As seen on…
It has been stifling hot in many areas throughout the United States. In northeast Montana we even hit well over 100 degrees! This is especially warm considering the area also records frigid temperatures well below zero in the winter months. Even with the air conditioning blasting full bore, the heat wave has had me recalling a trip to Italy my husband and I took in late August of 2007.
Italy had been on my bucket list of places to travel to for many years. Being a history buff, I longed to visit Rome and see the famous sights. On our vacation we explored the Forum, Coliseum, catacombs, fountains and churches all over Rome. We also toured Florence, Pisa and Tuscany.
In the soaring temperatures, the last thing we wanted to fill our bellies with was the heavy pasta or piping hot pizza Italy is famous for. Caprese salad became a staple on our trip. Fresh mozzarella, juicy tomatoes, bold basil and balsamic vinegar with a touch of olive oil and salt… Sigh. The one word that comes to mind when I think of this dish is refreshing. It was exactly what I was yearning for on a hot afternoon as I stared at the thawed mule deer chops in the fridge. And so, the next stop on my mule deer meat world tour – Italy.
Looking at the components of the caprese I wanted to keep things as simple as the dish itself. At the same time I wanted to do more than just pour balsamic vinegar on some steak. In a small skillet on medium/low heat I added olive oil and an entire head of roasted garlic. I smashed the garlic into smaller pieces and then added balsamic vinegar, molasses for sweetness and a bit of sherry. Stirring occasionally I let the mixture reduce.
While the reduction bubbled I sliced up tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil leaves. I also added a large handful of baby spinach to each of my serving plates. I washed and dried the mule deer chops and heated up my electric grill to its highest setting.
Twenty minutes later the balsamic/garlic mixture had thickened and I turned off the heat. By then the grill was searing hot. I placed the chops on it and closed the lid. Two and a half minutes later they were cooked to medium doneness.
I transferred the venison to the plates and spooned the still hot reduction on top of each chop. The mozzarella, tomatoes and basil came next. A sprinkle of sea salt and drizzle of olive oil completed the dish.
On my hubby’s gourmet gauge, dinner scored four Mmmm’s. Translation – Shhh! I need a moment to savor this. Mission accomplished! Want to give it a try? Download a printable pdf version of this recipe here.
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