This Rehpfeffer, a kind of deer stew, has a secret ingredient: chocolate. Well, it's not such a secret because Betty Bossi, Switzerland's consummate domestic authority, suggested it here. And since this is Switzerland, it seems fitting. Traditionally, you would use animal blood to thicken the sauce and give it a nice, dark colour. I prefer the chocolate.
There are many great recipes for Rehpfeffer, particularly this one from the hunting association of Switzerland. The general consensus is that the meat should be taken out of its marinade, browned in a pan, a sauce is made separately, then the meat is added again and cooked slowly until tender. Ingredients vary, with some adding additional spirits (grappa, cognac), and others simmering the meat in a simple bouillon. Some save the marinated vegetables, which they purée and incorporate this into the sauce, and others throw these away and simply keep the marinating liquid.
My little Bernese cookbook from 1749 sadly gives hardly any instructions for the actual cooking of the meat after it has been marinated, and simply says that the meat can be roasted, cooked or steamed. (It gives much more detailled advice for roasting an entire sheep or pig's head.)
400 g deer meat, marinated 7-10 days (see Bearinade for recipe)
leftover marinating liquid
50 g bacon, cubed
1 tbsp flour
salt and pepper
one shot spirit (gin, cognac, grappa)
15 g very dark chocolate (70% or higher, or unsweetened), chopped
Carefully remove the meat from the liquid and dry with paper towels.
Strain the marinade through a fine sieve. You can either discard the marinating vegetables, or see below.
Heat a little oil in a large frying pan, then sear both sides of the meat well. Remove meat from pan.
Add the cubed bacon to the same pan and cook until it starts to brown. Add a tablespoon of flour and stir until incorporated with the fat.
Turn down the heat, then pour over the reserved marinating liquid, a splash of spirit, some salt and pepper. Let simmer for one hour.
Once simmered, add the chopped chocolate, which will melt into the sauce.
- If you do not wish to discard the marinating vegetables, pick out the bay leaves, cloves, juniper berries and peppercorns and then add the vegetables to the pan after the flour and before the liquid. Cook them until browned, then add the liquid and the meat.
- If you would like a smooth sauce, after the meat has stewed for an hour, remove it from the pan and purée the vegetables into the sauce.
- Once the meat has simmered for an hour, have a look at the sauce:
- If you think it is too thin, take the meat out, and cook it down a little, over high heat. Then add the meat back and add the chocolate.
- If the sauce is too thick, just add another splash of spirits, or water, and give it a good stir before adding the chocolate.