Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Venison Lentil Molé Stew

This is a wonderful cold-weather dinner, and serves fabulously the next day. It can be made spicy or not, but the cocoa really gives this dish a depth and richness that makes it extra-satisfying.

You will need:
  • 4 cups lentils
  • 1-2 lbs very lean meat (95% lean or better, like venison, but mutton or beef work equally well), minced or ground
  • 2 medium sweet onions, diced finely
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced finely
  • 1/4 cup peanut or olive oil
  • 1 tsp tarragon
  • 1/2 tsp ground sage
  • 1 tsp savory
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 to 2 blocks mexican cocoa (one is mandatory, add more to deepen the flavor)
  • OPTIONAL: chilies, chopped finely. I'd use 2-4 small, fresh jalapeno peppers as a basic option for this. These must be added during cooking.
  • OPTIONAL: instead of chilies, add some of your favorite prepared salsa or chili sauce to taste just before serving.
  • 1 lemon, sliced thin
  • sour cream, grated cheese or butter

Heat oil in a large, heavy bottomed stew pot. Saute onions and garlic in oil until clear. Deglaze pan w 2-4 cups water, then add meat and stew until brown, breaking up any clumps that form.

Add more water (between 2 and 6 cups) then add lentils andall seasonings except for cocoa. Stir. bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer and stir periodically. When lentils have cooked for 1 hour, add cocoa. Stir until cocoa is melted and completely incorporated, or it will settle to the bottom and scorch. Simmer for 1 to 2 more hours, until lentils are very soft and breaking up.

While stew is simmering, stir every few minutes, to check that the stew is not sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add water (or cold coffee) as needed to increase moisture - this should be a thick stew, but still have a distinct broth.

Serve in heavy bowls or mugs. Top with lemon slices and butter, grated cheese or sour cream.

If you don't eat meat, this can also be made meatless. Simply omit the meat.

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