I recently got invited by some friends to participate in Top Chef Venison! What fun! I had never cooked venison before (or even eaten it), but I'm always up for a challenge. After some research online, I decided to create venison sliders--mini burgers because of course we were each creating only a tasting portion. This recipe makes tasting portions for about 10 and would probably make dinner for 4ish.
I added shallots and plain yogurt to the sliders to make them moist, and cooked them in LOTS of butter. This resulted in a juicy burger despite the fact that venison itself is pretty lean. I complemented the flavor with goat cheese for richness and a tart blackberry compote for sweetness and tang. The sliders were surrounded by homemade brioche circles--rich and probably a little soft to stand up to the wet toppings, but tasty nonetheless. I made balsamic wax beans on the side.
And...the result? Despite lots of truly amazing dishes, I ended up winning! Very exciting but most of all just a really fun evening with friends and tons of good food. I was also delighted to enjoy venison since I'd never had it before--wonderful flavor and everyone really showed it in its best light! This was a great way to see all the awesome ways to feature venison in different dishes and different cuisines. Hopefully I can finagle some more someday. :) Unfortunately I didn't get a great shot because I didn't want to interrupt everything for ten minutes, but here's the best I managed:
Venison Sliders with Goat Cheese and Blackberry Compote on Brioche
1 lb. ground venison, Italian flavor
1/4 cup very finely diced shallots
2 T plain Greek yogurt
Salt and pepper
4 T unsalted butter
Goat Cheese (choose something really creamy)
Gently mix together the venison, shallots, yogurt, salt, and pepper with your hands. Shape into 10-12 small patties. Heat butter over medium heat until melted (you may want to use two skillets or do this in batches). When the butter is melted, add the burgers and cook on both sides until well done. You may need to turn the heat down to medium-low to get the inside fully cooked.
To serve, cut the brioche into slices and then cut out circles about the size of the sliders with a biscuit or cookie cutter. Spread half the rounds with a thin layer of goat cheese. Top with a slider, a generous drizzle of blackberry compote, and another brioche round. Serve immediately.
1/2 pint blackberries
Sugar, to taste
Balsamic vinegar, to taste
Heat half the blackberries in a small saucepan until soft. Mash with a potato masher and then force through a sieve into another small saucepan. Simmer the liquid until slightly reduced and thickened (about 7 minutes). Add a few good pinches of sugar and stir until dissolved.
Remove from heat and add the remaining blackberries. Stir well, and crush them slightly with your spoon (but don't turn them into a puree!). Add a splash of balsamic vinegar, stir, and taste again. How much sugar/vinegar you add will depend on your taste and the sweetness of the berries you use; just remember that this is a savory sauce rather than an ice cream topper, so you don't want to get it too sweet!
I used Dorie's recipe, linked here (though this time I did it with a stand mixer--much easier!)
Balsamic Wax Beans
1 pound wax beans
Salt and pepper
Wash and trim the beans. Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add the oil and heat until shimmering. Add the beans, season with salt and pepper, and cook over high heat until they begin to brown and blister. Turn down the heat and cover, cooking until the beans just start to become tender. Remove the lid, turn up the heat a bit, and add a generous splash of balsamic vinegar. Saute the beans until very tender and caramelized. Taste and adjust for salt, pepper, and vinegar.
Here I am with my friend Peter and our tasting portions!
This is me describing the dish to all the judges and other chefs.