I love sushi. When I was working in restaurants, every Monday after work for almost two years straight a crew of us would haul ass to our local sushi spot to catch late-night happy hour and finally eat dinner. It was only natural that I would develop a sushi-style recipe for venison.
Tataki involves a technique called cold cooking. This involves applying an acidic liquid like citrus or vinegar to raw to nearly raw fish or red meat. A great example of this process is ceviche. It’s a classic raw fish salad soaked in citrus, denaturing the fish protein just enough to create an awesome texture and taste. Tataki is similar, and it’s easy, approachable, and has a wow factor that elevates venison to a new level.
This type of preparation applies specifically to the cuts that have the meat quality and lack of tendons to be served rare, like tenderloin, eye-of-round, and backstrap. The meat should be cut very thin. The ponzu sauce that goes over the venison acts as an instant marinade that will cook the meat while adding that beautiful Japanese flavor.
Togarashi is a great spice mixture with sesame seeds, chili, orange zest, and more. It adds a little more zing to the dish but is far from necessary. Storing the green onions in ice cold water gives them their signature curl and tones down the onion flavor so they don’t overpower the tataki itself.
Time to make
1 lb. venison backstrap, whole
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 tbsp. butter
¼ cup oyster sauce
¼ cup soy sauce
½ cup soy sauce
Juice of one lemon
Juice of two limes
Juice of two oranges
1 tbsp. garlic, minced
2 tbsp. serrano or jalapeno peppers, minced
2 tbsp. shallot, minced
3 tbsp. ginger, minced
1 tsp. Togarashi (optional)
1 bunch green onions, sliced thin and soaked in ice cold water
Also works with
- Begin by pouring the oyster sauce and soy sauce into a Ziploc bag and placing the backstrap in the marinade. Refrigerate for 4-6 hours. Make sure to remove the backstrap from the marinade and allow it to come to room temperature, about an hour, before you begin cooking the meat.
- In a mixing bowl, combine all of the ponzu ingredients except the green onion. Stir and let the flavors meld together for an hour or more.
- In a large cast iron or sauté pan, heat the vegetable oil until it begins to smoke. Lightly season the meat with salt and sear on all sides until caramelized. Add the butter once you flip the backstrap. This will add flavor and fat to the meat. All you’re doing here is searing the meat to a nice rare. For the less adventurous, this preparation will work with medium-rare, too.
- Set the meat aside and let it cool to room temperature. Once the meat has cooled, slice it very thinly and set the pieces on a large serving platter or individual plates.
- Stir the ponzu again and pour enough over the meat to just barely cover it. Be aware, the citrus in the ponzu will continue “cold cooking” the meat (think ceviche). The longer it sits, the more it will cook through. I find the sweet spot is about 20 minutes. When you’re ready to serve, finish with the green onions and you have an appetizer that’s sure to turn heads.