A stew of woodchuck with fresh garden vegetables. Serves 2 as an entrée 4 as an appetizer
Course: Appetizer, Main Course
Keyword: Groundhog, Woodchuck
1woodchuck/groundhogwith it’s heart, kidneys and liver
Kosher salt and pepper
2teaspoonsfresh chopped thyme or rosemary
Cooking oil or lardas needed, bacon grease is excellent
All purpose flouras needed for dredging
1small yellow onion
2small cloves garlic or ½ tablespoonminced
1/2cupdry red wine
4cupswater or stock
6ozGarden vegetablesfor garnishing, a good blend (see note)
Fresh ground pepperto garnish
Good tasting oilsuch as extra virgin, to garnish
Read the entire recipe before beginning, as you have some choices here.
Using a shears, cut the wood chuck into 6 pieces, season liberally with salt, pepper and rosemary, then vacuum seal, along with it’s organs and allow to rest overnight, or just put it in a bowl or similar container with a lid.
Build the stew
The next day, heat some oil in a deep pot that can accommodate the woodchuck, like a dutch oven. Dredge the woodchuck in flour, tap off the excess, brown deeply, working in batches if needed, then add the onion and garlic, more oil if needed, and cook for a minute or two more. Add the tomato paste, stir, and cook a few minutes more until a good fond/glaze has developed on the bottom of the pan. Add the wine, reduce by half, then add the water, cover, put in a 300 degree oven and cook for 1.5 hours, or until the meat moves easily from the bone. Remove the pan from the oven and cool.
When you can handle the woodchuck pieces, pick the meat, meticulously inspecting it for small bones. Try as well as you can to leave the meat in good chunks. Reserve the meat separately from the cooking liquid, which should look and taste like a nice, rich gravy at this point.
Next, prep the vegetables. Ideally you’ll have a mix of different things from a garden, small carrots, onions, zucchini and their flowers, greens, herbs, etc. The vegetables will be quickly sautéed to finish, but first you want them at a stage of doneness that will make it easy for them to be thrown into a pan together. Some vegetables can be cooked from raw (zucchini) while some need a preliminary blanching to become tender (onions, carrots). Cut your vegetables into bite-sized pieces, blanch individually as needed, then, when they’re all ready, saute them quickly over medium-high heat and season to taste.
Meanwhile, season the woodchuck offal with salt and pepper, and fry quickly over high heat, then remove to a cutting board, allow to rest for a few moments, chop coarsely, and scatter over the bottom of two wide serving bowls. (You can also just chop them and add them to the stew in the beginning, which is easier, if you do that, consider mashing them to a paste and adding with the onions.
Heat the cooking liquid and the woodchuck meat, double check the seasoning and adjust as needed, then spoon into the bowls. Spoon the cooked vegetables over the top, garnish with a few flowers or herbs if you like, a drizzle of good tasting oil and fresh cracked pepper, and serve.
Garden VegetablesYour vegetables here can be whatever is growing: sweet corn, small squash and their blossoms, fresh tomatoes, carrots--whatever. The key is understanding their individual cooking times. For example, with the small squash I added, I knew they would cook slower than the other vegetables, so I scored them to shorten their cooking time. If you have firm vegetables, like carrots, parsnips or other roots, you might consider blanching them first.