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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Grilled Venison Backstrap with a Balsamic Marinade

A few weeks ago, The Oldest called me up late in the week and wanted me to smoke 30 pounds of assorted venison and goose meat into jerky.  I didn't have any firm plans, so I told him to bring beer and charcoal and we would fire up the smokers.  The day passed and on Monday, Hope called me at work to tell me that The Oldest had also brought over a venison backstrap for me to grill one night for dinner.  Let's call this, "Payment for Services Rendered".

The backstrap is the Bambi equivalent of the fillet on Elsie the Cow.  I've cooked a few fillets in my time, but never one from a deer.  I do know that you can dry them out quickly if not cooked properly.  I have had them prepared via a sous vide method and loved how they turned out.  Very juicy and tender for a very lean piece of meat.  But, after a day at work, I didn't feel like rigging the beer cooler for Redneck Sous Vide Mode.  Internet, here I come.

I was looking for a marinade that could add some flavor and some acid to help tenderize the meat.  A quick search led me to an old Dr. BBQ recipe posted on O'Neill  Ray Lampe can't steer me wrong.  Right?  Champion griller and pit master.  So, I gave it a shot.  Hope whipped up the marinade and the backstrap had a chance to marinade for a good 10 hours.  

Balsamic Marinade for Venison Backstrap

1 Venison backstrap, about 2 pounds
1/3 cup soy sauce 
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup vegetable oil 
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce 
2 tablespoons honey 
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons sesame oil 
1 teaspoon black pepper 

Venison backstrap has a tendency to run on the smallish side.  Usually closer to the size of a pork tenderloin than that of a beef fillet.  Perhaps the 10 hour marinade time would be too long for such a small piece of meat.  I could not have been more wrong.  I had no idea how large this piece of meat was until I pulled it out of the plastic bag.

After lighting a chimney of charcoal and setting up the grill for a two zone fire, removed the backstrap from the marinade and placed it over direct heat for searing.  

What genetically engineered monster of a deer did this piece of meat come from?  We rarely see deer this big around here.  Then, I remembered.  This venison fillet must have come from the doe The Oldest shot with time ticking down and the sun setting on last years season.  She was one monster doe.  I would say this backstrap weighed in at over four pounds easily.  Anyway, I digress.  

I seared both sides of the backstrap over direct heat for about seven minutes a side.  Then, I moved the meat to indirect heat and covered the grill.  The grill temperature at the dome was around 550 F.  I checked the temperature of the fat end of the fillet every ten minutes, flipping the meat every time I checked the temperature.  After the 14 total minutes of searing and 20 minutes at 550 F, the backstrap was at an internal temperature of 135 F.  Time to pull, rest, and slice.  

Perfect.  The meat ran from medium to medium rare depending on the thickness of the meat.  It was tender and very juicy.  The honey in the marinade caramelized just a bit on the outside of the meat, forming a nice crust.  This marinade tasted so good, I am going to try it on beef, chicken, and pork.  This fall, after you have harvested your deer, you just might want to give this recipe a try. 

Thanks for stopping by,


Monday, July 18, 2016

Garlic Lovers Grilling Sauce

A couple of weeks ago as I was scrolling through my Flipboard feed, I saw this tasty looking garlic grilling sauce posted from the Date Night Doins website.  I clicked on the link and I instantly liked what I saw.  Four simple ingredients; garlic, canola oil, lemon juice, and salt are combined to make a sauce that you can brush on meats and veggies while grilling for a nice garlicky glaze.  So, Hope whipped up a half batch and we started experimenting.

Here is the recipe from their website.  The process is quite simple.  Remove the garlic cloves from their skin, turn to a paste along with the salt in a food processor, then slowly add the oil and lemon juice to form a thick emulsion.

Our half batch made about one pint, plus a little more.  As you can see, the sauce is quite thick.  To start, I brushed some on a steelhead fillet and seasoned with some salt and pepper.

Next, I grilled the fillet over indirect heat to promote caramelization of the sauce.

With the slow grilling, the garlic had that mellow, sweet flavor that you get with roasted garlic.  Pretty tasty stuff.

We have used the sauce as a base for a white pizza that worked very well.  I also seasoned the sauce with basil and oregano and brushed on some grilled chicken that turned out perfect.  I would venture to guess that you could use this sauce as a base for some garlic bread or perhaps a seafood scampi dish.  Needless to say, this sauce is very good.  We will be keeping some of this in our refrigerator at all times.  More to come in the future as we experiment further with this great find.

Thanks for stopping by,


Saturday, June 18, 2016

Grilled Hasselback Potatoes

I have always been horrible with potatoes on the grill.  I have made many a foil wrapped package of sliced tater that came out one of three ways: too mushy, burnt, raw.  A few weeks ago, I had a request for a grilled spud that was not baked.  I wracking my brain for the next potentially disastrous foiled potato episode.  Then, I remembered Hasselback potatoes.  It has been many years since I have made these treats.  The Hasselback potato is kinda baked, yet nice and crispy.  So, I dug through the spud bin and pulled out two of the biggest red potatoes I could find and went to work.

After washing and drying the potatoes, I grabbed a knife and sharpened the blade for fine knife work.  I laid the potato on its side and started making slices about 3/4 of the way through the potato.  Each subsequent slice was as close to the last slice as I could make it and still make a slice.  We will say 1/8th inch slices overall.  The idea is to be able to fan the potato so that it can expand during the cooking process.  Here is what the potatoes looked like after slicing.

Next, I drizzled the potatoes with olive oil, making sure to coat the surface of the potato thoroughly and to also get as much of the oil between the slices as possible.  Then I seasoned them.  You can choose your seasonings to pair with your main course.  These spuds were sides for some nice steaks, so I added granulated garlic, onion powder, a bit of thyme, salt, and pepper.  You could also put some grated cheese on top if you like.  I have since I made these potatoes and it makes for a nice crispy cheese coating.

I placed the potatoes on indirect heat on my grill, put the lid on the grill, and walked away for 20 minutes.

After the first 20 minutes, I turned the potatoes 180 degrees and put the lid back on the grill and walked away for another 20 minutes.  Halfway through the cook, these potatoes were starting to look nice and brown.

After 40 minutes of total cook time, I placed the potatoes as far away from the fire as possible to keep them warm and grilled my steaks.

These potatoes were pretty good.  They were perfectly cooked the whole way through.  They also had that nice crispy coating on the outside.  I placed a dollop of sour cream on top of my potato.  I think I am done with foiled potatoes.

Thanks for stopping by,


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Smoking Bacon & Hog Cookbook - Award Winning Grilled Pork Chops

A month or so ago, the fine folks over at Page Street Publishing Co. sent me a copy of The Smoking Bacon & Hog Cookbook by Bill Gillespie.

Bill and his team Smokin' Hoggz BBQ, which also includes his wife Shaune and their friend Alan, are an accomplished competition BBQ team.  Over the years, they have won many competitions at both the regional and national level.  Signature wins include the American Royal Invitational and the Jack Daniels World Championship.  I have known Bill for about five years now.  We cross paths with him a few times a year on the KCBS competition trail.  He is a class act and knows how to BBQ.  If I had any problem with him, it is that he is a Patriots fan.  But, nobody can be perfect, right?

The sub title of the book states, "The Whole Pig & Nothing but the Pig BBQ Recipes."  After reading the table of contents, I think the only thing Bill hasn't covered is the Oink.  Recipes range from how to cook a whole hog, how to cure and smoke bacon plus numerous recipes that you can use with your bacon, how to make homemade sausage, and how to prepare and either smoke or grill ribs, chops, loins, hams, etc...  He even covers sauces, rubs, various types of hog breeds, smokers, and wood chip selection for any flavor you might be looking for in your smoked hog.  He's got you covered for sure.

One weekend, I was staring at some pork chops and was tired of the same old, same old.  After digging through the chop section, I was drawn to the Award-Winning Grilled Pork Chop recipe.  According to the book, this recipe was Bill's first first-place trophy in competition BBQ.  Could I go wrong?  Probably not.  After a quick check of the pantry, I confirmed that we had all of the ingredients.  Off to the kitchen we go...

Award-Winning Grilled Pork Chops by Bill Gillespie/Smokin' Hoggz

1 cup apple butter
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup Smokin' Hoggz All-Purpose Rub
4 double-boned pork chops, frenched (I used thick, single cut chops as it was all I had available)
1, 12 oz bottle of steak marinade.  I used the recommended Lawry's Steak & Chop Marinade

In a bowl, combine your first two wet ingredients and 1 tbsp of the rub, mix well, and set off to the side for use later.

Next, I placed the chops in a plastic bag along with the marinade and let sit in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day, I removed the chops from the marinade, patted dry, and applied a generous coating of the rub.

I let the chops sit at room temperature while I started a chimney of coals and set the grill up for indirect grilling (coals off to one side).  Allowing the chops to sit allowed the rub to adhere to the meat, forming a nice coating.

Next, I grilled the chops for three minutes a side over direct heat.  Then, I moved the chops into the indirect grilling zone and applied a generous coating of the sauce.  The lid was placed on the grill and the chops checked for temperature after 10 minutes of cooking.  The recipe calls for 20 minutes of cooking or until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 145 F.  Since I only had thick, single cut chops, I kept a close eye on these chops.  After 10 minutes, they were around 130 F, so I applied a second coat of the sauce and covered the grill.  After about seven more minutes, I reached my target temperature of 145 F.

We sat down to dinner and dug into these great looking chops.  I was wary of how Hope would react as she is not a huge apple butter fan.  After about two bites, she declared these chops a success.  I would agree.  Tender, moist, and juicy, this chop recipe brings a lot of flavor to the table.  Count this recipe added to our do over list.

I can't wait to try some of the other recipes in this cookbook.  Everything looks very good.  This cookbook may even motivate me to purchase a meat grinder to make sausage.  If anyone out there is looking for a Fathers Day gift for the backyard BBQ enthusiast, this cookbook is just what you are looking for this year.

Thanks for stopping by,