This is my version of the good ole’ pot roast pretty much everyone ate while growing up. What makes it Polish? Only that I found a similar recipe in a book called Polish Heritage Cookery by Robert and Maria Strybel. I like the use of flour and paprika, and the overnight wine marinade, each of which add a layer of flavor to the final dish.
A venison pot roast is a bit different from the classic Jewish pot roast I ate as a kid. That pot roast was always made with beef brisket, a luscious, fatty cut that lends itself to slow and low cooking. Just ask the Texans about that one. Try to make a pot roast from a deer, elk or moose brisket and you’ll run up against its leanness. It will still be OK, but lack that lush texture of beef brisket.
Now, try and make a venison pot roast with a hind leg roast and you will be super sad. Why? No internal fat, not enough connective tissue. It’ll be dry as hell. Really unpleasant. Hind leg roasts are best done as single-muscle roasts, cooked to a finishing internal temperature of about 135°F, which is medium-rare.
Nope, you need another cut for a good deer pot roast. And the best cut of all is the neck. Yes, you read that right. Either pot roasted whole and bone-in, which I do for smaller animals, or cooked as large slabs of boneless neck, which I do for elk, you will find that this is the finest cut for slow, low, moist cooking.
Again, you ask: Why? Because a neck is the opposite of a hind leg roast. It’s loaded with connective tissue. And in the absence of internal fat, connective tissue, which melts when cooked slowly under moist conditions, provides that luxurious texture you want in a good pot roast.
Other good candidates here are whole deer shoulders, big shoulder roasts from larger animals, or hell, even shanks. All have lots of connective tissue.
I prefer bone-in pot roasts for the most part, but then I don’t live in an area with chronic wasting disease. If you do, bone out the neck. It is true that CWD has never crossed the species barrier to humans, but better safe than sorry.
Needless to say my choice of root vegetables is my own. Feel free to play with it to suit your own tastes. Don’t skimp on the marinating time or on the onions. They make a big difference.
Venison Pot Roast, Polish Style
- 1 bottle of red wine
- 6 to 10 allspice berries, cracked
- 6 to 10 black peppercorns, cracked
- 3 bay leaves
- A 2 ½ to 4 pound neck roast, boned or bone-in
- 1 cup flour
- 3 tablespoons paprika
- 1 tablespoon cayenne (optional)
- ¼ cup lard, bacon fat or cooking oil
- 2 onions, sliced root to tip
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 3 carrots, cut into large chunks
- 2 parsnips, cut into large chunks
- 3 Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into chunks
- 1 rutabaga or 2 turnips, peeled and cut into chunks
- Black pepper to taste
- Sour cream, for garnish
- Bring the wine, allspice, black peppercorns and bay leaves to a boil. Turn off the heat and let the marinade cool to room temperature. When it’s cool, submerge the venison neck in the marinade and keep in the fridge overnight, or up to 4 days.
- Mix the flour, paprika and cayenne (if using) together in a large bowl or shallow container large enough to hold the neck roast. Pat the meat dry with paper towels and salt it well. Coat it in the flour-paprika mixture. Heat the lard in a large Dutch oven or other heavy, lidded pot and brown the meat. With a typical neck roast you will need to cut it into two pieces to get it to fit the pot. Brown one piece and then remove while you brown the other. If you are using a bone-in neck, just turn the meat to brown all sides. When the meat has browned, remove it from the pot and set aside for a moment.
- Preheat the oven to 325°F. Add the sliced onions to the pot and brown them well, stirring occasionally. This should take about 8 minutes. Add 2 cups of the marinade and bring it to a boil. Add the venison back to the pot, along with 2 cups of water. Bring to a simmer, cover the pot and cook in the oven for 1 1/2 hours.
- After 1 1/2 hours have elapsed, add the root vegetables and celery and continue to cook for another 1 ½ hours, or until the meat is falling apart and the root vegetables are tender.
- Remove the meat and set on a cutting board. Slice roughly or pull the meat off the bones. Taste the sauce and add salt if it needs it. Add black pepper to taste and serve with the meat and vegetables, with a dollop of sour cream alongside.