We have a dear friend, Kenn, who grew up a hunter in Northeastern Wisconsin. He long ago moved to Washington State but returns almost every fall to hunt for deer with his son and other relatives. Some years the hunt is better than others. Those years, when he is lucky, we are gifted with a piece of venison. This year Kenn appeared at our door on Thanksgiving day with a piece of loin, a prime cut.
The loin was about 1-1/2# and as beautiful a piece of meat as you could want. But what to do with it? I felt that however I prepared it, I should take care to honor the source – both the animal and my friend, the hunter.
A pound and a half of venison loin is pure meat. Aside from the silverskin, there is no loss to trimming. A pound and a half is also too much meat for two people to eat at one sitting. What ever I did would have to take into account the inevitable left-overs in an equally respectful manner.
This is the tale of the first meal from the loin. The two subsequent meals gleaned from the leftovers follow here;
I don’t get to cook venison very often and am always hesitant in doing so for fear of ruining it. It’s not like I can just go down to the grocery and pick up another loin if I screw this one up. So it’s taken me from Thanksgiving until March to work up the courage and confidence to tackle this. My plan was to cook the whole loin in the first pass in such a way as to leave myself some leeway in dealing with the rest in the second and third meals. Rather than roast the loin whole, I cut it into thick medallions as a form of portion control (remember, there’s supposed to be left-overs). To season the meat I chose a rub that promised to enhance the flavor of the meat without overwhelming it and without limiting too much what I could do with the remaining meat.
Pan Roasted Venison Medallions with Smoky Chipotle Rub
2 Tbs. brown sugar
1 Tbs. smoked paprika
1 Tbs. sea salt
1 tsp. chipotle chile pepper
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1-1/2# venison loin, cut into 6 portions
1 Tbs. duck fat
Mix the dry ingredients and coat the venison medallions well on both sides. Set aside to rest for several minutes
Preheat a well seasoned cast iron skillet to near smoking. Add the duck fat and tip the skillet to coat the bottom.
Quickly add the venison medallions, spacing them evenly in the pan. DO NOT MOVE THEM AROUND.
Leave them sear for 4 or 5 minutes to let a crust develop. Turn each medallion over and continue to saute for an additional 4 – 5 minutes or until done to your liking – I was shooting for medium-rare.
Remove the venison to a serving plate and let rest 5 minutes. Serve with a vegetable and a starch of you choosing. I chose crudites (cucumber, radish and carrot) with a lime dipping salt (2 pts. sea salt, 2 pts. sugar, 1 pt. lime zest – mix well) and purgatory beans cooked grandma style with sage and bay.
When done well, a small piece of venison is satisfying and I hope I was respectful of the animal that provided it and to the hunter who gifted it to us. Thank you Kenn.