I went out to the freezer earlier this month, and realized I was down to my last package of venison backstrap. I decided I needed to do something special with it and I had been waiting to try out my Traeger grill on a nice piece of venison.
I have a park near my house that has been one of my main producers of wild foragables for the last few years. It is amazing how I keep finding new things to eat in the park. Last year, it was elderberries; this year it was wild plums and chokecherries. The plums weren’t quite ready when I was there, but there were enough chokecherries to make a little chokecherry syrup. The syrup is very easy to make: Take one cup of chokecherries, ¼ cup of water, and ½ cup of white sugar, combine and simmer to a syrupy consistency. Then strain it, and you are good to go.
I wanted to cook the backstrap on my grill and the top it with a chokecherry and bourbon reduction sauce. I have been reading about a technique called a “reverse sear,” where you cook your meat at a lower temperature to get the meat’s internal temperature where you need it, then finish the meat by searing it on a grill or in a pan. I used a similar technique when using a sous vide. Even if you don’t have a pellet grill, you can still try this with a conventional oven.
So I seasoned my venison with Traeger’s Prime rib rub and then set it on the grill at 250°F, with a meat thermometer inside it so I could pull the cut off as soon as it hit my target temp of 125°F. When the venison hit 125°F, I pulled it off and let the meat rest for about five minutes while my gas grill warmed up. I then seared the venison on the gas grill for about 2 minutes on each side, which brought the internal temp up to 135 degrees—just where I like it.
I have always thought meat and fish (and pretty much everything else) tastes better when cooked over a wood fire. Meat especially takes on a little bit of the smoke flavor, which makes the end product that much better. The reverse sear technique on the Traeger grill give that wood smoke flavor to the meat, so this piece of venison was insanely delicious all on its own. Then I added the reduction sauce, and that sent this dish right over the moon. The smokiness of the meat, combined with the sweet and tart sauce, was an amazing combination.
Coat the meat with olive oil, then rub on any seasoning blend you like. If you’re using a pellet grill, set your temp at 250°F—otherwise you can use your oven set at 250°F. Cook the meat to desired temp, then finish with a very hot sear at about 2 minutes on each side. Let the meat rest for about 5 minutes before you cut it up. This will help it retain all the juices and flavor.
For the Sauce
Ingredients 1 small shallot, finely minced 1 glove of garlic, finely minced 2 tablespoons bourbon 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar 1 cup chicken stock ¼ cup chokecherry syrup 1 tablespoon butter
Directions Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, then add the shallot and garlic and cook until soft (about 2 minutes). Add the bourbon and cook until almost all the bourbon is cooked off. Pour in the sherry, chicken stock, and syrup, and let simmer until reduced to a thin, syrupy consistency. Slice the meat and serve with the reduced sauce.