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Friday, 20 April 2012

Grilled venison with blueberry glaze, candy beets and sauteed ramps

Last Saturday was the 100th anniversary of the Titanic's sinking, the 147th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's assassination and the 42nd anniversary of the Apollo 13 disaster.  All the signs point to April 14th being an ill fated day, however, the news wasn't all bad because it was also the 29th anniversary of something much more monumental; the birth of T-Moo!  

We wanted to make a special dinner but couldn't decide what to cook and resorted to wandering wandering around the St. Lawrence market looking for inspiration.  The market is usually a rich source of inspiration (I like to eavesdrop on my fellow shoppers and then steal their ideas) but Saturday the well was running dry.  We were on the verge of giving up and eating Tim Horton's doughnuts for dinner when T-Moo stumbled across a big bushel of wild leeks (aka ramps) and we had a starting point.  They're local and wild so we decided to cook a meal of quintessentially Canadian ingredients to celebrate.  After some quick market foraging we settled on venison with a wild berry sauce on top of wild rice salad with sauteed ramps and roast candy beets.  Short of a 2-4 of Labatt and a bowl of poutine, there may be no more Canadian meal.

2 venison chops (you may only need one for two people if the deer was big)
4-6 small candy or rainbow beets
1 bunch ramps, cleaned
2 cups light to medium stock (duck and chicken work well)
1/2 pint blueberries
1/4 pint blackberries
3 dried balck mission figs, chopped
2 shallots, diced
1 clove garlic, diced
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp honey
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
Wild rice salad ingredients

The beets and wild rice salad take by far the longest to cook so start with them (either or both can be made the day before).  For the beets, chop off the greens (you can reserve them for a salad), wrap in foil and roast in a 350F oven for 30-40 minutes until fork tender.  Remove from oven and let cool, loosely covered.  When cool, the skin of the beets should simply slough off in your fingers.  See here for wild rice salad instructions.

In a large sauce pan, saute the shallots and garlic in 1/2 tbsp of butter until soft and fragrant.  Add the figs and berries and continue to cook until they start to burst.  Add the stock and simmer, covered for 20-30 minutes to allow the berries to stew and flavours to meld.  Strain the sauce, add honey and balsamic and reduce until sauce thickens.

There isn't much you can do to improve on venison so I don't try.  Rub each side with salt and pepper, grill in a hot pan for 2-4 minutes a side until the internal temperature reads 135F then remove and cover with foil to rest for 5 minutes.  If your steaks are particularly dense or thick, you can finish them in a 400F oven for 5-10 minutes until they reach temperature. If you're a hunter or have friends who are and can get wild venison then it will be gamier and denser than the farmed version but either way, it's delicious very high in protein and extremely lean.  Because of the variability in density it's hard to test venison for doneness by touch so I would recommend using a meat thermometer. 

The ramps take no time at all to cook. Saute them in a tablespoon of butter until soft, sprinkle with salt and serve along side the venison.


  1. Goodness gracious, this is amazing stuff!

    1. Thanks Tiffany. The whole dish is worth it just for the sauce.