This hearty stew is one of my favorites that gets its inspiration from Latin America, Africa and the Lowcountry of the coastal United States. For the peas, I like to use Sea Island Red Peas which have a deep history with Gullah cuisine of the coastal south. The addition of squash and pico de gallo comes from the Latin American side of things. The squash adds some great sweetness while the pico adds bright herbal notes to clean things up a bit while eating. For serving I like to pour this over a bowl of warm buttered southern grits or fluffy white rice.
Serves: about 8 people
When cooking the peas, make sure that you use a stock that doesn't contain salt. This will cause the peas to become tough and chewy. Add the salt at the end while making the stew.
If you can't find any red peas, kidney beans are a good substitute.
Working ahead. You can cook the peas up to 3 days before. Just be sure to save the cooking liquid to use for the stew.
If you don't want to cook with dried peas or beans, you can use canned that have been drained and rinsed. Just be sure to add them to the stew after the venison has been cooked. This will be at the same time as you add the squash.
For the Peas
2 cups red peas, covered with water and soaked overnight in the refrigerator, and then drained
4 quarts salt free stock (venison or chicken)
1 onion, peeled and cut in half
1 carrot, peeled and left whole
2 celery stalks
4 cloves of garlic
1 bay leaf
For the Stew
1 pound boneless venison shoulder cut into 2 inch pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 cups acorn or butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
2 cups shredded cabbage, green or purple
2 green plantains, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
Toppings for Serving
Cotija or parmesan cheese
chopped fresh parsley
chopped fresh cilantro
Pico de gallo (see below)
chopped crispy bacon or crispy country ham (optional)
hot sauce (please don't use Frank's.... Kinda kidding)
For the Pico de Gallo
1 cup ripe tomato, diced small
1/4 cup onion, diced small
1 small jalapeno, seeded and diced small
1 1/2 fresh lime juice
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
salt to taste
Cook the Peas and venison. Bring the stock to a simmer in a large pot. Add the peas, venison shoulder and the remaining ingredients under the "pea list" to the pot. Stir and then partially cover the pot with a lid, allowing steam to escape. Simmer gently for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until just tender. If the venison isn't tender yet, strain the peas while reserving the cooking liquid. Place the venison and cooking liquid back in the pot and simmer while covered until the venison very tender. Remove the venison and place on a plate by itself.
After the peas and venison are cooked, strain and reserve the cooking liquid for the stew. Remove the vegetables and bay leaf. Save the vegetables for another use if desired. Separate the venison and the peas if you already haven't done so. Scoop out a 1/2 cup of the peas and add them to a blender or food processor. Add just enough cooking liquid to puree the peas. Puree the 1/2 cup of peas until very smooth and then set aside.
Make the stew. To a large pot, add the peas, pureed peas and reserved cooking liquid and bring to a slow simmer. In a large skillet heat the oil over medium heat. Once the oil starts to lightly smoke add the venison and cook until browned and crispy. Add the garlic and cook until slightly tender, about 1 minute. Pour the meat and the garlic into the pot of beans. Now add the squash and plantains and cook until just tender, about 20 minutes. Add the cabbage and season the stew to taste with salt and pepper. Cook until the cabbage is just tender, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Time to serve. Serve in large bowls with the toppings listed above.