Last fall, I was lucky enough to finally fulfill my dream of hunting Sitka blacktail deer on Kodiak Island. The trip was pure Alaska: rough-water beach landings, white-knuckle bush plane rides, brown bear encounters, whale sightings, and mountain vistas so magnificent I won’t even try to describe them here.
And, of course, the food.
You might think it would be hard to eat well on boat with a galley the size of a closet, but with the help of Camp Chef’s Steve McGrath, we dined mighty fine. It didn’t hurt we had access to some incredibly fresh protein, including blacktail deer and tanner crab plucked from the Gulf of Alaska just hours earlier.
After that adventure, a box full of Alaska’s bounty made it back to Nebraska with me, where I combined both the blacktail and crab into one amazing entree. This crab-stuffed blacktail backstrap was originally featured in a Food Fight Friday, where it solidly whipped the competition–another Alaskan-inspired dish from Field & Stream editor-in-chief Anthony Licata.
You could substitute any venison backstrap here, and frozen crab is readily available in most grocery stores year-round. (But never faux krab with a “k”. That would just be wrong.) Still, to experience the true, dare I say, terroir, you need the incredibly fresh, saline air of coastal Alaska still in your recent memory, if not in your lungs.
Crab-Stuff Blacktail Backstrap
– 1 venison backstrap, cut into thirds or quarters
– 1 cup alder chips
– 1 cup fresh crab meat
– 8 ounces mascarpone
– 1 Tbsp. capers
– 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
– 2 to 3 slices of pancetta (or bacon) per steak
– Kosher salt
– Freshly cracked black pepper
1. Liberally season each piece of backstrap with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, making sure to season the thick sides as well. Let the backstrap sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
2. Soak 1 cup of alder chips in cold water.
3. In a medium bowl, whip together the crab, mascarpone, capers, and lemon juice. Transfer the mixture to refrigerator to keep cold.
4. Start about 30 pieces of charcoal in the bottom of your grill.
5. Using a small, sharp knife cut a pocket into one end of a chunk of backstrap. Spoon as much crab mixture into the pocket as it will hold. Seal the pocket with a couple slices of pancetta, using toothpicks to hold everything in place. Repeat with each steak.
6. Pat steaks dry with paper towels. Drain the alder chips and sprinkle over the hot coals.
7. Quickly transfer the crab-stuffed backstraps to the hot grill and cover. Cook the steaks to medium rare, about 3 to 5 minutes per side.