A roast is often times made from a tougher cut of meat—a portion of the leg of a deer, for example. But I recently decided to turn two aged venison backstraps into a roast, which produced wonderful results in a much shorter time. The idea is to fold them over and truss them together with kitchen twine so that they are a uniform shape, which will allow the roast to cook evenly. Once folded and trussed, I slipped small pieces of pork fat into the crevices and cracks, which would melt into the meat as it cooked, keeping it moist and preventing too much water evaporation, which can happen quickly with lean game meat.
The second trick with a venison roast is a good marinade. Red wine and venison is a classic combination. I also added juniper berries, which I think are the secret ingredient. The marinade smells intoxicating and can be reduced into pan gravy with some sautéed mushrooms to spoon over the roast once it is finished cooking. The addition of olive oil in the marinade adds extra acidity to the meat helping it tenderize further. And the blanket of bacon that you add to the roast will help it stay moist while cooking, and can be removed before slicing and serving.
Accompany this dish with roasted potatoes, and a good dose of freshly chopped parsley.
“Venison Roast with Red Wine & Juniper Berries”
• 2 venison backstraps • 2 ounces pork fat, cut into strips • 2 cloves garlic, smashed • 8 juniper berries • 2 bay leaves • 6 to 8 sprigs fresh thyme • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper • ½ cup olive oil • ½ teaspoon salt • 1-750 ml bottle full bodied red wine • 8 to 10 strips of bacon
1. Fold the two venison straps over and set them side-by-side. Truss them together with kitchen twine so that they are uniform in shape.
2. Slip pieces of pork fat in the nooks and crannies.
3. In a non-reactive bowl, combine the garlic, juniper berries, bay leaves, thyme, black pepper, olive oil, salt and red wine.
4. Marinate for 1 to 3 days, covered in the refrigerator.
5. Remove the meat from the marinade and pat it dry with paper towel. Set it in a roasting pan and cover it in strips of bacon.
6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and cook the roast for 45 minutes, until internal temperature is 130 degrees to 140 degrees.
7. Remove the roast and let it rest on a cutting board for 15 minutes, then slice and serve.
8. Optional: separately, sauté some mushrooms in a pan, add the marinade and reduce by half. Serve it alongside the roast.