I have a new obsession with preserved lemon. It’s basically a raw lemon that’s been pickled with salt and manages to be more intense and somehow more mild than a regular lemon. I find it to be such an amazing pairing with wild elk and venison, especially with bold Moroccan spices. I buy mine from a Middle Eastern market down the street from my house, but you can likely find them in the grocery store, too. They are also pretty easy to make, which makes them a great way to preserve an ambitiously fruitful lemon tree in the dead of winter.
This recipe is adapted from an Alison Roman recipe from her cookbook, Dining In.
Elk and Fennel Stew with Lemon and Herby Fried Bread
- 2½ lbs elk stew meat cut into 2-inch cubes
- 1 medium potato cut into large cubes
- Kosher salt
- Black pepper freshly ground
- 1 tbsp oil
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 large shallots finely chopped
- 1 large fennel bulb coarsely chopped
- 1 tbsp fennel seed
- ¾ tbsp ground cumin
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 28 oz whole peeled tomatoes (1 can)
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 tbsp olive oil plus more for drizzling
- 1 demi-loaf crusty bread torn into 2-inch pieces
- 1 tbsp red pepper flakes
- 2 tbsp fresh parsley chopped
- 1 preserved (or pickled) lemon thinly sliced
- Season the elk with salt and black pepper at least 30 minutes prior to cooking
- In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat and brown the elk cubes. Be sure all sides are nicely browned. This probably needs to be done in batches (8-10 minutes each) and be careful not to overcrowd the meat! Transfer the elk to a bowl or plate while you sear the rest of it.
- Return all the elk to the pot and add the potato, garlic, Worcestershire Sauce, shallots, fennel, fennel seed, and cumin. Cook, stirring and scraping up any bits on the bottom, until the fennel has softened and is starting to brown, about 4 minutes.
- Add the tomato paste and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring, until it’s a dark brick-red color
- Add the wine and (once again) scrape up any lingering browned bits on the bottom
- Add the tomatoes, bay leaves, and 5 cups water. Season with salt and black pepper. Crush the tomatoes with the back of your spoon to get it all saucy in the pot. Bring to a simmer and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook, uncovered, until the elk is completely tender and the stew has thickened nicely, 2 to 2½ hours. Check the stew as it cooks, adding salt and pepper as needed (it’s always better to season as it cooks instead of trying to add a bunch of salt at the end).
- When ready to serve, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Toss the torn bread with the olive oil until the bread has soaked up a good amount of the oil. Season with salt and black pepper, and cook, tossing occasionally in the pan, until the bread is golden brown and crispy on all sides, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the red pepper flakes, parsley, and toss to coat.
- Top the stew with the preserved/pickled lemon, and herby fried bread