While I was picking ramps and flowers the other day with my friend, we saw a few different animals. There were deer, rabbits, little squirrels and birds. They seemed to all be doing the same thing that we were: they were looking for food. Fresh greens things seem to be popping up overnight, little herbs, fiddleheads, ramps, and tiny greens are here. All of this got me to thinking about serving animals with food they eat again. I knew I had some venison backstraps in the freezer and thought it would be fun to do a play on deer and what they might find to eat in the spring, after a long, cold winter.
Venison backstraps are a prized cut of meat. You really don’t want to do to much with it. Some simply cooked vegetables and a basic sauce or vinaigrette is fine. If you were to cover it with cream or bacon like a lot of the recipes Ive seen, or braise it until it’s falling apart it can tend to hide the true flavor of the deer, which since it is wild, will have a different flavor depending on what it ate when it was harvested. My grandmother always remembers the “deer that reeked of wild sage”: she would have to open all the windows to get rid of the stench in her kitchen!
With this dish, its important to note that the sauce is on the bottom of the plate, also the vegetables are not tossed in the sauce. All I did was cook the vegetables with a touch of salt and butter and throw them on a plate. When the ingredients are of impeccable quality, there is no need for intensive cooking, or various seasonings, a little salt will do you just fine.
Venison Backstrap With Spring Vegetables And Ramp Ketchup
Serves 4 people as a light spring entree
- 4 venison tenderloins/backstraps
- 1 8 oz burdock root
- 4 oz fresh fiddlehead ferns
- 12 small ramps, green leaf trimmed where it meets the stem
- 3/4 cup ramp ketchup (recipe follows)
- Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
- Grapeseed, canola, or another flavorless oil for sauteing
- Chicken stock, about 1 cup
Everything in this recipe can be prepared beforehand a day or two and simply tossed in a pan to heat up, except the venison of course.
- Peel the burdock by rubbing it with a scouring pad. When it’s peeled, put it into water with some lemon squeezed in it to keep it’s white color. Remove the burdock root from the water and slice 1/4 inch thick on a diagonal bias.
- Cover the burdock with stock and a pinch of salt, cook in a covered pan until it’s tender, but still holds it’s shape, about 10 minutes Remove the burdock from the pan and reserve.
- Bring some lightly salted water to a boil and cook the fiddleheads in it for 3 minutes, then remove and chill in ice water to preserve their green color. Drain and reserve.
- Cut the leaves off of the ramps where the green part of the leaf starts. Heat some oil in a pan and saute the ramps gently for about 3 minutes, seasoning with a tiny pinch of salt.When the ramps get a bit of color on them, deglaze the pan with 1/4 cup of stock, then cook until the pan is almost dry and the ramps are glazed a bit. The ramps should be totally cooked through at this point, reserve them until it’s time to plate.
Finishing and Plating
- Season the venison tenderloin with salt and pepper. Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a pan and sear the venison tenderloin using the highest heat possible on each side until it is nice and caramelized, about 4-5 minutes. The backstraps should be rare-medium rare. Let the venison rest on a paper towel while you quickly saute the rest of the ingredients and heat up the ramp ketchup.
- Saute the vegetables, starting with the burdock and some oil. Cook the burdock until it gets a little color on it, then add the fiddleheads and heat them through, lastly add the braised ramps. Adjust the seasoning on the vegetables for salt and pepper if needed.
- Finally, garnish 4 warmed dinner plates with some of the warmed ramp ketchup, then scatter the vegetables over the sauce.
- Lastly, slice the venison tenderloin into 2 inch chunks, season them lightly with a touch of salt. Serve Immediately.