By Michael Pendley
Need a classic looking, easy to make and delicious appetizer or hors d’oeuvre for an upcoming holiday dinner party or get-together? Look no further than this Crispy Fried Polenta Topped with Shaved Venison Backstrap.
The crispy surface of the polenta after frying is the perfect complement to the creamy interior and stringy melted cheese. The venison gets a simple quick sear on a hot grill, leaving the center a nice medium-rare for slicing.
Using rolled polenta and jarred marinara from your local grocery will speed things along in the kitchen, making prep time short and simple.
1 section venison backstrap, about a pound, seasoned well with equal parts salt, pepper and ancho chili powder
2 18-oz. rolls of pre-made traditional Italian polenta
4 to 5 tbps. extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 cup shredded whole milk mozzarella
1¼ cups marinara sauce, heated
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh basil for garnish, if desired
Start by pre-heating your grill to medium-high. Rub the venison backstrap section with some of the olive oil and season with a blend of a teaspoon each of salt, pepper and ancho chili powder. Rest the backstrap on the counter to allow it to approach room temperature while you work on the polenta.
Heat a tablespoon or so of the oil in a well-seasoned cast iron or non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Dab each medallion with a paper towel to remove any excess moisture from the polenta, allowing it to brown more evenly. Gently transfer each round to the hot pan, working in batches to avoid overcrowding, and cook for three minutes per side to a crisp, golden brown.
As each batch of polenta finishes cooking, transfer the rounds to a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Set your oven to broil and allow to pre-heat. Sprinkle each polenta medallion with a pinch of salt and pepper, then sprinkle on shredded mozzarella cheese.
Move the backstrap to the hot grill, searing for three minutes, turning 90 degrees, searing for three more minutes, another quarter turn, and so on until the backstrap is seared on all four sides for a rare to medium-rare finish. Add a minute per side for a more medium doneness. Move the grilled backstrap to a warm platter and tent loosely with foil to rest.
While the venison is grilling, heat the two cups of marinara sauce in a saucepan over medium heat.
Slide the polenta under the broiler for three to four minutes until the cheese is melted, bubbly and starting to brown around the edges.
To assemble, spoon warm marinara sauce onto the plate, nestle the polenta medallions into the sauce, and top with a thin slice of the backstrap, folded to fit the medallion. Garnish with fresh basil leaves, if desired.