A home version of a popular chop house salad — spicy seared choice cut of venison paired with crisp lettuce, mild feta cheese and an occasional bite of a sweet cranberry.
You can make your own blackening spices with a mixture of white, black and cayenne peppers, along with salt and any additional savory spices that make you happy, but store-bought blends are just fine.
Blackening of meats occurs when the spices on the outside are burnt. Contrary to what you might have heard elsewhere, searing meat on the outside doesn’t “seal in the juices,” but it sure makes it taste better.
** Warning: Burning pepper in a hot skillet has the same effect as breathing in pepper spray. Turn on the fan, open up the doors and windows, and do not breathe in the fumes directly above the pan.
Blackened Backstrap Salad with Romaine, Dried Cranberries and Feta
- 1 pound venison backstrap
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons blackening spices
- 2 heads Romaine lettuce outer leaves removed - roughly chopped
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 1 large slice red onion
- 1 small cucumber peeled and thinly sliced
- 4 medium tomatoes cut into wedges
- 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- Rub backstrap with olive oil. Coat with blackening spices, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours. Remove from refrigerator, and let rest at room temperature for 20 minutes. While meat is resting, heat a heavy duty (preferably cast iron) skillet over high heat until it is very hot. "Smoking hot" is best, but make sure that you open a window or two for ventilation. Add meat to pan, and blacken on all sides, keeping the center of the meat as close to medium-rare as possible. Remove meat, and let it rest.
- Prepare dressing. In a bowl, whisk together all dressing ingredients except olive oil. While whisking, add olive oil in a thin stream until emulsified.
- In a large bowl, toss lettuce and cranberries with a light coating of dressing. Mound lettuce mix on plates. Arrange onion, cucumber and tomato around lettuce.
- Thinly slice backstrap across the grain, and arrange on top of lettuce. Drizzle additional dressing over meat, and top with feta cheese.