“People get a little bolder and more wild in summer. You’ve got things going on kabobs, things cooking on the bone. There’s something about standing over a grill or outside with the family that inspires us.” ~Guy Fieri
Living in the middle of a desert, seafood isn’t always the best choice. Anytime I order fish or other seafood from a restaurant, I can almost taste the freezer burn. I can actually see it on the crab legs when I am at the grocery store. Don’t get me wrong, I still buy those crab legs and cook them up as a special treat every once in awhile, but I am still saying that in the middle of the desert, seafood is not like seafood you get other places.
That being said, oddly enough our little town has a sushi restaurant. If you had opened up a sushi restaurant in this simple little uranium mining town thirty years ago, you would have been laughed out of town. And most likely gone bankrupt, because I can’t imagine the tables would have been full. However, as the town has blossomed, or actually a better word is probably exploded, into a tourist destination quickly over the last ten years, the cuisine has evolved. There are several Thai restaurants, a handful of Mexican places, and even this sushi restaurant.
Anyway, for being a sushi restaurant sitting in a barren dust bowl of red blow sand, cactus, and sweltering heat, it is actually pretty good. The fish is flown in daily from Hawaii, and they try to source local ingredients for the rest of their ingredients, such as vegetables and fruits. I think the local produce is part of what appeals to me when I dine at the sushi place, and in particular I like their La Sal Roll. Named after the mountains to the west of the town, the La Sal Roll is a salmon based roll with asparagus, lime, cucumber, and avocado. The roll has a refreshing bite from the lime and cucumber, but is also hearty from the avocado.
This roll is the inspiration for this deer steak dish. With summer dragging in an extra long heat wave this year, eating has been…challenging. It feels so hot that steak sounds awful. But it is also summer, the season of grilling, which makes steak sound appealing. It’s a confusing state to live in. This deer steak is a great compromise. It takes the refreshing flavors of lime and cilantro and pairs it with the kick of jalapenos, creamy avocados, and a bit of spicy ginger.
For the steaks, I used deer backstrap and cut it into four medallions about three inches thick. It would also work great with tenderloin or another steak cut. Another substitution would be to use elk, moose, or pronghorn. I think this sauce would pair great with any of those steaks. Let the steaks rest at room temperature for ten to fifteen minutes. Then season them liberally with salt and pepper.
While the steaks are resting, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. On a rimmed cookie sheet or in a roasting pan, place some cherry tomatoes and asparagus. I usually do four to five cherry tomatoes and half a bundle of asparagus per person. Drizzle a little olive oil over everything, season with salt and pepper, give everything a quick mix using your hands, and throw those puppies in the oven. They should take about twelve to fifteen minutes to cook. You will know they are ready with the tomatoes are just starting to burst.
Next, prepare the sauce. To a large bowl, add two big handfuls of cilantro, just torn with your hands into chunks, one jalapeno sliced into rings (if you aren’t a fan of spicy, remove the seeds before you slice up the pepper), two teaspoons of grated fresh ginger root (which I suggest purchasing a microplane to use. They are the best, and can be used on cheese, garlic, nutmeg, or for zesting fruit), two cloves of garlic (which can also be grated on the microplane!), the juice of three limes, and four tablespoons of coconut aminos. I like to use coconut aminos for this recipe because it adds that salty soy sauce taste, but it also adds a hint of sweetness. If you don’t have coconut aminos you can always just substitute in soy sauce or tamari. Whisk everything together and set aside.
To cook the steaks, heat a skillet over medium high heat. Wait until the pan is good and hot before adding the steaks. This will create a really nice crust to the steaks. I like to actually time my steaks when cooking them. Since these steaks were fairly thick, I let them go for three minutes per side, for a total of six minutes cooking time. That resulted in a medium rare steak. If you are more of a medium person, add a minute. More of a rare person? Subtract a minute. If your steaks are thinner than three inches, subtract a minute.
Once you have cooked both sides, it is time to add the sauce. Leave the pan on medium high heat and slowly drizzly the sauce into the pan and over the steaks. The pan should be hot enough when the sauce hits the pan, it sizzles. You are almost caramelizing the sauce for a minute. Let it bubble around the steaks for about thirty seconds and then turn the heat off. Let the pan sit while you prepare the plates.
For plate preparation, dice up half an avocado per person. Make the pieces bite size chunks. Lay two medallions onto each plate. Place the roasted cherry tomatoes, asparagus, and avocado around the steak. Pour the sauce over everything and garnish with a little fresh cilantro.
So, if you are looking for fresh twist on steak, give this recipe a try. I love the heat you get from the jalapenos, the spicy little kick of the ginger, and the sweet hints from coconut aminos. Enjoy!