Jacques Pepin’s Venison Steaks

Dear Friends,

For two years I avoided the venison tenderloins in my freezer because I didn’t know what to do with them. I was afraid the flavor would be too strong if I simply grilled them, so the tender cut was shoved aside as  I retrieved  roasts and ground meat  to turn into shredded burritos, pot roast, wine-spiked stews, chili and spaghetti sauce.

I had forgotten about Europe’s rich tradition of cooking game. I have enjoyed wild boar in Italy and rabbit and pigeon in France, so when a friend cued up a Jacques Pepin program on her television recently, I was not surprised to find him cooking venison. My worries about how to use those tenderloins are over.

Venison traditionally is served with a sweet and sour sauce in France, Pepin said while preparing an absolutely stunning dish of venison steaks with a sauce of currant jelly and wine vinegar.

The steaks tasted as good as they looked when I made the recipe a couple of days later, although with blueberry preserves instead of the jelly. Wowee. The assertive sauce toned down the flavor of the venison so that it almost tasted like filet mignon. I can’t believe I turned one of the tenderloins into jerky last spring. I’ll make up for it with the remaining tenderloin, which I’m saving for a special occasion.

Beef may be substituted for the venison in this recipe:


venison steak 008.jpg

  • 1 venison tenderloin, trimmed of fat (about 1 lb. trimmed), cut into 4 steaks OR 4 boneless beef steaks, any tender cut
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tbsp. ketchup
  • 1 tbsp. currant jelly or seedless raspberry jam (or blueberry preserves, my choice)
  • 2 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1 tbsp. oil
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. fresh-ground pepper
  • 1 tbsp. chopped shallot
  • 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. hearty red wine
  • 1 tbsp. butter

If using venison, gently pound steaks with a meat pounder (not a meat tenderizer) until 3/4 inch thick.

Rub with the olive oil and sprinkle with thyme. Arrange in a single layer on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 8 hours.

Mix the ketchup, jelly, soy sauce and water together in a small bowl. Set aside.

When you are ready to cook, heat oven to 160  degrees (or as low as your oven will go). Heat the 1 tablespoon oil and butter in a large, heavy skillet until hot. Sprinkle with steaks with salt and pepper and sauté over medium-high heat for 2 to 2 1/2 minutes on each side for medium-rare. Transfer meat to an oven-proof plate and keep warm in the oven while you make the sauce.

Add shallot to the drippings in the pan and sauté for 20 seconds. Add the vinegar and wine and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the jelly mixture and stir, scraping browned bits from bottom of skillet. Stir in the butter and boil for 10 seconds. Strain through a fine strainer (or skip this, as I did). Place steaks on four plates and top with sauce. Makes 4 servings.


Pizza passion:
In the three or four contests I organized at the Beacon Journal over the years to pick the best pizza in five counties, I developed a discerning pizza palate. I can tell natural mozzarella from the less expensive cheese in which milk fat is replaced with vegetable oil. I know the difference between top-quality pepperoni  and those paper-thin wafers that ooze fat. And I think I can differentiate between fresh-made dough and dough that is  purchased frozen. So you can trust me when I say that Rizzi’s Pizza in Copley Township is some of the best I’ve had.

I’m kicking myself that I didn’t order a pie sooner from my local pizza shop. The place has been in business for 32 years, for heaven’s sake. But when I moved to Copley seven years ago from West Akron, I brought my old pizza habits with me.  On pizza nights  Tony would pick up one from our former fave on the way home from his restaurant.

I’m glad we didn’t feel like budging from the sofa Sunday evening. We called Rizzi’s because it’s close and it delivers. Now I can’t stop thinking about those rivers of creamy mozzarella, those meaty slices of pepperoni, that assertive, dark red sauce and – the pizza de resistance – a crust so good I could eat it without toppings.

I’m not claiming Rizzi’s is a destination restaurant, but if you’re anywhere near Copley and have a hankering for pizza, call one in to 330-668-2626. The website, which is under construction, is www.rizzispizza.com.

Recipe correction:
I forgot to tell you when to add the vanilla bean and ginger in last week’s recipe for crème brulee. Add them after you whisk in the cream, and remove and discard them after cooking the mixture over boiling water for 45 minutes


From Anne MacWherter:
This question has always bothered me. How do you tell from a brownie recipe if the result is going to be chewy or cakey? Is
it the eggs, the amount of flour or liquid, or what? Thanks for your help.

Dear Anne: Primarily fat and flour determine whether a brownie will be fudgy, chewy or cake-like, according to pro baker Cindy Mitchell  at Fine Cooking. Fudgy brownies contain more butter and egg yolk. Chewy brownies contain more flour and butter. Cake-like brownies contain less butter, less flour, more liquid and some baking powder.

Mitchell explains it in more detail and offers a formula at http://www.finecooking.com/articles/how-to/brownies-chewy-cakey-fudgy.aspx.

From Jan Cramer, Uniontown:
I saw the request for turkey breast cooking ideas. I have been making this recipe for a few  years and it is a really nice alternative (to roast whole turkey) hat can be served hot or cold.
The leftovers are yummy.


  • 2 turkey breast halves – 4 to 5 lbs. total weight
  • 4 quarts water
  • 1 1/3 cups kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • Wood chips for smoking
  • Chipotle aioli (recipe follows)

Soak about 3 to 4 cups of wood chips in water overnight. Make aioli and chill overnight.

Wash turkey breasts and remove any excess skin and fat.  Place water, salt, sugar and soy sauce in a large, non-aluminum container.  Stir until salt and sugar are dissolved.  Submerge turkey breasts in brine.  Place a plate or heavy bowl directly on turkey to weigh it down and keep it covered in the brine.  Refrigerate overnight.

(When making this in the winter, I often use a large kettle lined with a white kitchen bag, weighed down, tightly covered put it outside out of reach of animals.  Make sure the temperature is as cold outside as your fridge but not totally freezing (between 33 and 40 degrees).

Turn on your gas grill as follows: half on hot, other half on very low. Once preheated, place turkey breast
halves on the warm side of the grill. Use a small foil pan and put the drained wood chips in it on the hot side of the grill. Close the lid. Turn turkey about every 30 minutes. It will take about 70 to 100 minutes to reach an internal temperature of 175 degrees. Use a meat thermometer.

Let rest wrapped and covered for about 15 to 20 minutes before carving if serving warm. Otherwise, chill and then slice thin Meat will be pure white and very tender and juicy with a fine grain. Meat can be cooked early in the day and rewarmed wrapped tightly in foil at about 250 degrees for 20 minutes  To serve, either drizzle with aioli or serve it on the side. It is very spicy.


  • 2 or 3 large peeled garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp. canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce  or 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder

With the motor running on the food processor, drop in the garlic cloves one at a time. Turn off and add the mayo, sour cream and a bit of the peppers or powder. Puree until smooth. (Start with a bit of the chipotle and blend it and taste until it suits your family’s heat tolerance)

This is really good and most of the work can be done the day before.

Serve with a salad with some type of fruit (possibly dried cranberries) and a slightly sweet dressing , a hot vegetable, and an au gratin potato or cheesy rice dish to cut the heat.

Dear Jan: Thanks for sharing. The turkey breasts may be cooked in a charcoal grill, too. Build a charcoal fire on one side and place a foil pan on the other side. When the coals are ashed over, scatter  a few soaked  wood chips over the coals, top with the metal grid, and place turkey on the grid over the  foil pan. Cover (with vents open) and cook as above, adding more coals and wood chips after 30 minutes.

From Leslie Kennedy, Akron:
For cooking a turkey breast, I use my Crock Pot. It keeps it nice and moist. Use the bone-in kind (or any turkey parts with bones). Sprinkle with salt, pepper, poultry seasoning or whatever else is your choice of seasonings.  Put turkey breast on a small rack or a scrunched-up piece of foil, pour in a little white wine (or broth; about half cup) and set on low for 7 to 9 hours (depending on size). Check after 6 hours with a meat thermometer. I have one crockpot that cooks hotter than the other so it all depends on the manufacturer.

Dear Leslie: Your method not only is easy but versatile; you can vary the seasonings to suit the occasion. Those who try it should use a large slow cooker and expect a stewed or steamed rather than a roasted turkey breast.

From Peggy:
Reminiscing of 80s food, I think quiche! But back then I drove a UPS truck and was a little behind in the kitchen….

A friend lived in the mountains south of Charleston, W.Va. I’d take a couple of cases of beer for a visit, and use the zillions of eggs that were available to invent all kinds of quiche. I had to use whatever was growing nearby, or that I happened to remember to bring along — which usually was just the beer.  For a truck driver, I thought I was pretty darn good in the kitchen. What a riot!

Dear Peggy:
I had forgotten about quiche, which was huge in the early 1980s. Remember the book “Real Men Eat Quiche”? Quiche is easy to transport, too, so it would be perfect for my friend’s office party.

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