Recently we posted a maple marinade recipe for a cast-iron seared venison top round. The result? Slices of tender, tantalizing medium-rare venison that may well have converted the most steadfast field-to-fork skeptics around your dinner table.
I witnessed such a conversion when I prepared this dish with my friend Toufik Halimi. In addition to my son and daughter (both of whom have adventurous and free roaming palates), my girlfriend reluctantly joined us that evening. Historically, she has been a hamburger, potatoes, and veggies-from-a-can kind of girl; recoiling at the thought of letting any wild game into her house, let alone having it find its way to her mouth. The revulsion was apparently rooted in a “they told me what it was after I put it in my mouth, I gagged, and it ruined me for life” wild game dining experience when she was a child.
We’ve all got people like this in our lives, right? Staunchly opposed to trying or cooking game because of previous unsavory experiences. And who can blame them? In fact, I empathize. Over-cooked, dry, minerally, gamey wild game is unpleasant for even the most adventurous eaters. However, despite the culinary trauma of her formative years, Paula bravely lifted a fork of the seared venison, took it in, and was delighted to discover the slightly honeyed and tender venison all the while true to its wild origin. And with that bite the wild game demons were exorcised. She was a convert diving in for seconds.
Today those juicy seared slices become the hero ingredient in a VBLT sandwich, complete with thick cut bacon, heirloom tomato, sweet potato paddles, bibb lettuce, wild plum and bacon mayonnaise, and a maple syrup and Tennessee whiskey reduction. Sounds complicated, but it’s super easy. Scouts honor.
Here’s what you’ll need.
1 18- to 24-inch baguette
3/4 lb seared and sliced maple marinated venison
1 jalapeno, quartered and seared with venison (for garnish, see recipe)
4 strips regular thick cut streaky bacon
1 head of bibb lettuce
1 heirloom tomato
1 lime, quartered
Sweet Potato Paddle Ingredients
1 sweet potato
12 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 jalapeno sliced thin
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-2 tablespoons maple syrup
Salt and pepper
¼ cup whiskey (I prefer a warm and lingering spicy rye whiskey like Chattanooga Whiskey)
For Wild Plum & Whiskey Mayo
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2-3 tablespoons homemade wild plum preserves, or good quality store bought like Bonne Maman
1 splash of whiskey
1. Square up the spud and slice the sweet potato paddles
2. Drizzle sweet potato with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and cracked pepper. Place paddles on heated cast-iron grill
3. Add thick cut bacon to the grill and cook along side the sweet potato paddles. You could do it in the oven, but then you loose the benefit of the bacon grease flavoring and helping cook the potato.
4. Add fresh thyme sprigs to the charred sweet potato and bacon.
5****. When the paddles have a nice char and are tender yet slightly firm, drizzle on a tablespoon, or two of pure maple syrup.
6. Slice a jalapeno fine. I like a flavor kick so I leave the seeds intact. Throw them on the grill with the spuds and bacon.
7.**** Add about ¼ cup of whiskey to the paddles and bacon and flambé to achieve a maple syrup and whiskey reduction.
8.**** Drizzle bread tops with olive oil, flip over and coat bottoms with olive oil, too, and thensides. You can also brush the inside with the maple syrup whiskey reduction from the griddle if you like.
9. Toast the baguette by placing on a preheated griddle. Press down with your fingers, or set a cast iron pan on top to do the job for you. Toast both sides.
10. Next, we need to make the wild plum mayonnaise spread. You can find the preserve recipe here, or buy something suitable from the store.
11. Combine mayo and plum preserves. Mix.
12. Add a splash of whiskey and stir. Set aside til you’re ready to build the sandwich.
13. Having seared the venison and jalapenos earlier, remove from heat and let rest a few minutes to allow the juices to be pulled back into the tissue.
14. Slice the Vermont seasoned marinated steak across the grain into thin strips.
15. Build the sandwich by spreading with mayo, add lettuce, tomato, sweet potato paddles, some thyme and the bacon.
16. Top with melt in your mouth venison slices. Don’t forget to add the au jus.