Auntie Boots' French Stew with Venison

I have had the great fortune of being related to some phenomenal women, starting with my mother who has always been willing to try new things and gave me my adventurous spirit. My mom was always trying new things in the kitchen and wasn't afraid of the occasional failure she just kept trying. Last year she finally tried hunting for the first time and loved it. I am looking forward to getting her back out into the woods and trying some new recipes with her this year.

My grandmothers are beautiful women who have both taught me so much about the things I enjoy. My mom's mother who we affectionately refer to as Gommie, makes one of my all time favorite dishes, fried round steak with potatoes and gravy. Gommie's round steak is a thing of beauty, she transforms a cheaper piece of meat, beef round steak, into something so tender and flavorful that you end up craving it if you haven't had it in awhile. Years ago when I first started cooking a lot, one of the first things I had to learn how to make was fried round steak. Shortly after I learned how to make it I changed the recipe to use venison. Mine isn't nearly as good as Gommie's but it satisfies my cravings until I get some of the real thing.

My dad's mom who we call Grandmo taught me how to fillet a fish and showed me the best way to clean and pluck a duck. Her beef pot roast and fried walleye simply can't be beat. I have tried hundreds of times but my fried walleye never turns out as good as hers. Grandmo is also partially responsible for my foraging obsession, when I was a kid she would take me out and pick raspberries and blackberries in the woods around Leech Lake. My dad and Grandpa were the ones that took me out hunting but Grandmo is equally responsible for my love of the outdoors and my love of cooking wild game.

My grandparents on my dad's side had a lot of brothers and sisters, we didn't spend a whole lot of time with my great uncles but my great aunts were around quite a bit. My grandpa had these two sisters Auntie Ruth and Auntie Marge who would come up to the cabin on Leech lake every summer and spend a few weeks. I lived at that cabin all summer long and Ruth and Marge would pay me a couple of dollars every day to go out and catch enough fish so they could have shore lunch every day. They just loved fresh sunfish and crappies and ate them everyday.  They also used to make the best doughnuts when they came up but that's for another post all together.

Grandmo had four sisters and I remember each one of them differently, I know I shouldn't say I had a favorite but everyone knows I did. My great Auntie Boots was hands down my favorite of all of them. We had a special connection, her real name was Lois but everybody had called her Boots because when she was little she would walk around the fire station that her dad worked at in his fireman's boots. Boots was a well travelled woman and had been all over the world with her husband who was an Air Force Colonel. What Boots was famous for was her French stew, everybody used to rave about this stew but I can't remember ever having this stew when I was younger. After Auntie boots passed away they printed the recipe for her French stew in the funeral program. My sister saved one of the programs and framed it for me along with a picture of me and Boots dancing at a wedding. The first time I ever remember eating her French stew was the first time I made it. It was so good that it was like I had been eating all of my life.  Ever since then I make it fairly often and is one of my favorite go to meals when I am having company.

The original recipe calls for beef chuck but I have made it with wild boar and venison, one of my favorite meats to use is beef cheeks. The cheeks are fatty and tough and require a slow low heat cooking method but it is very much worth your time. The last batch I made I used cubed venison and it was outstanding. As I have grown as a cook I have been able to find ways of altering some of my favorite recipes from my youth to include the wild game that I have. I really wish Auntie Boots were around today so that I could cook her stew for her.

Auntie Boots French Stew