How Would You Like Your Nilgai Prepared, Sir? A "Rogan Josh." Excellent! Very Good, Sir!
Nilgai, a large Asian antelope species, is hunted at many ranches in the southwestern United States where exotic species are found. Jay Pinsky, editor of The Hunting Wire, had a freezer full of nicely butchered meat after a successful trip and he brought me a couple packs when he visited for a fishing trip.
I immediately began thinking of a proper way to prepare this unique meat – I’m not even sure if it’s appropriately referred to as “venison.” Because it was considered an exotic, I began thinking about various African ways of grilling or barbecuing it, then Jay reminded me it was an Asian species. So, after contemplating a few options, Colton and I decided to make a Rogan Josh, a north India favorite in and around the Kashmiri country. Depending on where you see the dish promoted, it may be referred to as roghan josh or roghan ghosht.
Like any Indian dish, you can make it mild to wild depending on the amount of “heat” you want to add in the forms of various peppers and powders. To be truthful, our dish was a little on the “too mild” side and the next time we make it, we’re turning up the heat. The aromatic spices add a lot to this curried dish. It is a tasty explosion of flavors.
We used a “bouquet garni” to impart some of the spices. This French technique involves loosely wrapping spices you’ll want to remove prior to the finishing the dish. For example, we had whole Cinnamon sticks, whole peppercorns, and bay leaves.
While we used nilgai, you can make this with any type of venison. Lamb or goat are the common ingredients in most restaurants and in the area where the dish originated. Nilgai meat was mild and tender. I think a venison dish made this way would come off best if the meat came from a very young deer. The style of cooking will leave just about any meat moist and tender but the mild flavoring of a young whitetail might best replicate the taste. Give it a try! Here’s to good hunting and good eating…
Nilgai Rogan Josh
For the bouquet garni:
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
12 whole black peppercorns
6 or 7 whole cloves
1 large bay leaf, broken in half
½ to 1 small hot pepper
1 garlic clove cut into 2 or 3 pieces
1 small piece ginger
For the dish:
2 ½ pounds meat, cut into 1 ½ inch, bite sized pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil or butter
1 large onion, sliced
1or 2 mild peppers, chopped
1 or 2 spicy peppers, to taste
2 garlic cloves, diced
½ teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 ½ teaspoon coriander
1 ½ teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon cardamom
¼ teaspoon paprika
1 ¼ teaspoon turmeric
28 ounces canned diced tomatoes (or 6 or 7 fresh chopped)
1 or 2 cups beef broth (or water, to cover the meat)
Salt, pepper, garam masala to taste
½ cup plain Greek yogurt (we used non-fat but whole milk yogurt is fine)
Cooked basmati rice (can use regular jasmine or white rice)
Chopped green onion
Diced hard-boiled egg
Fresh cilantro or parsley
Anything else that you want – get creative!
In a large Dutch oven, brown the meat in oil over medium high heat. Remove and set aside.
Reduce heat to medium low. In the same pot, cook the vegetables until soft. Add back the meat and the spices, and cook a couple minutes. Stir in the tomatoes with their juice and the bouquet garni, and cook a couple minutes. Add enough broth (or water) to cover the meat. Stir and taste, adding salt, pepper or Garam Masala (a nice blend of spices) to taste. Note adding yogurt at the end will smooth out the flavor. Cook in oven, uncovered for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until meat is tender. Stir occasionally and add water or broth if needed. While the meat is in the oven, cook the rice according to package directions. Prepare garnishes if desired. When meat is tender, taste the sauce again and make any final adjustments. Remove bouquet garni and stir in yogurt. Serve over rice with preferred garnishes and naan (a tandoori style bread).