Jacques Pépin’s Recipe for Venison Steaks in Sweet-Sour Sauce

Portrait by Sam Kerr

After residing in Connecticut for more than 40 years, French chef Jacques Pépin considers himself a bona fide New Englander. “It’s where I’ve lived the longest in my life,” he says. His mastery of venison cookery dates back to his apprentice days in Paris, and remains helpful when local friends ask him about the best way to prepare this native game meat. Follow his tips:

  • It’s typically safe to eat hunted deer, but if you’ve never worked with it before, start by purchasing it from a reputable butcher such as Savenor’s.
  • Lean venison loin can be cooked like beef loin. “I like to sauté it briefly, then deglaze with vinegar, a bit of shallots, and a bit of red wine,” Pépin says. “Then I add ketchup and red currant jelly—that’s my secret.”
  • Alternatively, you can make a hamburger with ground venison shoulder blended with beef brisket.


Serves 4

1 venison loin or large tenderloin (1 ½ lbs.), trimmed of fat (about 1 lb. trimmed) and cut into 4 steaks
1 tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
1 tbsp. ketchup
1 tbsp. currant jelly or seedless raspberry jam
2 tsp. dark soy sauce
¼ c. cold water
1 tbsp. peanut oil
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp. chopped shallot
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 tbsp. hearty red wine
1 tbsp. unsalted butter

Using a meat pounder, pound the steaks gently until each is about ¾ inch thick. Rub the steaks with the oil and sprinkle with the thyme. Arrange the steaks in a single layer on a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before cooking. (The venison can marinate for up to 8 hours.)

Mix the ketchup, jelly, soy sauce, and water together in a small bowl. Set aside.

Heat the peanut oil and butter in a large heavy skillet until hot. Sprinkle the steaks with the salt and pepper, place them in the skillet, and sauté over medium-high heat for 2 to 2 ½ minutes on each side for medium-rare. Transfer the steaks to an ovenproof plate (leaving the drippings in the pan) and keep warm in the oven while you make the sauce.

Add the shallot to the drippings and sauté for about 20 seconds. Add the vinegar and wine and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 1 ½ minutes. Add the jelly mixture and mix well, then stir in the butter. Boil for about 10 seconds, and strain through a fine strainer.

Place a steak on each of four plates, coat the steaks with the sauce, and serve.


See more from our summer dining guide:

How to Eat Like a New Englander