsson’s Perfect Venison Stew, or Hank Shaw’s Venison Sauerbraten—all of them superb?

Yet what if there’s an even better braised-venison recipe out there that I haven’t yet discovered? On the other hand, what if the one I find is not as tasty as the sure-fire dishes?

I mulled over that choice last weekend and decided to take a chance on a new recipe that seemed foolproof: Elk Carbonnade, by Jonathan Miles, Field & Stream’s Wild Chef columnist and author of the indispensable The Wild Chef cookbook. Carbonnade is a Flemish, or Belgian, stew made with bacon, onions, brown sugar, and dark beer. You could toss a baseball mitt into those ingredients, simmer for two hours, and produce a dish to serve guests. Can you imagine how the recipe, which I altered only slightly from the original, tasted with a cut of prime elk shoulder?

—Tom Dickson is editor of Montana Outdoors.


Anyone who reads this column regularly knows I’m a huge fan of Hank Shaw and his award-winning game cooking blog Hunter Angler Gardener Cook. The San Francisco–based hunter, chef, and author has just written a new venison cookbook, Buck, Buck, Moose, that I found hard to put down. The 304-page cookbook includes chapters on field dressing, aging, and butchering as well as recipes for deer, elk, moose, and pronghorn. Dishes like Mexican Barbacoa, Icelandic Venison with Blueberry Sauce, and Kentucky Burgoo are beautifully rendered by master food photographer Holly A. Heyser.Bear bullet

Tom Dickson is editor of Montana Outdoors.


3 lbs. venison shoulder or neck meat,
cut into 2-inch cubes
2 T. butter
4 slices bacon, chopped
3 yellow onions, chopped
1 T. dark brown sugar
4 cloves garlic, minced
16 oz. Belgian dark strong ale or
other dark beer
1 c. chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 t. dried thyme
3 T. flour
1 T. apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
Salt and pepper, to taste
1⁄4 c. chopped parsley, for garnish

Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the butter and bacon, and cook until barely crispy. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon, reserving for later. Dry the venison with paper towels, then salt and pepper generously. Add the meat to the pot, in batches to avoid overcrowding, and raise the heat to high. Brown the meat well on all sides, then remove to a plate.

Add the onions and brown sugar to the pot and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes, or until the onions turn a deep golden-brown color. Stir in the garlic and cook for two more minutes.

Raise the heat to medium-high. Pour in the beer and scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to dislodge the tasty brown bits (known as fond). Bring to a boil, then add the reserved bacon and meat along with any accumulated juices. Add the bay leaf, thyme, and chicken stock plus extra water to cover the meat. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for two hours.

Before serving, uncover and raise heat to med- ium. Sprinkle in the flour, and stir to thicken. Stir in the vinegar or lemon juice. Add salt and pepper as needed. Serve with mashed potatoes, topping with a sprinkling of parsley.