It happens every once in a while—you harvest an animal that’s chewy, regardless of how you’ve cared for it. Even the best cut of meat can ball up into a mass that just doesn’t seem to break down, no matter how long you chew it. Perhaps it’s a big, old bull elk, huge black bear or a moose that was so old, even the gravy is tough—but don’t despair. There are many ways to cook tough cuts of meat that will transform them flavorful, tender morsels sure to leave your friends and family asking for more.
Indonesian rendang is one of my favorite ways to turn a tougher cut of meat into a gourmet meal. A slow simmer coupled with a blend of various spices breaks down the meat fibers, yielding melt-in-your-mouth goodness. Of course, you can use tender roasts to make this dish as well, but it does give you the excuse to hold out for a big, older bull that can challenge your cooking skills.
• 2½ lbs. venison roast
• 1 can coconut milk or cream
• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Spices to Blend
• 12 cloves of garlic, crushed
• 2 tablespoons red chili flakes
• 1 large onion, diced
• 4 inches fresh ginger root, peeled and sliced thin
• 3 tablespoons turmeric powder
• 1½ teaspoon coriander
• 1 tablespoon salt
• 1 teaspoon sugar
• 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
• 1½ teaspoon ground cumin
• 1 teaspoon ground cloves
• 4 stalks of bashed lemongrass (*Optional—lemongrass isn't always available in hunting camp, and I’ve made the dish without it without issue or complaint. However, it certainly adds a unique taste to this traditional recipe.)
Note: If using lemongrass, remove the green section and outer sheath, and only use the white portion. Bash the stalks with a mallet so the lemongrass can release flavor.
1. Slice the roast across the grain into very thin pieces. It’s easier to cut thin when the meat is still partially frozen. If you have a big roast, cut it into smaller portions before slicing. For roasts that are tender to start with, cut meat into 1-inch cubes instead of thin pieces.
2. Stir together all spices; garlic, red chili flakes, onion, ginger, turmeric, coriander, salt, sugar, cardamom, cumin and cloves, and set aside.
3. Heat vegetable oil in a wok or Camp Chef Dutch oven. Sauté the spices over low heat until aromatic and they form a paste.
4. Add coconut cream and lemongrass into the wok.
5. Add the venison slices and cook over medium heat, until the coconut milk comes to a boil.
6. Simmer mixture over low heat, and add water when the mixture starts to dry or get thick. It isn’t uncommon to add a cup of water two or three times while the mixture is simmering.
7. Cook until the venison absorbs the flavor of the spices and the mixture turns to rich, dark brown. It will take about three hours.
8. Serve with rice or naan bread.
Note: If you have someone at dinner that doesn’t do well with spice, reduce the amount of red chili flakes, or substitute paprika. The dish will still be extremely tender and flavorful.