The loin, or backstrap is a a long tubular muscle that runs along both sides of the spinal column. This is the second most tender part of the deer (after the tenderloin), and is perfect for the grill, or better yet, pan frying.
Chicken fry anything, and what’s not to like? Chicken fry some venison loins, and you can convert anyone into a wild game eater.
This is a pretty easy recipe. And there are a few ways you can do it. You could fry these up in a pan, no problem (I like cast iron). I like the ease and consistency you get with a little countertop fryer. NOTE: don’t EVER use the fryer on the countertop, in the kitchen. Unless you really like the smell of fryer oil lingering in your house for a few weeks that is. A lesson I learned the hard way..
While I come from a family of hunters, I didn’t start hunting till I was in my mid 20’s. My father passed away when I was young, and we had moved around the state as I was growing up, so I wasn’t geographically near my family that did hunt. I can recall stories of us eating venison from when I was a kid, but I don’t truly remember eating any venison meals.
So when I started hunting and got my first deer, learning how to process it and cook it was a bit of a trial by fire experience. I had this impression in my head that a venison meal was a VENISON meal: cook a hunk of deer up and eat it. Throw it on the grill, or throw it in the oven, nothing fancy, just some good ol’ cooked meat.
Now, I do truly like venison. But it turns out, just plain old cooked venison, well… isn’t that great. If you think about it though, what meat is? Can you throw a slab of pork or beef on the grill and just expect it to taste good? Odds are, you are going to treat your pork or beef as an ingredient in your meal. You’ll marinade it, tenderize it, process it, glaze it, bread it, etc, etc. And for good venison meals, you need to do the same thing – treat it as an ingredient in the bigger picture of the meal.
This may seem like common sense, but as I talk to people (especially non-hunters) about deer hunting and eating venison, they seem to have that same mis-conception I had when I started hunting. And that’s typically not a positive impression in their minds. So in the effort of furthering the cause of letting people know how good venison can be, here is a venison meal where the deer is the star of the show, but plays with a whole cast of characters that stop it from being a VENISON meal and make it a GREAT meal.
For our venison parm, we are going to go with a cut of loin. This is a quickly cooked meal, so you need something that is going to be tender without a lot processing or slow cooking. Use the tenderizing process I covered here, on a section of loin that is about 6 to 8 inches long and you will have enough meat for two big eaters, or four normal sized portions. When you pound them flat, make them a little thinner than normal because they will contract and thicken back up a little when they hit the hot oil. A half inch is good – but this is a fine line as the loin can start to shred as it get’s to that thickness – so this is a judgement call.
about a pound of venison loin
salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder to season
vegetable oil (for frying)
panko bread crumbs (other bread crumbs will do, but panko is particularly crunchy)
some kind of cheese to “parm” it with – mozzarella or provolone work well.
pasta of your choice
Take your tenderized slices of loin, pat them with olive oil, and generously season them on both sides with the salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder.
Preheat the oven to 400°. Get water going for your pasta, and get your sauce on the stove. The loins will take about 15 minutes to cook from start to finish.
Put about a quarter inch of vegetable oil in a pan and heat it over medium high heat. You will be quick frying the venison, then popping it in the oven, so you can do multiple batches if you need to – the venison will be heated again in the oven.
Whip the eggs into an egg bath in one bowl, and put about a cup of panko bread crumbs in another. When the oil is hot, dip the venison in the egg bath (thoroughly cover), then hit it in the panko, then toss it in the pan. Fry it just a couple minutes on each side – the oil should be hot enough that it gets nice and brown and crispy in about two minutes per side. Your pasta should be cooking by now.
Once you’ve fried the venison, place it on a baking sheet. If you are doing multiple batches, keep adding them to the baking sheet, but don’t put them in the oven yet. Once all the venison is fried, cover it with the cheese and put the baking sheet in the oven till the cheese get’s nice and bubbly – about 5 minutes.
Once the cheese is good, take the venison out of the oven and let is set for just a couple of minutes while you finish up with your pasta and sauce.
Serve the venison on a bed of pasta, and cover everything with sauce. Don’t forget to add a bit of grated parmesan on top.
Or for a twist, make some garlic bread instead of pasta, and make a venison garlic bread parm sandwich. Did you really think I wouldn’t mention a sandwich somewhere in here?
Some people may think me a bit crazy. “Venison tenderloin?! In a sandwich?! What a waste!” Many hunters only ever have the tenderloin as a quick grilled roast, and I have nothing against that. What I will say is, making a sandwich with the best ingredients will give you a meal you will remember.
The tenderloin is usually one of the first cuts of of the deer to hit the table after the kill. Two main reasons for this: 1) they are naturally the most tender cuts, and 2) you have to cut them out right away or they will get tainted, or worse, wasted.
The reason they can be ruined is because of location. They are located inside the abdominal cavity, and and are directly exposed to the elements (and anything that might happen during dressing) once you field dress the deer. I normally remove the tenderloins during field dressing, or immediately once I get the deer back to camp to minimize exposure. The tenderloins aren’t very big to begin with, I don’t want any of it to go to waste!
Now, I’m posting this under “recipes”, but as it’s a sandwich, this is really just a general process. I like sandwiches. No, you don’t understand. I REALLY like sandwiches. So, my general goal is to make every sandwich I eat the best sandwich ever. At the same time, it is just a sandwich, so unless you turn the meat to leather, or commit some other sandwich atrocity, you really can’t go wrong…
To start, take the tenderloins and flatten them out with my tenderizing method. You may ask yourself “why are we tenderizing a tender cut of meat?”. My response, in usual fashion is, two reasons: 1) I’ve had tough tenderloin, even when cooked rare, and 2) the resulting flattened steak cooks more uniformly.
When tenderizing the tenderloin, I normally don’t slice it in half as I did on the loin example in my other post. Because they are so much smaller than the loin, there’s no need to. Just flatten them right out as is – I like to get them to about three quarters of an inch to an inch.
Once flattened, coat with olive oil and a generous coating of salt and pepper on both sides. Then let them sit in the fridge – sometimes I’ll do this for just 15 minutes, sometimes I’ll let them sit there all day. If you have a tough old buck, letting it sit longer will make it more tender.
Once dinner time (yes, I eat sandwiches for dinner) comes around, get your cast iron skillets out, and start prepping any other ingredients you will be stuffing between your bread. This time around, I went with some peppers, onions, and mushrooms. Once they are cooked, THEN you get your skillet ready for the tenderloins. They only take a few minutes to cook, so I always prep everything else first – you don’t want the venison to get cold waiting for the onions to caramelize.
Add enough oil to cover the bottom of a skillet big enough to hold the two flattened steaks. Put it on medium high heat. Once the oil is HOT (if it’s smoking it’s too hot), throw the steaks in. Cook them for just two to three minutes per side – if your pan is hot enough, they will have a nice sear on the outside, but still be rare to medium rare in the middle. Pull them off and let them set for about five minutes. Take this time to get the rest of your fixings ready.
Since you have some nice flat steaks, you have some options on how to serve them in the sandwich. You could leave the steaks whole. More often, what I’ll do is slice the steaks into half inch strips (across the grain), and then add them to the sandwich.
In a nutshell, flatten the tenderloins, season them, then cook them fast and hot. This could be done from start to finish in less than ten minutes. The loins can easily be substituted here as well – I wouldn’t normally use other cuts besides loins/tenderloins because they’ll be tougher.
And most importantly, always remember: EVERYTHING is better in a sandwich.