The other day, a wine-induced conversation ensued in the Deerslayer household regarding the best of all culinary goodness . Is pasta better than pizza? Is seared venison tenderloin superior to chicken-fried venison steak? In our family, I have to admit that pasta, cheese, bread, and garlic topped the list since junior deerslayers were voting as well (only one is old enough to partake in the wine, however). Of course, because we are a deerslayer household, wild game made it into the top 10.
One of the daughters makes a killer spicy marinara that is a favorite addition to pasta and wild game alike. With that in mind, a little brainstorming resulted in the following recipe. Beautifully seasoned venison, sliced mozzarella, fabulously flavorful marinara, crusty ciabatta, and peppery arugula came together to create the perfect combination of flavors, the consummate burger.
Spicy Marinara Venison Burgers
(1 lb. of ground meat makes about 3 burgers)
Balsamic glaze is a good way to add intense flavor without adding too much liquid. Balsamic vinegar can be used but you might need to simmer for a few extra minutes.
2-3 tbsp. olive oil
½ cup finely chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
¼ tsp. white pepper
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
¼ red wine
a blop of balsamic glaze (about a tbsp) (I used balsamic glaze because that’s what I had. Balsamic vinegar will be fine, too)
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
In a high-sided cast iron skillet, saute′ finely chopped onion in olive oil for a couple of minutes. Add cayenne, white pepper, and oregano. Stir around to let the olive oil work its magic on the spices. Add garlic and continue to stir for about a minute. Don’t let the garlic brown.
Add tomatoes, wine, balsamic glaze or vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce. Simmer while you assemble the burgers.
1 lb. ground venison (or elk, nilgai, or wild pork)
2 tbsp. chopped garlic
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1 tsp.dried oregano, crushed in your palms
fresh mozzarella, sliced, brought to room temperature
Combine all ingredients expect mozzarella in a bowl.
Each burger will require two very thin patties of the same size. Place mozzarella on one patty. Leave room around the edge to seal shut.
Making the meat patties on plastic wrap allows me to shape and move them around easily.
Place one meat patty atop the other.
Press around the edges to seal the mozzarella inside.
The cooking method you use to prepare the meat is up to you. The burgers can be grilled or cooked in a hot skillet or griddle. Because the meat is so lean, be sure to use a little oil to prevent the patties from sticking to the cooking surface. I used a hot cast iron skillet, being sure to allow meat to sear, then lowering the heat enough to make sure that they heat through and melt the cheese.
Assembling the Burgers
Cooked Meat Patties
Thinly sliced red onion (optional)
Drizzle olive oil on split ciabatta rolls. Toast under the broiler or on the grill for a few minutes.
Assemble burgers on a bed of arugula placed atop the toasted ciabatta. Liberally spread spicy marinara over the meat. top with thinly sliced onion, if desired.