I was talking to an old friend the other day about his quest to perfect the grilled pizza. After several years, he thought he’d finally gotten it down and mentioned that I should stop by some time to give it a try. When I agreed, he countered that then I could have him over for my favorite dish, which is where the conversation stumbled.
“I don’t know that I have a favorite dish,” I replied.
“C’mon,” he said. “Everybody has a favorite. What’s your go-to?”
I was drawing a blank. I try so many different recipes that there wasn’t just one I could call a “go-to.” Jack-of-all-trades, master of none so to speak. Then it hit me: smoked backstrap. That’s my go-to dish.
I’ve mentioned here before that I don’t steak my backstraps like most hunters do. Instead, they either stay whole or get cut into thirds in what I call chateaubriands–long, thick chunks of tender venison that I sear and smoke on my Weber kettle. The cut has cured vegetarians, convinced doubters that game meat isn’t really gamey, and generally been a crowd favorite every time I serve it.
There’s really no secret to my smoked backstrap, and the technique is relatively easy. The one requirement is the right rub, and I haven’t found one better than a blend that’s local to western Nebraska: Baldridge’s Seasoning. After a generous coating of Baldridge’s, the backstrap–usually elk but I also like antelope–is seared over the hot side of two-stage fire, then moved to cool side. I throw in a handful or two of hickory chips right on top of the coals and close the lid. Then I walk away and let the Weber work its magic. Oh, I might check on it once or twice, adding another handful of wood if I think it needs a little more smoke. But generally, I just let the cut roast an hour or so until the coals cook down to almost nothing. Then, after a brief rest, I slice it thin and serve with either roasted or hobo-style potatoes.
After the visit with my friend, I came home and dug through the freezer. Lucky for him, I found a whole antelope backstrap in there, just waiting for his visit.
Do you have a favorite fish or wild-game dish that’s your go-to for guests?