How many times have you ever heard chefs remind you to not overcook meat or it’ll become dry, chewy and something akin to an inedible boot heel?
Yeah? A few times? Maybe your mother or grandmother or Uncle Pitmaster who won’t let anyone near his custom grill has said that. “Don’t overcook it!” you’ll hear, like a mantra.
Well, it’s true. Overcooking meat, especially lean venison or wild game, results in hockey pucks that should be tossed in the trash can. Even a few minutes more in the oven or pan, or on the grill, can spell disaster. Then, you’re eating those hotdogs in the meat drawer instead of venison steaks.
I recently had the chance to hang out with Scott Leysath, noted author, TV show host (two shows!) and wild game chef. He was doing a special event for Steyr at its grand opening in Alabama. As usual, it was fun to catch up and see what Leysath was preparing. For this event he had rabbit-rattlesnake sausage with a tomatillo sauce, venison loin with a balsamic-blueberry-bleu cheese sauce, smoked quail, elk loin and bison fajitas.
It was all great. Thing is, too, Leysath doesn’t pre-cook his meat and then just heat it up. He preps all the additions — peppers, jalops, onions, etc. — by either chopping it himself or buying pre-packaged at the store in whatever town he’s in. Just like at home, he doesn’t want to waste valuable cooking time having to dice garlic or seed jalops or peppers. Do it all beforehand and be ready. He flies in with venison, elk, bison or other game he’s ordered from a reliable purveyor or has it delivered to his destination.
As for seasonings, Leysath picks up just a few things at the local store and these are items you could get and use, too: bell peppers, onion, jalapenos, fresh garlic (diced in a jar is easy and OK), balsamic vinegar (for reductions, flavor), olive oil, seasoned rice vinegar, Ponzu, siracha, hot sauce (Trappey’s, Louisiana, Tabasco, etc.), salt and pepper, maybe some feta or bleu cheese. Fresh fruit — blueberry, raspberry, strawberry, mango, limes, lemon — and some orange marmalade, which has a nice flavor. Maybe some fresh herbs, too, such as cilantro, basil, oregano and rosemary.
That may sound like a lot, but it’s not. And with some prep, a little imagination to mix savory and sweet flavors — blueberries and bleu cheese, for example — and just a few minutes to cook the meat to medium-rare and then whip up the sauce, you’ll have a super venison dish that’s healthy, easy and tasty.
Here’s one of Leysath’s very easy and tasty dishes you can make:
Spicy-Sweet Venison Loin
Venison loin, with all silver skin removed
white onion, diced
jalapenos, chopped with a few seeds included
“Take regular jalapenos, slice them and macerate in sugar, and it just liquifies and makes them sweet but not hot,” Leysath explained. “It takes about three hours and you can put them in a jar in your refrigerator and they’ll last.”
Maceration works by liquefying, just as we sometimes do in summer with strawberries or peaches. If you don’t want it as hot then remove the seeds before adding the sugar. That reduces the heat but still gives you a little kick. But leaving the seeds in doesn’t blow off the top of your head.
Leysath was right, as the macerated jalops were almost like a little spicy candy. With the fresh jalops added during the sauce, they combined for a super hot-sweet bite. The fresh lime juice adds some acidity to help bring out the flavor and cut through the sugary jalops.
Add olive oil to the skillet and sear the venison loin on medium-high until you’re satisfied. Leysath prefers a red middle, so it’s 2-3 minutes with the loin. Add the other ingredients, keep it all stirred around in the pan and get everything nice and meshed. Slice against the grain (and then halve, if you want smaller bites) and set aside.
It’s quick, easy and as usual with Leysath’s on-the-fly creations, it was darn good.
Check out this video of Leysath making the dish from, just about, start to finish. He already had put in the venison but the rest is wham-bam ready to jam:
Get more of Scott Leysath’s fantastic cooking tips, advice and super recipes with his outstanding book, “The Sporting Chef’s Better Venison Cookbook.” With 176 pages and 12 chapters crammed with great information and photos, along with easy-to-prepare recipes, you’ll certainly find something you love! These make great Christmas gifts, too.