Pan-Seared Venison Backstrap with Blackberry Wine Sauce & Roasted Broccolini (paleo-ish)

This dinner was provided courtesy of Weber Farm. I am fortunate enough to have a best friend that is not only kickass, but has her own home farm (with eggs I dream about and honey I use way too quickly) and whose male relations hunt often and hunt successfully. It was at her table, way back in college, that I first tasted venison and loved it. Despite her years of warnings that venison is a meat on advanced setting, I finally conned her into sending me home with some to try and make something fabulous out of. And I did. She sent me home with two perfectly portioned baggies of pre-chunked venison back strap – which I’m guessing she uses in a braise – and the instruction to make her something good so she can crib the recipe. I think she would have enjoyed last night’s (and the night before’s) dinner as much as I did.

A note about venison: Venison (deer) is a very, very lean game meat that doesn’t taste particularly gamey at all if cleaned and prepared right (luckily, those Webers know what they are doing). It tastes kind of like really lean beef and can get very tough and chewy if you either cook it too long or not long enough. Venison is a meat that needs added fat – it’s too dry without it – so don’t be afraid to finish with a little butter. I’ve had it cube steaked & chicken-fried, stewed, steaked, jerkyed, burgered, and sauteed and have loved it each and every way. Venison is awesome and it’s a shame I can’t just run to the store and grab some. That, by the way, is a hint that I would like more, please, next time I visit 🙂

If you don’t have access to venison, duck would be fabulous here. Or, if that’s out of range, beef or bison would be great as well. Even chicken would be tasty. Or pork. Really pretty much anything that walks or swims and is slow enough to let you eat it. Pork belly would be amazeballs.

While I’m on the subject of substitutions, this sauce I made for duck would be a fantastic sub for the blackberry wine sauce in the recipe.

Yes, I see that these are green beans. I took this picture when we had a repeat dinner the next night.
Yes, I see that these are green beans. I took this picture when we had a repeat dinner the next night.

Pan-Seared Venison Backstrap with Blackberry Wine Sauce & Roasted Broccolini (paleo-ish)

The Sauce

6 oz. blackberries – fresh or frozen (I used a frozen package of fresh berries)
1 c. red wine (use your favorite, or if you don’t have a favorite, something that one liking red wine would happily drink. None of that cooking wine crap.)
1/2 in. ginger, peeled and halved
1 Tbsp. honey (I used wildberry honey from Whidbey Island, but any good quality honey would do)
1 Tbsp. unsalted grass-fed butter

The Venison

10 oz. venison (I used pre-chunked backstrap)
1 Tbsp. coconut oil
1 Tbsp. unsalted grass-fed butter
Granulated garlic
Granulated onion
Salt & pepper

The Veg

1 bunch broccolini (or like in the picture, green beans)
2 Tbsp. fresh grated parmesan (or other hard salty cheese)
2 tsp. olive oil
Salt & pepper

First, get your sauce going. In a medium pan over medium heat, bring the blackberries and wine up to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, add the ginger, and macerate to break the berries up. Simmer 20-30 minutes, or until the wine has reduced and the sauce gets a little thick. If you want it thicker, simmer longer. In the last 5 minutes of cooking, add the honey and taste for sweetness – if it needs more, wait a minute or two before adding. When the sauce is at your desired thickness, turn the heat off and drop the butter in, swirling to combine – the heat from the pan will melt it.

While the sauce is going, turn your broiler on high and place the veg on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and cheese. Broil 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is browned and the broccolini is just about to start burning in spots.

The last thing you want to make is your meat, as this is pretty quick-cooking. In a large pan over medium-high heat, melt your coconut oil. Add the venison, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic and onion. Cook until browned on that side. Flip with tongs quickly, sprinkle the other side with seasoning, and let go until browned on the other side. Ideally, you want your pieces to be medium-rare, so use your judgement. Venison cooks just like beef, and in my experience I was able to cook the large chunks perfectly, but had some chewy smaller bits. They were still delicious. When your meat has cooked to your liking, turn the heat off and drop the butter in. Toss to coat as the butter melts.

Serves 2.

Duck with Broccolini & Tart Dressing

This meal makes a decadent weeknight dinner. Since duck is so rich, two people can very comfortably split one large breast. This not only saves calories, it saves cash.


Duck with Broccolini & Tart Dressing

3 Tbsp. good aged balsamic vinegar
2 tsp. pomegranate molasses
1/2 tsp. grated ginger
1 large boneless duck breast (skin on)
1 cup grits
2 cups milk
1 cup water
1 big handful Parmesan cheese
1 bunch broccolini, chopped
2 Tbsp. olive oil
White pepper

Start the sauce

In a small sauce pot over medium low heat, combine the vinegar, molasses and ginger. When the sauce comes up to a boil and becomes syrupy, turn off the heat.

Start the grits

In a medium sauce pot over medium-high heat, combine the grits, milk and water. Whisk. Continue to whisk every few minutes until grits come up to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring every minute or two, until grits are soft and liquid is absorbed. If mixture gets too dry, add water. When grits are done, remove from heat. Add cheese & salt & pepper to taste.

And now for the duck

While the grits are cooking, cook the duck. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, add 1 Tbsp. olive oil and bring up to temp. Add the duck skin-side down – season with salt & pepper and sautée until deeply browned. Flip, season, and sautée on side 2 until deeply brown. Knock the heat back and continue to cook until medium-rare. Duck feels just like beef to the touch. Remove from the pan and set aside to rest while you cook the broccolini.

Some green veg

Drain fat. Put the pan back over the heat with 1 Tbsp. olive oil. Add broccolini. Sautée 7 minutes or until tender. Season with salt and pepper.

Slice the duck and serve with grits, broccolini and pomegranate molasses sauce.

Serves 2 for dinner.