Tag Archives: celery

Venison Lasagna Bolognese

The first dish from the buck my husband harvested this fall.

This lasagna is a tale of two sauces—a bolognese ragù and béchamel. Neither sauce is difficult to make and the ragù in particular can be made the day or evening before to simplify the final dish preparation. This lasagna doesn’t require all the cheese (ricotta and mozzarella) of typical lasagna recipes, just finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano on each layer, so that the result is a lasagna that is not quite as filling—and by filling, I mean overfilling. You can certainly use the ragù in a typical cheesy lasagna, but I think the béchamel would be overpowered by all that cheese. Ordinarily, I would add cream and butter to a bolognese ragù after the long simmer, but felt that the layers of béchamel provided the necessary creaminess to the dish.

Two things I did differently:

  1. In addition to using venison instead of lean beef or veal, I used ground, smoked, thick-sliced bacon instead of the traditional pancetta, which is not smoked. The smoky bacon adds another layer of flavor, and the venison can handle it. The bacon happens to be from a local company that provides the hot dogs and kielbasa to Heinz Field, Smith Provision, and it’s a really flavorful bacon.
  2. I used some of my frozen tomato sauce made from our summer garden tomatoes. It’s a thick sauce made from roasting tomatoes, carrots, garlic, and onion, so it is already flavored with some of the final sauce ingredients, but since my sauce has been blended, you still need the chopped vegetables in this ragù.

I used fresh pasta sheets available at my grocery to construct the lasagna; you don’t need to boil them first as they cook in the casserole to just the right tenderness—just make sure you have plenty of sauce to cover.

Venison Lasagna Bolognese

  • Servings: 8 main dish servings
  • Difficulty: easy
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Note about salt: There are lots of ways to get too much salt into this dish. There is salt in each sauce, your chicken stock may be salted, the bacon may be salty, and authentic Parmigiano Reggiano cheese is salty. Personally, I would leave out any extra salt in the ragù. Taste as you go along.

Preheat oven to 375° when ready to construct the dish.

Bolognese Ragù Sauce
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (or more)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • about 1 cup celery heart, center ribs with leaves, finely chopped
  • about 1 cup finely chopped carrot
  • about 1 cup medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 pound smoked bacon, coarsely ground
  • 1 pound ground venison
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 2 cups thick tomato sauce (or crushed tomatoes or tomato paste with more chicken stock)
  • salt & pepper to taste (careful with the salt—see the note above)
Béchamel Sauce
  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 4 cups milk (I used lactose-free whole milk)
  • fresh pasta sheets to make at least 5 layers in a 13″ x 9″ dish
  • about 2 cups finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  1. Prepare the meat sauce, which needs to simmer for about two hours.
  2. In a large straight-sided skillet (often called a chicken fryer) sauté the garlic, onion, carrot, and celery in olive oil until the vegetables are translucent. Remove vegetables to a dish while browning the meats, which you can’t do well in a pan of vegetables.
  3. In the same pan, using more olive oil if needed, brown the ground bacon. Add the ground venison and ground pork, breaking it all up and cooking until browned and cooked through, about 15 minutes.
  4. Return the sautéed vegetables to the pan. Stir in the parsley, chicken stock, red wine, and tomato sauce (or whatever tomato product you are using).
  5. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally. I’m sure this is a sauce that could be made in a slow cooker, too.
  6. When the meat sauce is about done, make the béchamel sauce.
  7. In a large saucepan, over medium heat, melt the butter.
  8. Stir in the flour and seasoning, stirring until all the flour is combined with the butter and there are no lumps.
  9. Slowly stir in the milk, stirring constantly with a large wooden spoon or whisk. Some people like to scald the milk first in the microwave, but I find that unnecessary—maybe it quickens the thickening. Continue stirring over medium heat until thickened enough to coat the back of the spoon. Remove from heat.
  10. Construct the lasagna. Butter a 13″ x 9″ baking dish.
  11. Using a large ladle, lightly cover the bottom of the dish with béchamel sauce.
  12. Arrange your uncooked pasta sheets over the béchamel. You don’t need to cover every inch of the pan, as the pasta will swell a little on absorbing the sauces. I trimmed my sheets to fit in two large squares on each layer, but your sheets may be more narrow than mine.
  13. Top each layer of pasta with enough meat sauce to cover all the edges. Then add a layer of béchamel. Finish with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
  14. Repeat until you reach the top of the dish, ending with the sauces and cheese. Mine came all the way to the top with 5 layers, and while a little bubbled over, most of it was absorbed by the pasta.
  15. Bake at 375° for about 40 minutes. Place a sheet pan on a lower oven rack to catch any spills. The finished lasagna should be browned and bubbly.
  16. Let rest a little before cutting into large squares.




Braised Beef Short Ribs on the Grill

I’ve been on a short vacation and then fruitlessly hunting for deer, but before I went away, while we still had unusually warm weather, I cooked some beef short ribs on the grill in my cast iron dutch oven. I don’t know why I don’t make them more often, because even though they can be expensive, they aren’t much more expensive than a lot of the meats we eat. Beef short ribs are kind of like the pulled pork of beef, if done right. Tender and falling off the bone, short ribs are full of flavor and they make for an impressive dish whether just for you or for guests.

This time, I used the grill for all the components—browning the vegetables that go into the braising sauce and getting a nice smoky char on the ribs before the long braising.

Braised Beef Short Ribs on the Grill

  • Servings: 5-6 ribs
  • Difficulty: easy
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This dish can also be simmered on the stovetop or in the oven. The vegetables could be roasted in the oven prior to making the braising sauce.

  • 3-4 lbs beef short ribs
  • 1 medium-large onion, sliced
  • 2 large or 3 medium carrots
  • 1 heart of celery, separated
  • 4 cloves of garlic, roasted, or 1 tablespoon garlic paste
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 cups tomato puree
  • 1-2 cups beef stock or bouillon (enough to cover the ribs)
  • salt & pepper to season meat and vegetables
  • olive oil
  1. Coat ribs with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Brown on all sides on grill over direct heat. Remove to a dutch oven.
  2. Drizzle onion, carrots, and celery with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast on grill over direct heat, turning to prevent burning. You want to precook the vegetables until they begin to soften and have grill marks on them; they should be tender enough to be pulsed in a blender or food processor. You can set them to the side and close the grill to cook them longer without burning them.
  3. Place the vegetables in a blender (or food processor) with garlic, thyme, and tomato puree. Blend to a thick puree. Stir in the beef stock.
  4. Pour the sauce over the ribs and place the lid on the dutch oven.
  5. Move your coals to the sides of the grill, so your dutch oven is over indirect heat. Close the grill lid and roast for 2-3 hours at around 350° until the meat is tender and pulls away from the ribs. Add more coals as needed to keep temperature steady.

Great served with noodles.

Bacony Lentils with Adobo Sour Cream

This recipe would make a nice alternative to sugary baked beans at your next cookout.

These lentils are flavored with thick, smoked bacon, onion, garlic, celery, and carrot for a hearty main or side dish. Lentils are great when you want beans, but don’t want to spend all day cooking them, although I don’t really mind it since I’m home all day.

Bacony Lentils with Adobo Sour Cream

  • Servings: 6-8 as side
  • Difficulty: easy
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4 slices thick smoked bacon, diced

1 small onion, diced (about 1 cup)

1 stalk celery, diced (about 1/2 cup)

2 small carrots, diced (about 1/2 cup)

2 cloves garlic, minced or grated

2 bay leaves

1 lb dried lentils

4 cups chicken stock, packaged or homemade

  1. Brown diced bacon over medium heat in a 3 qt saucepan until crisp and much of the fat has rendered.
  2. Add the onion, celery, carrots, garlic and cook in the bacon fat until softened, about 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add the bay leaves and lentils, stirring to combine.
  4. Add the chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer, cover, and simmer until done, about 40 minutes.

Sour cream with adobo:

1 cup sour cream

2 teaspoons dried chives

1 teaspoon dried dill weed

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon adobo sauce from canned chipotle peppers in adobo

Optional: 1 chipotle pepper from can, chopped (that would be really hot)

Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate until ready to eat. Serve as accompaniment to lentils.

Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup

Yes, I’m calling it soup and my husband will just have to deal with it. I’ll make him some garlic bread to dredge in it.

I’m starting with packaged chicken stock, but cooking the chicken in that stock for a double punch of chicken flavor, and I’m not removing the skin from the chicken, because —chicken fat! You can’t overestimate the importance of chicken fat in your soup for flavor. Then, I’m using a combination of brown basmati and wild rices, cooked in the stock, so they soak up all that flavor and do some thickening.

I used 3 chicken thighs, bone-in skin-on, and 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts. While it was a lot of meat, it was just fine for the 2+ quarts of soup.

Creamy Chicken Rice Soup

  • Servings: makes 2 quarts
  • Difficulty: easy
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Stock and chicken:

3 large chicken thighs, with skin and bones, browned in 1 tablespoon bacon fat

3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 large carrot, cut in large chunks

1 large yellow onion, with skin, cut in half

top of large celery bunch, about three inches, including leaves

2 quarts chicken stock, packaged or homemade

1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper

  1. Brown chicken thighs in 1 tablespoon bacon fat in large stock pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.
  3. Remove chicken breasts and continue to simmer the thighs in the stock, covered, for another 30 minutes.
  4. Remove thighs. Strain stock and return to pot.
  5. Pull the chicken into rough shreds or cut uniformly while the rice cooks.


1 cup brown basmati rice

1/4 cup wild rice

tender heart of celery bunch (about 1 1/2 cups), including leaves, thinly sliced

3-4 carrots, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)

about 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

  1. Bring strained stock to boil and stir in rices and vegetables.
  2. Reduce to simmer, cooking. covered, for about 45 minutes or until done.

Finishing soup:

pulled chicken (about 4 cups)

2 cups heavy cream

Optional: about 1 cup frozen corn

salt & pepper to taste

  1. Add chicken to simmering stock; return to simmer.
  2. Add cream, salt & pepper to taste, and corn, if using. Return to simmer, cooking until heated through, especially if you added frozen corn.
  3. If you prefer a thicker gravy, here are some tips from The Kitchn on ways to thicken soup: http://www.thekitchn.com/soups-on-7-ways-to-make-any-so-106057