You know those backstrap ends that are so small, they're almost impossible to cook properly? Well, I have a solution for you - don't cook them! Ok, hear me out here. When I cut into the backstraps of my whitetail doe, I thought "hey, that looks a lot like ahi tuna." Ever since then, I've been dreaming of making a sashimi style recipe. Let me tell you, it was worth the wait and I would make it a thousand times over again. Yes, it's that good. If you're a sushi kind of person, that is.
Is it safe to eat raw deer meat?
Well, that depends on your definition of "safe." I feel a heck of a lot better about eating raw venison that only I touched rather than some ahi tuna that came from who knows where and has been sitting in a restaurant cooler for who knows how long. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy sushi and sashimi, but I understand the risks involved. There are a few questions I'd ask myself before choosing to eat raw venison. If the answer is no to any of the questions below, I wouldn't eat it raw.
- Did the animal appear healthy? This isn't a sure way to know if the meat is safe to eat raw, but it's a good start.
- Did you kill the animal with a clean shot? If you gut-shot the animal, don't eat it raw. The meat could be contaminated with E. coli and other nasty stuff.
- Did you butcher the animal safely? Were your knives and cutting boards clean and did you keep the meat cold?
- Did you freeze the meat? Freezing the meat for at least 48 hours (preferably longer) kills any parasites that could be in the meat.
What cut of meat should I use for venison sashimi?
I don't know about you, but I have a hard time cooking the small backstrap ends from a deer. They can be so small, that they're easy to overcook! Especially if they came from a smaller animal like a young doe. This makes them the perfect cut to slice into sashimi. If you don't have the backstrap ends, I would use another tender cut from the rest of the backstrap. The tenderloins may seem like a good choice but the potential for contamination is greater due to their location on the animal. Since you don't have the opportunity to tenderize the meat, it needs to be tender on its own. It also helps a lot to use the meat from a younger animal, if possible.
How do you cut venison for sashimi?
There are 3 rules for cutting venison for sashimi.
- Keep the meat as frozen as possible.
- Slice it as thin as you can manage.
- Thaw the meat the rest of the way on paper towels.
Keeping the meat mostly frozen makes it much easier to get thin slices. The thinner you can slice it, the better. Like I said above, you don't have the opportunity to tenderize the meat. Keeping it as thin as possible will help with the tenderness. I almost always thaw my meat on paper towels, no matter what I'm using it for. The paper towels help soak up the myoglobin that leaches out of the meat due to the freezing and thawing process. This removes off flavors from the meat and keeps it from getting too wet. This is especially important for this recipe because you want the meat to soak up all of that delicious ponzu sauce.
How do you make ponzu sauce?
Ponzu is a sauce traditionally made with a base of soy sauce and juice from the yuzu citrus fruit. Sure you could just buy some ponzu sauce, but it's more fun to make your own. I don't know about your location, but yuzu isn't very easy to come by in Wyoming. Luckily, you can use a few other citrus fruits instead. Most ponzu recipes will tell you to use a combination of lime and lemon juices to replace the yuzu. But, I really love the flavor combination from fresh mandarin oranges and limes instead. Besides the soy sauce and citrus juice and zest, you need some kombu (a type of seaweed), bonito flakes, and some sugar. Mix them all up in a jar, refrigerate it overnight, strain it, and you're good to go! You'll be amazed at the depth of flavor and umami in this sauce. It is seriously SO good.
Once your meat is sliced and thawed fully and your ponzu is ready, it's time to assemble your dish! I added a variety of flavors and textures to this recipe to keep it exciting. The ponzu is the base to coat the meat with a rich, deep flavor. Chili crisp and thinly sliced jalapeno bring some crunch and spiciness to the dish. Bonito flakes bring some smokiness and a little bit of funk. The citrus zest on top brightens it up and brings the whole dish together. This dish is seriously such a treat to eat. I hope you give it a try!
Venison Sashimi with Ponzu and Chili Crisp Recipe
- 6 oz venison backstrap (preferably from a young doe)
- ¼ cup ponzu sauce (recipe below)
- 1 tbsp chili crisp
- ½ jalapeno, very thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp bonito flakes
- ½ lime, zested (other half used in ponzu)
- ½ mandarin orange, zested (other half used in ponzu)
- pickled ginger, for serving on the side
- 3 tbsp soy sauce (high quality preferred)
- 1 tsp rice vinegar
- ½ lime, zested (other half used for garnish)
- ½ mandarin orange, zested (other half used for garnish)
- 1 tbsp lime juice (freshly squeezed)
- 1 tbsp mandarin orange juice (freshly squeezed)
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1" piece dried kombu
- 1 tbsp bonito flakes
- Thaw meat slightly. It should still be fairly frozen when you slice it. Slice meat against the grain into paper-thin slices. Place slices on a paper towel-lined plate in a single layer. Cover and refrigerate until meat is fully thawed and paper-towels have soaked up some juices.
- Arrange meat in a single layer on a platter or sushi dish. Pour ponzu sauce over the meat. Arrange chili crisp, jalapeno slices, bonito flakes and lime and orange zest over the meat. Return dish to the fridge for 15-20 minutes to chill completely. Serve with pickled ginger on the side.
- Combine all ingredients in a small glass jar. Refrigerate overnight. Strain out solids and it's ready to go!