If A Hunter Were To Make A Salad

venison-salad-recipe-cultured-cookWho says a salad can’t be manly? The term “salad” derives from sal, the Latin word for salt. A dish that’s salata or salada is simply one that’s been seasoned with salt – the original word has nothing to do with lettuce. And while some of the best classic salads are lettuce-based (Caesar Salad, Salade Niçoise, Cobb Salad), others are not (Insalata Caprese, Potato Salad, Panzanella Salad). As long as you include a dash of salt in your salad, you’re meeting the requirements.

So now that we’ve kicked the salad door wide open, why not mix and match what may seem like modern salad opposites, like meat + lettuce? And if we’re going to include meat as a main ingredient, we might as well go the whole nine yards and go with a wild sustainable meat like venison. (In Michigan, at least, deer qualifies as “sustainable.” I’m not sure that there are deer aplenty in places like the Sonora desert or palm-lined California beaches…although I have seen deer in very unexpected places, like Gerald’s Restaurant on Isla Contadora, a tiny tropical island off the coast of Panamá. Apparently, the deer got so comfortable being around people that they started to stroll up to diners in the open-air restaurant to help themselves to whatever the guests were having for dinner. But that’s another story. And no, venison is not on the menu at Gerald’s…)

If you don’t have venison on hand, this recipe would also work with bison or grass-fed beef, which you can often find at farmer’s markets and can nearly always find at Whole Foods. The trick with any wild/grass-fed meat is to cook it for less time and at a lower temperature than you would cook conventional beef – since wild/grass-fed red meat has half the saturated fat (and therefore half the calories) of conventional red meat, it’s easy to overcook.

Venison Salad with Balsamic- and Pomegranate-Glazed Onions

Count on about 1/4 lb. venison and half of a large onion per person, using about 1 tablespoon each of balsamic vinegar and pomegranate molasses per pound of meat.  If you like a lot of sauce, go with 2 tablespoons each of vinegar and molasses per pound of meat.

Onions, sliced
Venison steak, cut into 1/2″-thick strips
Balsamic vinegar
Pomegranate molasses*
Dash of sea salt
Green leaf or red leaf or Romaine lettuce

Drizzle a curl of extra-virgin olive oil into a large saucepan and add onions. Sautée on medium-low heat for 10 minutes, letting the onions slowly turn translucent. Push them to the side and add the venison. Depending on how well you like your meat done, the venison will probably only take 2-3 minutes per side to cook; use tongs to flip each piece after 2 minutes to see how quickly it’s browning.

Remove the venison from the pan and place on a warm plate. Bring the onions back to the center of the pan and add a splash each of the vinegar and molasses. Stir well and add a dash of salt. When the pan begins to look dry – after probably only a moment or two, depending on how much sauce you’re making – remove the pan from the heat and put the venison back in the pan. Use the tongs to push the venison around to soak up the lingering bits of sauce, then place the seasoned venison and onions on top of a bed of lettuce. (Or toss with the lettuce.) Add another drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil if you’d like before serving.

Enjoy!

*While pomegranate molasses impart a unique tart-but-sweet undertone, if you don’t have any on hand, you can substitute a dab of tomato paste mixed with a splash of fresh orange juice. Pomegranate molasses can be found in any Middle Eastern grocery store, though, plus nowadays I’m seeing it at more and more mainstream grocery stores as well, so you might come across it the next time you’re browsing through the aisles.

Courtesy of TheCulturedCook.com.

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