Braised Venison Stew in a Red Wine & Bitter Chocolate Sauce : Project Food Blog Challenge #3: Luxury Dinner Party

Thank you everyone who voted!! I am so excited that I made it to the third challenge! This Dinner Party Challenge is my favorite one so far!! However out of all the Project food blog posts, this one made me the most nervous. Why you ask? Well because of the word luxury. Luxury to me is a bowl of popcorn with melted chocolate drizzled over it. Luxury to most is truffles and caviar, and caviar just isn’t my style. Ironically enough it is the end of September and with the opening day of bow season rapidly approaching everything suddenly clicked. Venison. PERFECT! I know venison is one of those things, either you love it or you hate it! I happen to love it! So in honor of hunting season I give to you my Luxury Menu:

TA DA! And yes I made everything from scratch… because that is how I do it!  In the challenge requirements it states to create a luxurious dinner menu which your guest will experience new and exotic flavors… and I did just that! In my menu you will see that it doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming to serve a luxury dinner party for friends!
Shall we start with the table? I wanted a simple yet fancy setting. A stark white tablecloth paired with a crisp green linen {given to me by my Gramma Ruth many years ago} worked perfectly with my white dishes! Some fresh fall flowers and dainty white linen napkins completed the simple yet sophisticated look I was going for. I still can’t believe I could fit everyone at my little table!

And if you don’t have a white tablecloth, just use a white twin bed sheet… your guests won’t even notice!

Keep it simple… fun… and tasty. I chose not to do an appetizer because this meal was rich and hearty. If I was planning on serving fish or if there was time before I was serving dinner I most definitely would. I think finger foods are fun but I also don’t like filling up of appetizers just before a meal is being served. And let’s face it who wants to be too stuffed to eat dessert?


For the salad I wanted it to be light using fresh seasonal ingredients and it had to have texture. So I pared the mildly sweet figs with the sharp and salty blue cheese and toasted up some walnuts to give that crunch that every salad needs. I can honestly say every single one of my guests including myself has never had fresh figs until tonight. Sure we’ve all had the fig cookies newton thingies. But an actual fresh fig?… Nope, nill, nada!
Aren’t figs so pretty?!
I made a delicious lemon and pepper vinaigrette to brighten it up and add a refreshing flavor. Wow… it was so fantastic… really you could put blue cheese on anything and I’d eat it… but pared with the peppery arugula and tart blue cheese… I really can’t stop thinking about this salad!

Now for the main course! This is NOT just any stew… It has DARK CHOCOLATE in it people!!  My choice to make a stew was because I didn’t want to be busy cooking while guests were here. I had a couple guests that were coming later on and I didn’t want their dish to be cold. I wanted it to be comfortable and to be honest… I wanted to mingle too! Braised venison stew is one of those dishes where you can do all prep ahead and put it in the oven and let the magic happen! Not to mention it feeds a lot!

Even though I am extremely familiar with venison… some of my guests were not. So I paired it up with a red wine {you can’t go wrong with wine!} and bitter chocolate to make a sauce that I knew would be a hit… and it was! SCORE!
In this venison stew was a variety of seasonal root vegetables; like turnips, carrots, shallots and I threw in some celery and mushrooms too… oh and did I mention that there is bacon? I crisped up some bacon and then I quickly sear the venison in the bacon renderings… oh yeah baby!
Then you add in the red wine and beef stock, put a lid on it, put it in the oven… and forget about it for at least two hours! So in the meantime I got myself ready and got my girlees off the school bus.
The time has arrived and after everyone poured themselves a glass of wine… it was now time to put them to work! 🙂
After the stew is cooked I had Nichole remove the vegetables and meat, then I strained the sauce then grated in the bitter dark chocolate as my friend Heidi whisked. It is like nothing you have ever smelled before… when the chocolate hits the heat and melts into the sauce… I easily could have poured a glass of it right then and there and been happy. But I had some hungry guests, so I had no other choice but to pour it back onto the venison and vegetables, and it was ready to serve!
Not SO fast. When preparing for a dinner party I try to do the most cooking I can the day before so I’m not scrambling {as much} the day of. So by making the bread and dessert the evening before, I had more time to fine tune things.
So let’s talk bread

When you eat a stew you need bread, rosemary and caramelized onion bread to be exact. What else could you use to sop up all the juices? And don’t worry if you’ve never caramelized an onion before… just follow the simple steps here and you will be golden! Fresh rosemary is an essential ingredient to these individual breads. I used two sprigs {from my Mom’s garden}, removed all the leafy bits and minced the bejeasus out of it!
 I love LOVE the smell of rosemary… Glade are you hearing this?!

This dough is very sticky… so don’t be discouraged, the results are soft, pillowy, chewy loaves of love!  You won’t believe you made these… I couldn’t believe that I made these… but I did!!

A meal is not complete without a little treat at the end. Since this meal was a rich and hearty one. I opt for a refreshing lemon granita… which is fancy for shaved ice… and it was just what everyone needed… classic and lemony! Did you know there are only three ingredients in a granita? Lemon, sugar and water… How simple is that? But I knew my guests… and I knew they haven’t ever had this cold treat before… and for me, I’ve never made it! But you know when you’ve made a great dessert? When the dish is empty!
We all sat around and talked for a while, some mentioning how they never had turnips before… or how surprised they were by the fresh figs. It was so much fun sitting around at a fancy table with my closest friends and family on a Wednesday night!! We all agreed to do this once a month!!

So as a gift of my appreciation, I gave to my guests a bottle of my favorite red wine and the recipes of tonight’s dinner. My bestie Nichole made those beautiful tissue flowers!! It was a perfect day and an even more perfect night!

Arugula Salad with Fresh Figs & Blue Cheese with a Lemon Vinaigrette:

{Serves 6}

For The Salad:
1 {5 oz.} package of Baby Arugula
6-8 fresh Figs, quartered
3 tablespoons Blue Cheese, crumbled
4 ounces of Walnuts, toasted

For the Vinaigrette:
4 tablespoon fresh Lemon Juice
6 teaspoons Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper

Combine the arugula, figs and walnuts in a large bowl. Combine the lemon juice, salt and pepper and whisk in the olive oil. Taste to adjust seasonings. Plate salad and drizzle with vinaigrette. Sprinkle with blue cheese and serve!

{CLICK HERE} to print this salad recipe!

~Main Course~
Braised Venison Stew with a Red Wine & Bitter Chocolate Sauce:
Adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s Venison Stew with Bitter Chocolate
{Serves 6-8}

Olive Oil, for cooking
1/2 pound of Smoked Bacon, chopped
2-3 pounds of venison {shoulder}, cut into chunks
3-4 tablespoons flour, seasoned with a teaspoon of each Kosher Salt and Black Pepper
3 Shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 Garlic Cloves, peeled and crushed
2-3 large Carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
2-3 stalks of Celery, roughly chopped
4 small Turnips, peeled and cut into chunks
8 Button Mushrooms, cleaned and halved
Few Thyme sprigs
2 Bay Leaves
1 teaspoon mixed peppercorns, crushed
500 ml or 3/4 a bottle of Red Wine
2 cups of Beef Stock
1 ounce Dark Chocolate {70 percent cocoa solids}, grated to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Drizzle a little oil into a large ovenproof dutch oven and sauté the bacon for 4-5 minutes over a moderate heat until lightly golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Put the chunks of venison in a large bowl or plastic bag with the seasoned flour and toss well to coat. Shake off the excess flour. Add a little more oil {if needed} to the dutch oven and fry the venison in batches over a moderate to high heat, until browned on all sides. Remove from the pot and set aside with the bacon.
Add a final drizzle of oil to the casserole dish and add in the shallots, garlic, and mushrooms. When golden in color add the carrots, celery and turnips. Sauté the vegetables with the herbs and crushed peppercorns for about 6-8 minutes, stirring frequently.

Return the bacon and venison to the dutch oven and pour in the red wine. Give everything a good stir with a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom of the dish to loosen any sediment. Bring the wine to the boil, then pour in the stock and add some salt and pepper. Return to a boil again and then cover with a lid. Transfer to the oven and cook for 1½ to 2 hours, or until tender.
Remove the casserole from the oven and strain the meat and vegetables through a large sieve or colander, set over a saucepan to catch the sauce. Discard the bay leaves and thyme. Place the meat and vegetables back into the dish and cover to keep warm.

Take the pan off the heat and whisk in the chocolate until it melts and the sauce is smooth. (If it turns grainy, pass it through a fine sieve.) Taste and adjust the seasoning, then pour the sauce over the venison and vegetables and stir well to coat.
{CLICK HERE} to print this recipe!!

Rosemary & Caramelized Onion Bread:
Adapted {barely} from The Pioneer Woman Cooks 
{Yields: 12}

1 Large Sweet Onion
1 tablespoon Butter
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 1/2 cup warm Water
3 teaspoons Active Dry Yeast
1 tablespoon Honey
3 tablespoons Olive Oil
2 cups All Purpose Flour
1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
2 teaspoons Kosher Salt
2 sprigs Rosemary, leaves removed and chopped

Sauté sliced onions and minced garlic in the 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Cook them until brown and caramelized, about 8 to 10 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes.

Pour warm water into a bowl. Sprinkle yeast on top. Add the honey and 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Stir gently with a fork until combined. Set aside.

Combine flour and salt in a separate bowl. Add to the flour mixture your onions, and rosemary in alternating ingredients, stirring gently until dough is combined. (It’ll be sticky!)

Generously flour a flat surface. Knead dough 15 to 20 times, adding flour generously to make it easier to handle. (Keep it sticky, though!) Drizzle olive oil in a separate bowl and then add your ball of dough, turning to coat. Cover with a tea towel and place in a warm spot for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Divide dough into twelve portions, and form each into a rough round shape. Place on a baking mat or parchment paper, then cover with a towel and allow to rise for 15 to 20 minutes. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until brown. Brush with butter halfway through baking time.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

{CLICK HERE} to print this yummy recipe!

Refreshing Lemon Granita:
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks:
{Serves 8}

3 whole Lemons
1/2 cup Sugar
3 cups Cold Water

Zest all three lemons and give it a good mince. Add the zest to a medium sauce pan. Juice the lemons and strain out all the pulp and seeds. Place the sugar and juice into the sauce pan with the zest. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.

Remove from heat and pour in the cold water. Stir and pour into a freezer safe container with a lid. Freeze for two hours, remove and scrape with a fork. Place back into freezer and repeat in one hour. Repeat another hour later until the mixture is completely frozen and broken up. Keep sealed in the freezer until ready to serve. Garnish with fresh mint leaves and Serve.
{CLICK HERE} to print this recipe!

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22 Responses to “Braised Venison Stew in a Red Wine & Bitter Chocolate Sauce : Project Food Blog Challenge #3: Luxury Dinner Party”

  1. #
    Jennifurla — October 3, 2010 at 11:34 pm

    Great dinner party, I love all of these posts!~

  2. #
    Nichole B — October 4, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    How fun – the night was a success, good people, conversation and best food ever! Thank you so much for inviting me and feeding me!

  3. #
    whatsfordinner-acrossstatelines — October 4, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    Love your post! I love your table setting, it's simple, but it really pops! I think the rolls sealed the deal for me though! Good Luck, happy to lend my support!

  4. #
    Kay Heritage — October 4, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    Great work! Rosemary and Onion bread looks amazing!

  5. #
    Amanda — October 4, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    wonderful idea and gorgeous presentation! i always look forward to your new posts, this one was extra fun to read.:) oh my goodness….chocolate in stew??? i must try this!! thanks for the delicious recipes!


  6. #
    CrystalsCozyKitchen — October 4, 2010 at 10:02 pm

    Now you have me craving stew and chocolate! Everything looks so delicious!
    I voted for you again – Good Luck!

  7. #
    Winnie — October 5, 2010 at 12:29 am

    This is beyond gorgeous. You did a great job with your party and your post 😉
    Winnie@Healthy Green Kitchen

  8. #
    umommy — October 5, 2010 at 12:49 am

    Great job! Amazing photography (as usual). I love the parting gift idea too. Good luck!

  9. #
    FOODalogue — October 5, 2010 at 2:27 am

    Very nice entry — and that bread, in particular, looks delicious.

  10. #
    Laurie @simplyscratch — October 5, 2010 at 3:15 am

    Thanks everyone!! It was such a fun night! Those rolls are amazing!!

  11. #
    Get Natured — October 5, 2010 at 3:57 am

    Nicely done!

  12. #
    We Are Not Martha — October 5, 2010 at 4:12 am

    I LOVE your table settings! And I agree when you have stew, you always need bread. And now I really need to bake a bread with caramelized onions involved!!


  13. #
    Duchess — October 5, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    I truly wish I had been there! Bravo.

  14. #
    Whitney — October 5, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    A) your photography is awesome
    B) that looks SO yummy!

    Congrats on a great dinner, you have my vote!


  15. #
    Sarah — October 5, 2010 at 9:22 pm

    Your photos are gorgeous! I love how the figs look cobalt blue–so cool! I'm ready for some venison stew now. Yum! Good luck!!

  16. #
    16 — October 6, 2010 at 12:23 am

    What a delicious meal! I love your stew recipe. You all looked like you had so much fun! And that fig photo is STUNNING! A vote from me! Megan @ Foodalution

  17. #
    petermarcus — October 6, 2010 at 1:08 am

    Oh, man, a venison dinner party! I wish I was there!

    You got our vote!

    (Our entry is here: )

  18. #
    Val — October 6, 2010 at 1:12 am

    It all looks beyond amazing!!! Your blog is great!

  19. #
    BakingWithoutaBox — October 6, 2010 at 1:28 am

    It all looks great, but that bread is above and beyond

  20. #
    Jessica {The Novice Chef} — October 6, 2010 at 5:15 am

    It all looks amazing! Hope we both make it to the next round! 🙂 You have my vote!

  21. #
    willowbirdbaking — October 7, 2010 at 4:43 am

    Beautiful food and table. You have a vote from me!

    My dinner party was designed to take the diner food from Gooch's Diner, where my parents first met over 40 years ago, and elevate it to luxury for their 39th wedding anniversary. Come see if you'd like 🙂

    Julie @ Willow Bird Baking

  22. #
    Lick My Spoon — October 7, 2010 at 6:04 am

    Your fig photo on the contestants page got my attention (most bright blue food does), but your main course got my vote. That venison stew looks/sounds incredible. Good luck this week!

    Lick My Spoon

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