Words and recipe by Blair Lebsack. Photos by Tracey Kusiewicz.
At our new store, Butchery by Rge Rd, we’re showcasing whole animals from central Alberta game farms alongside the incredible beef and pork the Prairies are legendary for raising. This is pure, non-intervention farming and it allows these animals to develop their true natural flavours.
Commonly known as venison, meat from elk or deer is very high in protein and low in fat, so once the prime cuts have been removed, we process the rest into sausage, pâté and terrines. During the fall and winter months, braising cuts like the shank and neck is the best way to prepare and serve this meat, as the depth of flavour goes off the charts. It’s just a great, cozy dish of comfort.
This recipe for braised venison is super rich, and balanced with pickled vegetables, fromage blanc and the sweetness of winter squash. Pannekoek is a unique and unconventional vessel for carrying all of these flavours—I just really love the texture it brings to the dish.
1½ to 2 kg venison shanks or neck
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tbsp canola or grapeseed oil
1 litre beef or game stock
2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup 3.5% milk
2 tbsp melted butter
1 tsp kosher salt
1 small butternut squash, peeled and small diced
Fresh chopped parsley or nasturtiums
2 apples, seeded and small diced
Farmer cheese/fromage blanc (such as Lakeside Farmstead)
Pickled onions and pickled cayennes (or hot peppers)
Preheat oven to 300°F. Season venison with salt only. Heat oil over high heat in a Dutch oven or braising pot. Add venison and sear each side for 5 minutes, or until browned.
Once meat is browned on all sides, add stock to pot. Cover and braise for 5 hours (or until fork tender), turning once. (This can be done up to two days in advance—store in the refrigerator, and reheat when ready to serve.) When braised, cut or pull the venison into chunks and return to cooking juices. Simmer on low, uncovered, for 10 minutes or until the cooking juices have reduced by half.
To make the pannekoek, mix together flour and eggs. Stir in milk, salt and melted butter and let sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour.
Heat a crepe pan or frying pan to medium, spray or rub with oil and place ¼ cup of batter in pan. Tilt pan in a circular motion until batter is about 6 inches in diameter. Cook for about 2 minutes, flip, and cook other side until just light brown. Remove from pan and place on a plate. Repeat with remaining batter until it is all done. Stack crepes and wrap with cling film. Store at room temperature until ready for plating.
About 45 minutes prior to serving, preheat oven to 425°F. Toss diced squash with 2 tsp of canola or grapeseed oil and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast for 30 minutes or until fork tender.
To assemble, place a pannekoek on a skillet over medium heat, flipping to warm both sides. Place on a plate and spread or crumble farmer cheese and put large dollops around the pannekoek. Place spoonfuls of braised venison with some of the braising liquid around the pannekoek, then sprinkle with roasted butternut squash. Garnish with pickled onions, pickled hot pepper, apples, parsley and a final sprinkle of salt (a Canadian sea salt if you have it!). Serves 4 to 6.