Pan fried venison steaks with red wine and redcurrant sauce: rich, gutsy and quick to prepare. Arguably better flavour than beef, undoubtedly more ethical and sustainable.
A little rant to start with
Isn’t it bad when people who happily put away pigs, chickens and cows will balk at eating deer or rabbit (Bambi and fluffy bunny)?
They don’t, however, necessarily recoil at eating battery chickens or pigs farmed in inhumane conditions. Humane concerns only seem to surface when their object is cuddly.
Game is happier meat
Surely, it’s more ethical to eat an animal that had a happy life in the wild? If eat meat we must, game is the most environmentally fair.
Humans are omnivores, gatherers but also hunters. And as much as I’m not an advocate of hunting as a sport, being shot in an instant beats the horrors of transport to the abattoir.
A friend of mine used to say she’d only eat the animal she’d killed herself. That’s taking it a bit far in my view, as first of all I’d not rely on myself in delivering quick and painless butchery, but there’s a point.
Eat nose to tail
The fluffy Bambi attitude is as bad as happily noshing bacon but shuddering at kidneys or liver. Since you’ve killed the beast, now eat it all up, don’t waste it.
It’s about respect which Native Americans knew a thing or two about it, praying in thanks to the spirit of the animal for giving up its life to feed the people.
Venison steaks - tender or tough?
But venison steaks are a bit of a lottery. Depending on various factors like which end of the haunch your butcher cut them; whether they had aged properly; how lean the meat is - they might be tender or tough as old boots.
There’s no way of knowing unless you interrogate the gamekeeper, the hunter and the butcher and even that is not a sure proof method.
There is venison loin of course, the eye of the haunch part of cut which is probably as reliably tender as beef fillet steak. But it’s staggeringly expensive.
How to make venison steaks tender?
My way of dealing with the tough old boots odds is twofold: I keep the steaks in the fridge for a few days before eating them and I season them with salt a day before the feast.
Aging meat tenderises it. Let’s be honest: aging is nothing other than rotting the meat a little, and rotting softens it, which we know well from various police and forensic procedurals. Apologies to the squeamish!
And the salting method I owe to Samin Nosrat and it has proved times and again to be effective. Salt your meat as early as the night before cooking it and it will repay you in flavour and tenderness. Sprinkle with the salt liberally and keep the meat in the fridge, unwrapped, on a plate.
Marinate or not?
You can try various marinades on venison steaks but my belief is that they will impart flavour but not make any difference in tenderising the meat. That’s done supremely well by the aging and salting mentioned above.
It’s far better to make a pan sauce instead, and dunk the cooked meat in it for the gutsy flavour.
What sauce for venison?
The simpler, the better: red wine and a little sweetness will do the deer justice.
There will be already lots of flavour in the pan after frying the steaks so all that needs to be done is to deglaze it with wine and balsamic vinegar. The sweetness is redcurrant jelly, gorgeous in any meat gravy, and some dried cranberries if you have any.
If you then whisk in cold butter, it will turn into velvety, very cheffy sauce fit for the venison.
And for the occasion of roasting a whole haunch of venison check out the magic chocolate sauce that can be served with the roast!