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Free Range Venison Burgers with Pink Peppercorns, Goat Cheese & Homemade Arugula Pesto

These are "Free Range" vension burgers because the deer was gotten by my husband, on our hillside! The pink peppercorns add a wonderful sweetness to the patty. The pesto is made with my home grown arugula. I add a couple of nut varieties for a different pesto taste. I find goat cheese is a very pleasant accompaniment for the venison, along with the (low acid) yellow tomatoes.


Homemade Arugula Pesto
1 Bunch of fresh arugula, tough stems removed, washed, dried and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup lightly toasted pinenuts
1/4 cup lightly toasted hazelnuts
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup Colavita olive oil
1 ½ pounds ground venison
1 pound ground pork butt
2 tablespoons of coarsely ground pink peppercorns
5-6 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup Sutterhome Merlot wine
2 ½ teaspoons salt
Vegetable oil for brushing grill
4 ounces (1/2 cup) goat cheese, crumbled
Colavita olive oil for brushing rolls
6 cibata rolls
6 slices of yellow tomatoes


 Preheat a gas grill to medium high heat or prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill with cover.  To make the Arugula Pesto: In a small food processor, combine the arugula, nuts, garlic, cheese, salt and pepper, and process on high until arugula is finely chopped. With the machine running, add the oil in a steady steam and process until smooth.  To make the patties: Combine the venison, pork butt, pink peppercorns, garlic and wine, but handle the meat mixture as little as possible to avoid compacting it. Divide the meat mixture into 6 equal portions and form portions into patties to fit the rolls. Using all the salt, sprinkle salt on both sides of the patties.  Brush the grill rack with the vegetable oil. Place the patties on the rack, cover, and grill approximately 5-7 minutes. Turn the patties and continue to grill until done to preference, about 5 minutes longer for medium. During last 1 minute of grilling, place cheese on top of patties and close grill to allow to melt. Remove patties to upper rack, off heat, to keep warm. Brush the olive oil on each cut side of the rolls and place rolls, cut side down, onto the outer edges of grill rack to toast lightly.  To assemble the burgers, place 1/6th of the Arugula Pesto over the cut side of the roll top. On each roll bottom, place a patty, top with a slice of yellow tomato and frisee. Add the roll tops and serve. Makes 6 burgers.


If venison is not available from your local supermarket (or your local hunter!), it is readily available at Specialty stores and on-line.