The Washington Post

Grilled Venison in Sumac With Black Walnuts

Grilled Venison in Sumac With Black Walnuts 8.000

Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post

Nov 19, 2014

A nod to what the Indians brought to the original Thanksgiving feast, this dish adds depth and bounty to a modern table.

An eight-rib rack of venison can be ordered through your favorite butcher or from online sources such as D’

Chef Tarver King forages for sumac berries around Patowmack Farm in Lovettsville; they are available through various gourmet purveyors online. We also tested this recipe with ground sumac, available at Mediterranean markets.

Make Ahead: The venison needs to marinate in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days. The walnuts should be prepared just before serving.


When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 8 servings

  • For the marinade and venison
  • 1/4 cup lightly toasted and ground sumac berries (may substitute ground sumac; see headnote)
  • 1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped sage leaves, stems reserved if using a charcoal grill
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup walnut oil
  • One 3-to-4-pound rack of venison (bones frenched; see headnote)
  • Coarse sea salt or other good-quality, crunchy finishing salt, for garnish
  • For the walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
  • 1 cup black walnut pieces
  • 2 tablespoons ground sumac (see headnote)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped sage, stems reserved if using a charcoal grill
  • Kosher salt


For the marinade and venison: Combine the sumac, Worcestershire sauce, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, sage, salt and pepper in a liquid measuring cup. Whisk in the oil to form an emulsified marinade. Reserve, cover and refrigerate 1/2 cup (for serving).

Place the rack of venison in a gallon-size zip-top bag. Pour the remaining marinade over and seal the bag, pressing out as much air as possible. Massage (through the bag) to coat the meat evenly, then refrigerate for 2 to 3 days.

Prepare the grill for direct heat: If using a gas grill, preheat to medium-high (375 degrees) with the lid closed. If using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal or wood briquettes; when the briquettes are ready, distribute them evenly over the cooking area. For a medium-hot fire, you should be able to hold your hand about 6 inches above the coals for 4 to 6 seconds. Have ready a spray water bottle for taming any flames. Brush the grill grate.

Remove the venison rack from the bag, reserving the marinade; you will use some of it for basting. Dry the rack with paper towels and place it on the grill, top side down. Close the lid and grill for about 10 minutes, then baste both sides with a little of the marinade. Invert the rack; close the lid and grill for 10 minutes, then baste on both sides once again and close the lid to continue cooking.

When the meat is close to being done, toss the reserved sage stems on the coals (for a charcoal grill) and quickly close the lid. The venison is done when an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the meat, away from the bone, registers 155 to 160 degrees (a very red medium-rare).

Transfer the rack to a cutting board to rest for 10 minutes; cover loosely to keep warm. Discard the unused marinade from the bag. Let the refrigerated, reserved marinade come to room temperature.

Meanwhile, prepare the walnuts: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a plate with paper towels.

Combine the butter and oil in an ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Once the butter is frothy, stir in the walnuts. Transfer to the oven; toast the nuts for 8 to 10 minutes, until browned and fragrant. Move the skillet back to the stove top (off the heat); stir in the sumac, sage and a good pinch of salt.

Cut the rack into individual chops. Arrange them on a platter; sprinkle with the crunchy salt. Spoon the reserved, unused 1/2 cup of marinade over them. Scatter the walnuts on top. Serve hot.

Recipe Source

Adapted from Tarver King, chef at Patowmack Farm in Lovettsville, Va.

Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.

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Nutritional Facts

Ingredients are too variable for a meaningful analysis.

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