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  • Writer's pictureCampbell Whitman

Venison with Cherry Port-Wine Sauce

It's almost Christmas time, which in my opinion, calls for many dinner parties with family and friends containing luxurious meats. Turkey is for Thanksgiving in my opinion which leaves Christmas open to the possibilities of using many other exciting proteins. This marinated wild venison backstrap is quite tender and makes celebrating feel easy.

Venison with Cherry Port-Wine Sauce

serves 2


2 pieces of venison back about 160 per person

1/2 t lemon zest

2 t lemon juice

2 t extra virgin olive oil


2 thyme sprigs (leaves plucked off)

Sweet Potato Purée

4 medium sweet potatoes (400 g flesh, once cooked)

1 T cognac

2 T butter

2 t maple syrup


1 bunch green asparagus OR any seasonal veggie (blanched & cooled in an ice bath)

Cherry Port Wine Sauce

100 g jarred cherries in syrup

15 g butter

20 g minced sweet onions

55 g Port wine

1 T butter

1/4 t chopped fresh thyme leaves


For the marinade, simply place all of the ingredients into plastic bag or a container that is flat so each piece of meat can have contact with the bottom. You can marinate this meat for up to 24 hours. And, oh, what a difference a marinade makes! Don't skip it! Place in fridge.

Turn the oven on to 180 C (350 F). Gently prick the skins of the sweet potatoes with a knife or fork. Set them on a baking tray lined with aluminum foil. Bake for as long as it takes for them to be very soft inside once stabbed. You should feel no resistance. Once done, very gently (they are hot!!!!) break the skin off and place only the meat into a food processor with the rest of the ingredients. Blend away until smooth. It shouldn't take long. Place into a pot to warm back up if necessary.

Blanch the asparagus or other seasonal vegetables until soft when pricked. Remove from the hot water and place into an ice bath or cold running water until they are no longer warm. This can take minutes....

For the sauce, add the butter to a small sauce pot. Once melted, add the shallots. Cook with some s&p with a lid for a couple of minutes on medium-low. You want these to sweat. Let the condensation from the lid fall back into the pot when stirring. Let this sweat on low for about 5 minutes, then add the strained cherries and swirl the pot over the heat to warm them up. Throw in the chopped thyme, stir and cover with a lid. The sauce will finish in a minute or two, so turn it off if you are not ready for that step. Leave the lid on.

Using a BBQ, grill pan on the stovetop or a heavy-bottomed frying pan, grill the venison steaks a couple of minutes per side. This part is always tricky when writing recipes; how long to cook certain ingredients depends on many factors. This cut of venison (back) is not usually too thick because of the size of the deer. But it's the kind of meat that can quickly go from pink (medium) to grey-brown (cooked through). If the meat is about 1 inch thick when laying on a flat surface, 2 minutes per side could be a good option. Don't forget to sear the sides as well, but usually not for as long as the shorter sides because the meat isn't a cylinder, but more like a "flattened" cylinder. Start with half the amount. Set the meat when done on a rack or a plate to let it rest, allowing the juices to redistribute through the meat. While that is resting, toss the asparagus in some oil, and s&p. Throw it onto the grill for just a few minutes before serving.

Warm back up the sweet potatoes if necessary. Check for seasoning before serving.

Back to the sauce, heat back up the pot and once sizzling, add the port wine and be careful not to set it on fire while swirling the pot over the burner. Let that reduce by half, then add the butter and continue to swirl until it brings it together. Check seasonings and serve immediately.


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