Basic Early Fall Stew with Pantry Findings

The following stew is inspired by the Chilindron, Spanish Stew, by Hank Shaw, which can be found in his book Buck, Buck Moose. I’ve imparted my own twist on the dish by making the most of what’s on hand in my pantry. The real beauty of this stew is that it affords improvisation, from the type of meat and veggies you opt to use, to the variety of spices, stock, wine and carbs. Use what you have and trust that your stew will turn out great.

Though I make this stew throughout the year, it seems the most delicious in early fall when the first cold snaps occur, signifying the arrival of hunting season and the need to review what’s left in the freezer. When I most recently made this dish, I used the last package of my Missouri River Breaks mule deer, which inspires me to get back out there for another of these beautiful and delectable animals.

Early Fall Stew


  • 2-3 pounds of bottom-of-the-freezer venison stew meat or this year’s meat if you got the job done early! Dice into large 1-in. cubes
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1-2 large onions, chopped
  • 2-3 fresh red, green or yellow sweet peppers, chopped
  • 2-3 tbs minced garlic
  • 2-3 cups red wine
  • 1 cup diced fresh tomatoes
  • A cup or two of veggies you have in the fridge like zucchini, carrots, brussel sprouts, leeks, summer squash, broccoli, kale, etc. – chopped
  • 1 tbs sweet paprika
  • 1 tbs hot paprika (add a little less than this if you’re a weenie when it comes to can add some back in at the end after you’ve taste tested)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt (add more to your liking, can be done after the dish finishes cooking and you’ve tested it)
  • 1 tbs chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2-3 cups bone stock as needed to cover ingredients in dutch oven
  • Olive oil
  • Large handful of wild mushrooms or rehydrated packaged mushrooms

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Dredge your thawed stew meat chunks in flour, coating on all sides.
  2. Pour a couple tablespoons of olive oil into a cast iron dutch oven set on the stove top then place the lid on the pan. Ensure the oil is hot enough so that when you drop a piece of meat in it sizzles gently. Working in batches, drop the floured meat into the oven and brown on all sides. Once meat is thoroughly browned, remove and set aside.
  3. Add a few more tablespoons of oil to the dutch and add your onions, sweet peppers and garlic to cook for a few minutes. When onions are translucent, add the meat back in and top with wine. Turn the heat up to a quick boil and cook until the wine is reduced by half.
  4. Turn heat down to a simmer and give the bottom of the dutch a scrape to loosen all those lovely bits. Toss in the tomatoes and any other veggies you have on hand that seem fitting. Dump in the mushrooms. Around my part of Montana we often have access to morels, puffballs, scaly hedgehogs and oysters. Add spices, and top with stock to cover all ingredients.
  5. Bring to a light simmer with the dutch’s lid on for 60-90 minutes. Stir occasionally to ensure even cooking. Add more stock and/or wine if it cooks off before the meat is cooked through. You want to keep the ingredients covered with liquid until the meat is easily falling apart.
  6. Note: I’ll sometimes complete this final 1.5 hours of cook time over hot coals in the fire pit. I control the temperature by placing the dutch on a couple of hot coals pushed to the edge of the fire away from the main heat. I place a few coals on top too, checking the simmer rate as I go. Cooking on coals is a messy, imperfect and rewarding art.
  7. Eat with crusty bread, rice or noodles, or whatever carb is in the pantry. Enjoy with red wine, nut brown ale or my favorite – a Public Land Owner Pale Ale!

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Photos by Joel Caldwell

About Hannah Nikonow

Hannah works as a communications specialist for a bird habitat conservation organization in Missoula. She is eager to follow in the boot tracks of those currently speaking out for the protection of public lands.

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