Venison Sauce Piquante
May 05, 2012 | Updated June 06, 2022
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Photo by Holly A. HeyserA few years ago I found myself in southern Louisiana, near Houma. A fellow outdoor writer had invited me out to catch redfish down near Grand Isle. We hadn’t met up yet, and I needed lunch before I made the 70-mile drive down to the Gulf. I asked where I ought to get some food, and, after careful consultation with some locals drinking coffee and eating kolache, I set my truck toward Bayou Delight.
It was exactly what I’d hoped it would be. A little grubby, very lived-in and dotted with sugar cane farmers and other random Cajuns, some speaking French.
I had just sat down in a booth when a gigantic man wearing a foot-long Bowie knife on his belt walked in with his petite, dark-haired wife and sat down in the booth next to me. Turns out he was a gator hunter. Sadly, I can’t remember this man’s name. We got to talking though, and when he learned I’d never eaten gator — although, oddly, I’d eaten crocodile in South Africa — he suggested I order Bayou Delight’s alligator sauce piquante.
I did, along with a side order of fried alligator for good measure.
The gator hunter had set me in the right direction. I’d never eaten a sauce piquante (sauce pee-kahnt) before, and when it came it looked like red gumbo. It was about as thick as a gumbo, and was very tomatoey, with an island of white rice in the center and lots of diced gator floating around. It was spicy, but not blow-your-head-off spicy. I’d never eaten anything like it. Gumbo meets chili.
I told the gator hunter that finding alligator in California might be tough. “Oh, you can use anything you want,” he said. “Turtle, frogs, crawfish, chicken, venison…” Venison? That sounded like a plan.
When I returned home, I decided that I had to make it for myself.
Turns out a sauce piquante is indeed like a tomatoey gumbo. One of the generalizations about the difference between Cajun and Creole cooking it the presence of tomato; Creole cooking uses a lot of tomato, Cajun less so. Most Cajun gumbos have no tomato or very little. I say “most” because every cook has her own recipe. But sauce piquante is the exception: It is a tomato-based dish.
To make a venison sauce piquante, as in most things Cajun, you start with a dark roux (unless it is a seafood version, in which case the roux is stopped when it’s the color of peanut butter). The roux then cooks the trinity — onion, celery and green pepper.
Tomato paste sometimes makes an appearance, but tomatoes themselves always do. The canned variety with green chiles made by Rotel shows up a lot in recipes. Red wine is in some versions (it’s in mine), and it’s always served with white rice and either parsley or green onions.
The alligator sauce piquante I had at Bayou Delight was unique in that the gator was diced small. If you’ve never eaten gator, it can be tough. Chewy. Like chicken meets shrimp meets clam. It’s an acquired taste. Dicing the meat small and long stewing fixes this, however. And it will do the same for venison, which has a tendency to become dry in stews.
Was my version better than Bayou Delight’s? Probably not, but I’d like to think it would make the Unnamed Gator Hunter happy. And since I can’t find him, you get to be the judge. Laissez les bons temps rouler!
Venison Sauce Piquante
- 1 cup peanut oil or lard
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups chopped onion
- 1 cup chopped green pepper
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 5 garlic cloves
- One 6-ounce can of tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning, or more to taste
- 3-4 pounds venison or other meat diced small
- 1 cup red wine
- One 28-ounce can tomato puree or crushed tomatoes
- 4 bay leaves
- Salt, black pepper and hot sauce to taste
- Chopped green onions or parsley, for garnish
- In a large, heavy pot like a Dutch oven, heat the peanut oil over medium-high heat for a minute or two. Stir in the flour, then turn the heat down to medium. Cook this roux, stirring often, until it turns the color of dark chocolate, about 15-20 minutes. Once the roux turns the color of peanut butter, you will need to stir it almost constantly to prevent it from burning.
- While the roux is cooking, Heat 6 cups of water in another pot to the boiling point. Hold it at a simmer for now.
- When the roux is ready, add the onions, celery and green pepper and stir to combine. Turn the heat to medium-high and cook this, stirring often, until everything is soft, about 6-8 minutes. Sprinkle some salt over everything while you do this. Add the garlic, Cajun seasoning and tomato past and stir to combine. Cook this, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes.
- Mix in the venison, then add the cup of red wine, the can of crushed tomatoes and the hot water, stirring as you add. Add the bay leaves and bring this to a gentle simmer. Add salt and hot sauce to taste. Let this simmer very gently until the meat is tender, about 3 hours or more.
- When the sauce piquante is ready, add any more salt, black pepper, hot sauce and/or Cajun seasoning you want, then serve it with white rice and lots of green onions or parsley. Make sure you have hot sauce at the table; I use Tabasco, but use whatever variety you prefer.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
I made this tonight for dinner, and it was a hit. Very tasty. I made a half-recipe because I thawed about 1 3/4 pounds of venison and only then figured out what to make. Used a smaller cast iron pot and had no issues. Will make again.
Absolutely delightful! Was looking for another use of the tougher bits of venison. Really, really, really good.
did you brown the meat first is there any advantage to browning or not?
Troy: Not in this one, no.
what is the pot of boiling water used for?
This was phenomenal! I used boned out shank meat and it was silky tender and flavorful. I saw Hank Shaw on MeatEater and have been a fan since. Very good use of shanks and rib trimming.
Do you have a recommendation for canning this? I know you had 75 minutes for your venison chili at 10 lbs pressure. Thanks in advance
Donald: I am pretty sure you can’t can things with a roux. That flour messes things up. But you could can everything but the roux at 75 minutes at 10 PSI, then add a roux in when you are ready to eat it.
Absolutely amazing! Easier than I expected and so tasty! I actually used this recipe for my meal prep for the upcoming week!
This recipe was a hit. I was super nervous to cook the roux to such a deep color but it added a delicious depth to this dish. I think everyone who gets a dish of the leftovers is going to feel privileged!! I loved the effect of long cooking on the venison.
Fantastic! Possibly even better the next day!
Just made this for the first time with a jackrabbit, because the only thing I brought home from my mule deer hunt this year was tag soup. I don’t know if this substitution would offend any Cajuns, but I don’t really care because it’s mighty tasty. This will for sure be a part of my rotation for dark meat game dishes going forward.
Can this be made using bear meat ?