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I had some deer ragout and let it marinade one day in wine, brandy and with some spices. Then I added some fresh vegetables, cold water and put the heat on. Let it simmer for a couple of hours.

The result was OK, but not great (and don't we all aspire for greatness?). How can I improve on this technique? Should I have pan fried the meat first?

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What cut of venison was it? This makes a big difference on how 'best' to treat it. What was only 'OK' about it? – Gary Apr 4 '11 at 22:25
    
See my reply below. – BaffledCook Apr 11 '11 at 7:38
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Venison is, generally, an extremely lean meat. This means it responds well to two cooking methods: very very fast and very very hot (grilling, perhaps roasting with a lot of basting, or lard the meat first), or very very slow and moist (braising). This is of course dependent on the cut; loin is best grilled, shoulder is best braised (due to the connective tissue), leg is best roasted.

I wouldn't use plain water as a braising liquid. 50/50 water and red wine, or stock and wine, or just stock... cider would be lovely, so would various juices.

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I cooked it low and slow with water and red wine. But... some cuts were tough and others were tender. – BaffledCook Apr 11 '11 at 7:38

It sounds like the problem might be that the meat might have been a bit dry rather than tough as such. Paradoxically cut of meat which are tender when cooked quickly because they have little fat or connective tissue (esp loin) can end up bland and dry after slow cooking. If you fry off the meat and vegetables in a bit of butter and add a bit of venison or beef stock during cooking they will add some extra succulence to the meat and give a richer sauce. Frying off something like pork belly or streaky bacon in the pan before you add the marinated meat can also help.

Generally if the meat has distinct chewy bits in it it needs more marinating, if lean chunks of meat are hard to chew it's because it's dry/overcooked. Note that dryness in meat is to do with the fat/stock content and isn't really affected by it just being cooked in liquid or not ie cooking in wine or water won't make meat any less dry.

Also for a really tasty dish you want to build up several layers of flavour, game can take quite robust seasoning and tends to work well with a balance of bitter and sweet flavours so combinations like blackberry and juniper are commonly used with venison.

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