Filson Food: Venison and Licorice Pie

finished dish in cast iron skillet on glowing grill grates

Connor Gabbott spent the first 20 years of his career in various restaurant kitchens across British Columbia. Since picking up a rifle and harvesting his first deer in 2010, Connor has set out to combine his love for food and wild places by sharing the stories of his adventures and how they provide meals for the table.

We had Connor tell us about a few of his favorite recipes that we can take into our own kitchens at home. This is the third recipe of a three part series.

There is a certain magic that happens when you cook over open flame, and I for one can’t get enough of it. No where is it more evident than when you are cooking a braised dish for hours low and slow. The same woodsmoke that burns your eyes as you tend to the fire adds a layer of seasoning to your dish that is impossible to recreate over a stove. Somehow things cook differently over open flame, even when they are in a pot. The onions can take a bit more char on them and the slow caramelization of the sauce on the side of the Dutch oven adds depth of flavor. And in return for our constant attention to the fire and the food, we are rewarded with a little bit of magic on our fork. It makes me question whether all food is intended to be cooked over open flame.

dutch oven over an open flame

Prep Time: 30-45
Cook Time: 1-3 hours to braise
Makes: 4 servings

Serving Suggestions: This is a very hearty winter dish, to balance out the rich flavour I recommend something fresh on the side such as a crisp green apple salad.

  • 4 Tbsp. Oil, grapeseed
  • 1 1/2 pound Venison braising meat, 3/4”-1” diced
  • 1 Large Onion, 3/4” dice
  • 1 Carrot, 3/4” diced
  • 3/4 Head of garlic, approx. 8 cloves, finely chopped.
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 4 Tbsp. Tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cup Red wine
  • 1 1/2 cup Reduced venison stock  – See note below
  • 3 teaspoons Anise seed, ground. (For best results, buy whole seeds and grind them yourself in a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder. If you aren’t able to taste it in the end, add more)
  • 2 cups Chicken stock, low salt. Have extra on hand to cover the meat if needed
  • 1 teaspoons Salt. (Everyone has a different taste for salt, I recommend adding incrementally and tasting as you go to achieve the flavor you want)
  • 1 Tbsp. Oil, grapeseed
  • 8-12 Pearl onions, peeled
  • 4 oz Mushrooms cut into pieces 1/4”-1/2” thick. Any variety will work
  • 3 Tbsp. Sherry vinegar. Substitute red wine vinegar if needed.
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 Tbsp. Milk
  • Pie Dough – Keep this very cold until you are ready to work with it. Store bought works fine but I would recommend using this recipe from Bon Apetite.

I would highly recommend that every hunter makes a stock from all the bones of the animals they harvest. Recipes are widely available online. The one used in this dish has been reduced down to approximately 1/4 of its initial volume and is very concentrated in flavor. I do this so I can freeze it in smaller containers and I dilute when I want to use it.

venison meat browning in the pot
pot with glaze from meat drippings on grill grate

1. Place your dutch oven over medium high heat and add the oil.

2. Once the oil starts to smoke, work in batches and add the venison to the pot and roast until the meat takes on a dark brown walnut color.

3. Remove the meat, set aside and repeat the process with the remaining of the meat. The pot may require a wipe with a paper towel and fresh oil between batches. The key to this process is to get as much dark brown bits on the pot as possible without burning the pot, modulate the temperature as needed to help with this.

4. When the meat is finished roasting and resting separately, add the onions to the pot and roast until they are a dark golden brown. Approximately 8-12 minutes depending on your temperature.

5. Add the garlic and bay leaves to the pot and cook for a further couple minutes.

venison stock in pint container with venison meat in bowl

6. Combine the tomato paste and anise seed in the pot and stir while cooking for 2-3 minutes until the tomato paste loses its vibrant red color and turns a dark maroon. Have the wine at the ready to add to the pot if it starts to color on the bottom too much.

7. Deglaze the pot with the wine and scrape all the brown bits off the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon.

8. Reduce the wine by half.

9. Add the reduced venison stock and the chicken stock to the pot and simmer for 1-3 hours or until the meat is very tender and pulls apart. Ensure to keep the meat just covered with liquid during this time, add some chicken stock if needed. This time is a guideline and very dependent on the cut of meat you use, the tougher the cut, the more cooking it requires.

venison stew dish cooking in the pot on grill grate
cooking onions in cast iron skillet on grill grates

10. Once cooked, season with salt as needed for your palette.

11. Meanwhile, pre-heat an oven to 375F and place a tray on the bottom of the oven, this is to catch any drippings from the pie. Use low fan if your oven has it.

12. In a separate pan, heat up the remaining oil over medium low heat until it just begins to smoke and add the pearl onions to the pan.

13. Roast the onions until they are brown on the outside and just cooked all the way through.

14. Add the mushrooms and thyme to the pan and roast until the mushrooms are cooked.

mushrooms and venison stew on wood fired grill

15. Deglaze the pan with the sherry vinegar and cook until the vinegar is evaporated. Set this mixture aside.

16. Transfer the filling to an appropriate pot to bake and serve the pie. The filing should come to within 1/2” of the edge of the pot, this helps the crust to sit up properly.

17. Scatter the pearl onion/mushroom mix over the top of the filling.

putting mushrooms in the venison stew
savory pie prep with mushrooms and venison in cast iron skillet

18. Roll the pie dough out so that it is at least 1-2” larger in diameter than the pot you are using.

19. Place the pie dough onto the pot and crimp the edges of the dough onto the pot to seal it.

20. Whisk the egg and the milk together and brush the top of the dough from edge to edge.

21. Cut a 1” slit into the middle of the dough and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the dough is golden brown and fully crunchy all the way through.

22. Remove the pie and allow it cool for at least 15 minutes before digging in.