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Bacon, Ramps, Venison: Best Friends Forever

Sadly, this is the last spring we will be within foraging-distance of ramps. This is a total bummer, as store-bought ramps have skyrocketed in price ($24/pound in NYC). Needless to say, in between packing boxes we have been plotting how to make the best use of our last local ramp harvest.

One of our other concerns leading up to our imminent move is emptying the freezer of anything we would truly regret throwing away. Last week, I unearthed two venison loins (or "backstraps"), each about 3/4 of a pound.

Jackpot!

The wonderful, subtly-gamey loins provide an assertive backdrop for the pungent ramps. Added bonus: the ramp greens are protected by the bacon while the bulb ends poke out each side and get slightly charred. The key is to secure the bacon with toothpicks or a loop of butcher's twine every time you add another piece. If you use wooden toothpicks or skewers to do this, be sure that all of them are sticking out on the same side. When you brown the bacon on every side but the skewered one, you can then pull them out and proceed to brown the last side.

Obviously, this recipe will work with other slender loin cuts: pork tenderloin, lamb loin, the thinner end of a beef tenderloin. If your loin is larger than 2-3" in thickness, you can always cut it in half. We prefer to pull a delicate cut like venison, lamb or beef loin off the heat when it reaches 120-125 degrees Farenheit to get a nice pink, succulent result just shy of medium-rare. With pork, be sure to add a few minutes to the cooking time to account for the higher temperature it must reach to be safe (145 degrees Farenheit).

Pan-Roasted Venison Loin wrapped in Ramps and Bacon
4-6 servings

Pat dry:
     2 six-inch long sections of venison loin, about 2.5" thick
Sprinkle all sides of them with:
    2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
Have ready:
    4-6 strips bacon, preferably thick-cut
    16 ramps, cleaned and trimmed of their roots
    6-8 toothpicks, skewers, or six-inch sections of butcher's twine 

Arrange 4 ramps on one of the venison loins so that all of the bulbs are over the ends. Secure one end of a piece of bacon to the right end of the loin with a toothpick, skewer, or twine section. Turn the loin over, arrange 4 ramps on that side, and begin to tightly wrap the bacon around the loin. when you run out of bacon, overlap another piece over the loose end and skewer both of them in place. If at all possible, have all skewers projecting from the same side. Continue wrapping and secure at the other end of the loin. If ramp greens are peeking out, fold and snugly tuck them under the bacon. Repeat with the other loin.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Farenheit and place a medium cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Wait about ten minutes for the pan to get nice and hot. Brown the loins in the pan on all sides, taking care to not scorch the bacon. Remove the skewers, if using, when all the other sides are done and brown that side as well. Transfer to the oven and cook to your desired level of doneness; medium rare will take around 5 minutes. Let rest for five minutes, tented loosely with aluminum foil. Serve whole and slice at the table for your guests. We love this accompanied by a green salad and some creamy grits.

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Cook in a large skillet over medium heat until most of the fat has been rendered and the bacon is crisp:
           6 slices bacon
Meanwhile, shred as you would cabbage...