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Hickory Bacon-Wrapped Venison Filet with Blackberry Valhrona Sauce Recipe

Use cocoa nibs to season a bacon-wrapped venison fillet
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Chocolate is not just for sweet dishes anymore. Chef Scott Campbell of New Leaf Restaurant & Bar uses cocoa nibs to season a bacon-wrapped venison fillet. He also uses dark chocolate, along with butter, to enhance the flavor and creaminess of the blackberry sauce he serves along with the meat.


  • 8 ounces hickory-smoked bacon
  • 2 pounds venison fillet           
  • 2 ounces cocoa nibs   
  • Sea salt, preferably Maldon   
  • Freshly ground black pepper  
  • 16 ounces red wine    
  • 2 ounces port wine     
  • 1 ounce orange zest    
  • 4 ounces shallots, sliced         
  • 4 sprigs thyme            
  • 4 fresh bay leaves
  • 8 ounces venison stock reduction (you can also use a beef stock, simmered with veal trimmings and reduced by half, then strained)
  • 1 ounce chocolate, preferably Valrhona 72%
  • 3 ½ ounces sweet butter
  • 4 ounces blackberries 
  • 1 ounce extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 12 ounces chanterelles, cleaned
  • 8 ounces baby Tokyo turnips, blanched
  • ¼ cup chestnuts, cleaned and braised in water until tender, then peeled (you can also use canned whole, peeled chestnuts or peeled, frozen chestnuts)
  • 1 teaspoon chives, sliced thinly
  • 1 ounce micro beet greens
  • 1 ounce micro purple shiso leaves
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil


Wrap bacon around venison fillet, then wrap twine around the fillet and secure with twine. Season well with cocoa nibs, salt, and pepper and set aside    

Pour red wine, port, orange zest, shallots, thyme, and bay leaf into a saucepan and reduce to 1/8th the original volume. Mix the venison stock reduction with the wine reduction in a saucepot and continue to reduce until the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Strain. Add 1 ½ ounces butter and the chocolate to sauce and mix until completely incorporated. Next, add blackberries to sauce, finish with ½ ounce butter, and set aside.  

Pour olive oil into a sauté pan over high heat. Let the oil reach its smoking point, and add the venison. Keep cooking the venison, crisping the bacon on all sides, until reaching desired doneness (medium rare, about 130-140 degrees) and the bacon is crisped. Remove the venison from the pan and let it rest for about 3-5 minutes, then remove string.

In a sauté pan over medium-high heat, heat remaining 1 ½ ounces butter. Add the chanterelles, blanched Tokyo turnips, and chestnuts, and sauté until warmed through. Finish with chives and season to taste.

Divide the vegetables equally amongst four plates. Cut the venison filet into medallions and add to the plates. Drizzle the sauce around the meat, and garnish with micro beet and purple shiso greens and olive oil.