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Paul Kahan's Recipe for Roasted Venison Backstrap

One of Chicago's best chefs gives a killer recipe for roasted venison backstrap with pears, red wine, and pickled golden raisins
Photo by Travis Rathbone

My favorite venison meal was a roasted backstrap I made from a deer that my ice-fishing buddy had shot earlier in the year. I cooked it on an old propane stove in an ice shanty simply by searing and basting with lots of butter, maple syrup, and coarse black pepper. The lean meat is awesome rare and has a slight iron taste that I really love. Venison makes me think of autumn. That’s where this dish comes from.

Editors’ Take: This isn’t your “grizzled uncle’s” backstrap recipe (see “The Tribute,” opposite). This dish is something much, much more. More complex. More challenging. More delicious—no offense to your uncle.

Ingredients — Serves 4

Venison and Marinade:
2 lb. venison loin (backstrap), cleaned of all sinew and cut in two even chunks
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 sprig fresh thyme
1 Tbsp. coarse cracked black pepper
1 Tbsp. grapeseed or canola oil
1⁄4 cup red wine
1 tsp. red wine vinegar
1⁄4 cup beef or chicken stock
2 tsp. butter Salt and pepper, to taste

Roasted Pears:
2 ripe red Anjou pears (or other firm ripe pear)
2 tsp. grapeseed or canola oil
2 tsp. sugar 1 sprig rosemary (roughly 2 tsp. fresh rosemary leaves)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Pickled Golden Raisins*:
2 Tbsp. mustard seed
1⁄2 cup white wine vinegar
1⁄4 cup water
1⁄4 cup maple syrup
1⁄2 cup golden raisins

*Raisins may be pickled one day ahead

Directions

Venison:
1. Marinate venison in olive oil, thyme, and black pepper for 2 hours to overnight.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat a heavy-bottom sauté pan over high heat until smoking hot. Add grapeseed oil and sear venison on all sides until brown.

3. Flip meat over and place pan in oven. Cook until internal temperature reaches 135 degrees, about 6 to 10 minutes. Move venison to a plate, and tent with foil.

4. In the same pan, add red wine and red wine vinegar. Reduce over high heat until thick and syrupy. Then add stock to pan and reduce until syrupy. Add butter to pan and whisk to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Pears:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Core pears and cut into eighths. Toss them in a bowl with oil and sugar to coat.

2. Toast rosemary sprig in a dry sauté pan over medium heat until you hear a popping sound, being careful not to burn the leaves.

3. Add rosemary, salt, and pepper to pears and toss briefly. Transfer to an ovenproof pan and bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until tender and golden.

Raisins:
1. Place mustard seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat until they start to pop. Remove from heat. Let mustard seeds cool in the pan, shaking gently every minute or so, until toasted and fragrant.

2. In a small sauté pan, combine vinegar, water, syrup, and toasted mustard seeds. Bring to a boil, stirring to prevent burning.

3. Put raisins in a heatproof container and pour vinegar mixture over top. Let cool, then cover and refrigerate.

Serving Tip: Cut venison on an angle and place on plate. Arrange pears alongside. Drizzle raisins and their sauce over all.

Paul Kahan is the executive chef/partner of three acclaimed restaurants in Chicago: Blackbird, avec, and The Publican.

Comments (7)

Top Rated
All Comments
from woodsman1st wrote 4 years 19 weeks ago

Sorry but I get a kick out of all these fancy dishes; all in an attempt to get rid of the so called "wild taste"; or this author tastes "iron". Good Lord it's meat with it's own taste depending a great deal on it's diet. Take a deer, buck or doe, that has been feeding on acorns; that;s got to be the finest tasting deer of them all; but running a very close 2nd is a deer taken from the alfalfa fields; all of them delishious. Get the cast iron pan piping hot and toss it in for a coupls of seconds to sear the meat; flip it over and sear the other side; this keeps all the natural juices in the meat. Now depending on thickness cook it on that side for about two minutes; flip it over one time and cook for about two more minutes and it's ready. To sum it up: sear on one side; flip and sear on 2nd side and let it cook on that side for about two minutes; flip back onto the first side and cook for two more minutes and it's done! Your deer steak gets turned ONLY 3 TIMES! Deer should be served rare to medium rare! If you want it well done, give me your deer meat and I will buy you some beef so you can turn that into shoe leather. This way of cooking applies to all venison; deer, elk, and moose; moose the finest eating of them all. Carribou is kinda dry and you can cook that in sauces and stuff to keep it from drying out.
Some marinades are pretty good; but the goal is NOT TO CHANGE THE TASTE OF THE VENISON! Would you try to change the taste of beef? Yeah; probably a lot of people would; but if I want it to taste different, then I will buy something different. Their is no wild taste to venison! Get a clean shot so it dies on the spot without running all over tarnation with bullet holes all over it; gut it out right now and NOT in an hour or two; get the hide off it right now and prop the chest open to it cools off as quick as possible; got any snow around? Fill that deer, elk, or moose gut and chest cavity up with snow; prop it up off the ground, cover with more snow. Unless its doggone cold, when you get back to camp with your CLEAN venison keep it covered up during the daytime to keep the cold in; uncover it at night to let it get cold again. DO NOT GET ANY HAIR ON THE MEAT; STAY AWAY FROM THE MUSK GLANDS ON THE LEGS; DO NOT BREAK THE BLADDER; WIPE IT OUT WITH A DAMP RAG; DURING THE DAYTIME COVER IT UP OR PUT IT INSIDE YOUR SLEEPING BAG; KEEP THAT MEAT COOL AND CLEAN....THEN COOK IT SIMPLE AND ENJOY THE UNIQUE FLAVOR. It's called the KISS PRINCIPLE; Keep It Simple Stupid! KISS and enjoy it for what it is. If you must get rid of the so called "wild taste", then soak it in deisel oil overnight; I guarentee you wont find any "wild taste"!

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from jtrout wrote 4 years 19 weeks ago

We tried this receipe out and it is fanstatic!! The meat was extremely tender. This is a great recipe to use if you want to introduce someone to venison. We did not do the pickled golden raisins part we also used canola oil in place of grapseed oil. The recipe sounds difficult but it's not and well worth it.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Neslie wrote 4 years 16 weeks ago

First time reader, first time writer.

I appreciated the comment from woodsman1st. Either you like venison or you don't, but some poor soul's only encounter with this other food group ( yes, venison is neither meat nor vegetable but is simply a naturally and organically processed vegetative matter, so even the most committed vegan can enjoy without violating their creed) might have been with a poorly handled harvest in the field. I am not sure if woodsman1st was suggesting all cuts be cooked on top of the stove, but cast iron, some root vegetables and no foo-foo is the way to go.

I honestly think the more elaborate recipes are for the people who take their deer to a processor and get it back in neat white packages with a label on it. There is nothing wrong with that if that is what you feel you need to do.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from seneca_slabs wrote 4 years 12 weeks ago

I thought it was a good dish.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from mikeclow85 wrote 3 years 37 weeks ago

Half to give it a try, but I like the (gamey) taste of venison, I'm drooling right now thinking about all the great ways to cook wild game. LOVE MEAT.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from kevnbro wrote 3 years 19 weeks ago

It's a great recipe. It would work well with beef or pork loin too. I don't think it was the authors intention to cover anything up, the sauce and fruit compliment the meat nothing more. I butcher my own deer with great respect and work around the bone keeping all of my cuts boneless. I dry-age it in the fridge before it's cooked and am always open to new ways of enjoying venison. If it's gamey then stop harvesting old bucks! I'll take a lean, tender freezer full of doe over a pointy pair of antlers on my wall any day.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jeff Potter wrote 2 years 9 weeks ago

I throw a caution flag on this recipe! 6-10 minutes in a 350 oven after searing brings internal temp up to 100 degrees. So I kept it in the oven, testing, for another 20 minutes and it hit 130. I took it out, made my sauce, by then the rested meat was ruined well-done paste. Ugh. I google elsewhere and see med-rare venison as out of the oven at 120 -- sounds more likely at this point. Also, the sauce was syrupy until I added stock/butter -- it reduced quickly from watery to 2 tablespoons of paste. Man, I'm usually better at this. Better luck next time! I need to cook more often. I lose my touch between times. I forget my data. Gotta write things down. Well, I still have my other backstrap...

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from woodsman1st wrote 4 years 19 weeks ago

Sorry but I get a kick out of all these fancy dishes; all in an attempt to get rid of the so called "wild taste"; or this author tastes "iron". Good Lord it's meat with it's own taste depending a great deal on it's diet. Take a deer, buck or doe, that has been feeding on acorns; that;s got to be the finest tasting deer of them all; but running a very close 2nd is a deer taken from the alfalfa fields; all of them delishious. Get the cast iron pan piping hot and toss it in for a coupls of seconds to sear the meat; flip it over and sear the other side; this keeps all the natural juices in the meat. Now depending on thickness cook it on that side for about two minutes; flip it over one time and cook for about two more minutes and it's ready. To sum it up: sear on one side; flip and sear on 2nd side and let it cook on that side for about two minutes; flip back onto the first side and cook for two more minutes and it's done! Your deer steak gets turned ONLY 3 TIMES! Deer should be served rare to medium rare! If you want it well done, give me your deer meat and I will buy you some beef so you can turn that into shoe leather. This way of cooking applies to all venison; deer, elk, and moose; moose the finest eating of them all. Carribou is kinda dry and you can cook that in sauces and stuff to keep it from drying out.
Some marinades are pretty good; but the goal is NOT TO CHANGE THE TASTE OF THE VENISON! Would you try to change the taste of beef? Yeah; probably a lot of people would; but if I want it to taste different, then I will buy something different. Their is no wild taste to venison! Get a clean shot so it dies on the spot without running all over tarnation with bullet holes all over it; gut it out right now and NOT in an hour or two; get the hide off it right now and prop the chest open to it cools off as quick as possible; got any snow around? Fill that deer, elk, or moose gut and chest cavity up with snow; prop it up off the ground, cover with more snow. Unless its doggone cold, when you get back to camp with your CLEAN venison keep it covered up during the daytime to keep the cold in; uncover it at night to let it get cold again. DO NOT GET ANY HAIR ON THE MEAT; STAY AWAY FROM THE MUSK GLANDS ON THE LEGS; DO NOT BREAK THE BLADDER; WIPE IT OUT WITH A DAMP RAG; DURING THE DAYTIME COVER IT UP OR PUT IT INSIDE YOUR SLEEPING BAG; KEEP THAT MEAT COOL AND CLEAN....THEN COOK IT SIMPLE AND ENJOY THE UNIQUE FLAVOR. It's called the KISS PRINCIPLE; Keep It Simple Stupid! KISS and enjoy it for what it is. If you must get rid of the so called "wild taste", then soak it in deisel oil overnight; I guarentee you wont find any "wild taste"!

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from seneca_slabs wrote 4 years 12 weeks ago

I thought it was a good dish.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from jtrout wrote 4 years 19 weeks ago

We tried this receipe out and it is fanstatic!! The meat was extremely tender. This is a great recipe to use if you want to introduce someone to venison. We did not do the pickled golden raisins part we also used canola oil in place of grapseed oil. The recipe sounds difficult but it's not and well worth it.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Neslie wrote 4 years 16 weeks ago

First time reader, first time writer.

I appreciated the comment from woodsman1st. Either you like venison or you don't, but some poor soul's only encounter with this other food group ( yes, venison is neither meat nor vegetable but is simply a naturally and organically processed vegetative matter, so even the most committed vegan can enjoy without violating their creed) might have been with a poorly handled harvest in the field. I am not sure if woodsman1st was suggesting all cuts be cooked on top of the stove, but cast iron, some root vegetables and no foo-foo is the way to go.

I honestly think the more elaborate recipes are for the people who take their deer to a processor and get it back in neat white packages with a label on it. There is nothing wrong with that if that is what you feel you need to do.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from mikeclow85 wrote 3 years 37 weeks ago

Half to give it a try, but I like the (gamey) taste of venison, I'm drooling right now thinking about all the great ways to cook wild game. LOVE MEAT.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from kevnbro wrote 3 years 19 weeks ago

It's a great recipe. It would work well with beef or pork loin too. I don't think it was the authors intention to cover anything up, the sauce and fruit compliment the meat nothing more. I butcher my own deer with great respect and work around the bone keeping all of my cuts boneless. I dry-age it in the fridge before it's cooked and am always open to new ways of enjoying venison. If it's gamey then stop harvesting old bucks! I'll take a lean, tender freezer full of doe over a pointy pair of antlers on my wall any day.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jeff Potter wrote 2 years 9 weeks ago

I throw a caution flag on this recipe! 6-10 minutes in a 350 oven after searing brings internal temp up to 100 degrees. So I kept it in the oven, testing, for another 20 minutes and it hit 130. I took it out, made my sauce, by then the rested meat was ruined well-done paste. Ugh. I google elsewhere and see med-rare venison as out of the oven at 120 -- sounds more likely at this point. Also, the sauce was syrupy until I added stock/butter -- it reduced quickly from watery to 2 tablespoons of paste. Man, I'm usually better at this. Better luck next time! I need to cook more often. I lose my touch between times. I forget my data. Gotta write things down. Well, I still have my other backstrap...

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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