I remember having no idea what a neutral ground was before my first real Mardi Gras. Football season at Louisiana State University, with its incredible tailgate parties, had just ended, and the spring semester brought new reasons to celebrate.
Through the grapevine, I’d heard that the Krewe of Endymion was the parade to see, so I went to New Orleans to watch with a couple of other Mardi Gras newbies from Texas. Standing in the middle of Orleans Avenue as the Krewe rolled by, we strained ourselves trying to catch the rounds of shimmering beads that rained down from the elaborate floats. Bead after bead, and beer after beer, the parade stretched on into the evening with blaring marching bands and Second Line dancers in tow.
And we didn’t go hungry, not by any stretch. The food spread on that neutral ground filled the streets with smells of sizzling trinity and burning charcoal, which certainly woke up my tailgating spirit. I ate well, feasting on freshly grilled venison. I grew up eating fried backstrap, but this venison was totally different. Served with a fresh herb sauce, I couldn’t get enough of it. It almost stole my attention away from the parade. Almost.
- 1 (2- to 3-pound) venison backstrap or beef tenderloin, silverskin removed
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
- Chimichurri, recipe follows
- Preheat grill to high heat (400° to 450°).
- Pat venison dry. Coat evenly with oil and sea salt. Grill venison 3 to 4 minutes with lid of grill closed, then turn and grill 3 to 4 minutes more. Reduce heat to low, and grill with lid closed 4 to 7 minutes more, or until meat reaches desired degree of doneness. Remove from heat, and let stand 10 minutes before slicing.
- Cut meat into thin slices, and serve with Chimichurri.
- 1 cup packed parsley leaves
- 5 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 medium shallot, peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon cracked black peppercorns
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- In the bowl of a food processor, combine parsley, garlic, shallot, oregano, salt, and peppers; pulse until chopped. With motor running, add olive oil and lemon juice; process until combined. Transfer to a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.
by jay d. ducote / photo styling by amy hannum