Lean venison loin is a real crowd-pleaser as a beef substitute in a hearty Philly cheesesteak sandwich, one of Cai ap Bryn’s favourite quick dishes. Makes three sandwiches.

I will always remember my first proper cheesesteak sandwich. It wasn’t in Philadelphia, however, it was in New York, which is close enough.

I have always been a big lover of steak. In fact, if you were to ask me what my last meal on earth would be, I would probably have to choose steak. I love it. The meaty texture and rich flavour is something that can’t be matched as much as people try. A good steak is the real deal.

But I do think venison is a fantastic substitute for beef. It is a red meat that is bold and flavourful. I don’t like my venison strong. I like to hang a good fallow for seven to 10 days.

Not gamey

I think venison shouldn’t be gamey. It can be sweet and delightful as long as the whole process from field to table has been dealt with properly and the animal was not shot in the rut, as it would be full of testosterone, which produces a toxin in the meat.

This meal, or a snack if you must, is another one of my quick crowd-pleasers. It involves little work but the outcome is tremendous. I make my own savoury rub to go on the venison, which gives it a nice savoury edge with a bit of a spicy kick. Of course, if you are not a fan of spice, you can simply remove the chillies.

The basic fundamentals of a good Philadelphia venison cheesesteak sandwich are thinly sliced steak, onions and cheese in a bread baguette or equivalent roll. Some people, like me, like to add peppers and others prefer adding mushrooms. It’s all down to personal preference.

For this recipe, I use the leanest and most tender pieces possible, such as the inside fillets or the loins. Both are good but the inside fillets, though incredibly tasty, probably have just enough meat for a sandwich per fillet. A deer is obviously a lot smaller than a cow, so the meat yield is much less. So for this recipe, I have used a nice lean loin.

Venison Philly cheesesteak sandwich

Ingredients

  • 500g venison loin
  • 2 white onions, sliced
  • 2 peppers, sliced
  • 6 slices Monterey jack cheese (you could use cheddar or even a softer gouda style)
  • 3 6in bread baguettes, ciabattas or equivalent

For the rub

  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 Tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp celery salt
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • 1 Tsp garlic granules
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp mild chilli powder olive oil

Method

For the rub

  1. Mix all ingredients with olive oil until it makes a nice marinade.
  2. Rub it all over the venison loin and let it rest for an hour at room temperature.

For the sandwich

  1. On a hot skillet with a tablespoon of oil, sear the venison on all sides until it is medium rare. At about 55°C, this could take five to seven minutes. The length of time it will take depends on the thickness of the loin. I like to really get a crust on the meat by searing the loin and putting a nice colour on the outside. When it is seared, set it aside to rest.
  2. Add another tablespoon of oil to the same pan. Add the onions and peppers. Once soft, pile the onions and garlic in the middle and lay over the cheese so it melts with the residual heat.
  3. Open up the chosen bread or roll. Now, place it in the pan to absorb the remaining juices.
  4. Lay over the onions. Slice the loin thinly and pack it into the sandwich. The sandwich must be eaten warm to fully enjoy the experience. There is always the option to use condiments, and ketchup, mayonnaise or even mustard all work well.’