Saturday, June 22, 2013

Italian Medallions (and chops)

We've been completely spoiled this week, cuisine-wise anyway.  As it turns out, we needed to trim bushwhack our aquaponic basil at the same time as the local farm market is starting to have the first local tomatoes of the season.  So, we decided to give in and use up the last of our venison reserves, which was one section of a loin (or backstrap, as we call it).  It was the perfect opportunity to make our favorite venison recipe, which comes from The Complete Hunter's Venison Cookery.  It's not often we take a recipe straight from a cookbook, but this particular one is pretty close.  As a side note, Venison Cookery is one of the best big game cookbooks we've seen, so if you're just getting into eating deer and antelope and stuff, have no qualms about getting a copy.

A good collection of recipes.  Not much on processing game, but has lots of good ideas for cooking it!
The recipe says to start with prepared pesto.  So it looks like we need to prepare some pesto, then.  Here's some of our basil.  We're going to pick the leaves off the stems and hopefully end up with about four packed cups.
We just pulled some garlic, too, so that's definitely going into the pesto, stalk and all.  Ok, we'll clean the dirt off and trim the roots, but the the bowl!
We like to chop the basil and garlic first, then add about a quarter cup olive oil and have at it with the stick blender.  If we go right to the stick blender, it seems to come out stringy.
Then we season it. For this batch, we added about a half cup Parmesan cheese, a couple tablespoons chopped roasted, salted sunflower meats, half teaspoon salt, and one tablespoon black pepper.  We also added another tablespoon of garlic powder since it wasn't quite garlicky enough, and a couple more tablespoons of olive oil.  For this particular batch, our basil was a little mature (as in, holy smokes it's packed itself into the grow lights and is making flowers along the light bulb!), so it was also a little bitter.  We added about a teaspoon of honey to balance it out.
Now it's time to get the venison going.  We started cutting the loin into medallions like we normally do (little steaks about a half inch thick and 2-3 inches in diameter), but then realized they would make very small medallions, since it was a small deer.  So the rest we did as butterfly chops.  There were also a few random pieces from the ends (at the upper left of the photo), which work fine for this, too!  To make the butterfly chops, start a half inch from the end of the loin and cut 3/4 of the way through, then move another half inch from the end and cut all the way through.  Then open the piece along the first cut, and you have a butterfly chop!  The remaining section beneath the first cut is the thorax.  Put the chops thorax-up on the pan (we did it upside down here) and put it in the oven with the broiler on until they're evenly brown on the outside (probably 5-7 minutes) then flip them over and broil another 3-5 minutes.
In the meantime, slice up a tomato and some cheese.  Almost any hard cheese will work, but we especially like mozzerella, colby, or longhorn.
When the chops come out of the oven the second time, spread a thick layer of pesto on top and put them back under the broiler.  We like to add the pesto to the non-thorax side of the chops so it's a nice even layer, even if it means the chops sit slightly less stable on the pan.  They're not really going to fly away or anything.
Broil until the top of the pesto starts to turn brown.
Add a slice of tomato and cheese on top of the pesto, and return to the broiler again, just until the cheese starts to melt.
It should look something like this when done.  We do our best not to drool, but it usually doesn't work.  Seeing (and smelling) these things is just like Pavlov ringing a bell for us.
Serve them with a salad and some fresh bread drizzled with olive oil, garlic powder, Parmesan cheese, and leftover tomato.  Wash it down with a glass of cheap red wine.  They're also good on a bed of wild rice.  Make sure to ask Katie if she really wants both of hers.  She probably does, but it doesn't hurt to check.

The recipe:

4 cups packed basil leaves
1 bulb garlic, with or without greens
Extra garlic powder to taste, if desired
2 T chopped roasted salted sunflower meats
0.5 t salt
1 T black pepper
0.25 cup olive oil
0.5 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1-2 lb loin (backstrap) cut into medallions or butterfly chops
1 large tomato, sliced
0.25 lb cheese, sliced thick

Chop basil and garlic, then add olive oil and blend.  Blend in seeds, salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese, adding extra olive oil if necessary.  (Pesto should be thick but spreadable.)  Arrange medallions/chops on cookie sheet, set in oven under broiler until browned, then flip and broil again for 3-5 min.  Spread pesto on medallions/chops, return to broiler until pesto starts to brown.  Top each piece with a slice of tomato and cheese, return to broiler until cheese looks deliciously melty.  Serve hot, but not too hot.

What's your favorite pesto and/or venison recipe?  Let us know in the comments section below?

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