The term raw food, for the average American, conjures visions of fresh vegetables and ripe fruits. The kale shake or green smoothie may make an appearance in ones formulation of the meaning of raw food as well as any organic ingredients that have not been kissed by fire or altered by heat. Others still may think of sushi, sashimi, or even ceviche. Whatever that term means to them it is unlikely they will envision red meat. There are many cultures where eating forms of beef or other ungulates raw is much more acceptable and even a staple. In the United States it is almost taboo.
Most people will have their few experiences with raw meat in a restaurant. Which amuses me, since that is the place where they have the least control over the process and ingredients but trust to serve them raw meat, an ingredient they do not even have the courage to use themselves. I have had many wonderful dishes of raw meat, in restaurants and at home, with no ill affect or symptoms. One of my favorites is Carpaccio, a relatively modern dish with its roots in Italy. It is thinly sliced raw beef, usually sirloin, served with a lemon and olive oil sauce. There are a multitude of variations of this dish but it traditionally is topped with arugula and freshly shaved Parmesan.
While ungulates (aside from pigs) carry virtually nothing harmful that can pass from its flesh to a human by eating it raw, sanitation and careful preparation is key. Only you can judge if your venison is fit to eat raw. Proper care in the field, sanitary tools to dress and butcher the animal, the recovery time (length of time it took to find the downed game), as well as shot placement are all factors when determining if the meat is fit to eat raw or will be cooked thru. Deer and other ungulates like sheep and cattle are not carnivorous and therefore do not carry the parasites that are passed by eating animal protein. This is why we must cook pork and other predatory animals such as bear to a proper temperature. The only real concern with venison is surface contamination and spoilage, both of which are easily combated with proper care in the field and at home.
For most raw venison recipes I would stick to either the backstrap or some of the primarily sinew free muscle groups in the hindquarter. I used the eye of round for this recipe. This muscle is commonly missed among hunters by either unknowingly leaving it attached to the top or bottom round when butchering the hindquarter or it gets lost entirely in the grind pile to become burger and sausage. To retrieve this cut you must debone the quarter, following the seams of each main muscle group you will find the two longest and leanest cuts to be the top and bottom round. The eye of round is somewhat tucked and rolled between these two muscles. With practice you will be able to find the eye of round and remove it without the aid of the knife, find the seams of the muscle and simply peel it away. The eye of round will almost match the tenderloin in size and shape. It is often referred to as the fool's tenderloin or the poor man's tenderloin due to its appearance and its tender qualities. This cut works well for carpaccio due to its size and tenderness. It is free of internal sinew and silver skin and perfectly round for nicely sliced medallions. Another benefit of using this cut for raw recipes is that it is an internal muscle of the leg and does not get exposed to surface bacteria in the field or by any bile or paunch in the event of a poor shot or slip of the knife during field dressing.
prep time: 2-3 hours (15 minutes active)
Cook time: 1 minute
- venison eye of round trimmed of all fat and silver skin
- 1/4 cup of finely chopped rosemary fresh
- 1.4 cup of finely chopped thyme fresh
- 1/4 cup of coarse freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup of arugula
- fresh shaved Parmesan
- olive oil
- balsamic brown mustard drizzling sauce
- coarse kosher salt
Trim and thoroughly dry the venison. Finely chop the rosemary and thyme and roll the venison in them. Massage the herbs into the meat making sure to cover all sides. Next, roll the venison again in the coarse black pepper, when done, the venison should be barely visible under the herbs and pepper. It is important to note not to use any salt at this point. It will draw moisture to the surface of the meat and potentially dry it out by the time it is ready to serve.
Now I realize this is a raw dish but heat a skillet with a splash of oil to a ripping hot temp. We will not be cooking the venison, simply sealing it. One last insurance policy to shock and kill any surface contamination. This step is not necessary if the venison is of the utmost quality and freshness but is often employed in restaurants that serve carpaccio. Place the venison in the heated skillet. Roll the meat slowly to touch all surfaces to the heated skillet. If the meat contracts or swells you either left the meat on the heat too long or did not roll the meat fast enough. The entire time in the pan shouldn't be much longer than thirty seconds. Remove the meat from the skillet and allow to cool completley.
Once the meat has completely cooled, wrap in saran wrap and place in the freezer. You are aiming for a soft Popsicle consistency so that it is partially frozen but not so frozen you cannot slice with a good chef knife or deli slicer. Slice the partially frozen venison paper thin and plate them flat on the dish it is to be served on. Place the plated venison back in the freezer to chill the plate and partially "frost" the meat to the plate. This should take about thirty minutes but can be left in for a few hours until ready to serve.
When ready to serve salt the meat to personal taste. Drizzle the meat with olive oil and balsamic mustard sauce ( I used a store bought variety but it can be easily made by using balsamic vinegar and brown mustard whisked together and reduced over low heat). Place the arugula in the center of the plate and top with shaved Parmesan, capers, and more olive oil and drizzle sauce. Garnish with some extra pepper and salt and a sprig of rosemary. This makes a fantastic appetizer for adventurous dinner guests or an excellent dinner for two.