Venison Po Boys - N'Awlins' French Quarter Taste in this Incredible Wild Game & Gravy Sandwich
Updated: May 9
In this video episode of "Cooking with Colton, created in partnership with The Hunting Wire, Ken Perrotte (www.outdoorsrambler.com) and hunting buddy Colton Josselyn fire up the Camp Chef Woodwind Pellet Grill & Smoker and use it to cook a nice lean venison roast. The meat is used in both an incredible salad, somewhat similar to a classic "Salade Niçoise (pronounced nee-suahz)," using venison instead of tuna, and a delectable take on a New Orleans roast beef po boy sandwich. Give me a little bit more of that gravy, wouldya?
Here's the step-by-step lowdown on how to make these superb sandwiches. Just in time for Mardi Gras! Or, if you're a sports fan, looking for something you might want to slap together for family and friends before and during the big game, here it is! Read on through, past the photos showing the preparation steps, for the history of how this dish got its name.
Venison Po Boy
Most regions or major cities have them – that signature sandwich or style of making a sandwich that helps define cultural identity. Think Maryland’s crab cakes, Texas’ sliced barbecue brisket, Wisconsin’s grilled brats and other savory sausages, and Chicago’s Italian beef. Then, New Orleans has the Po-Boy.
Roll up your sleeves when you eat it because, done right, the gravy will roll down your fingers as you grab each flavorful bite. The key is using exceptional quality bread and ensuring the meat is thoroughly tender. You can use most any cut of venison, but the tenderest cuts require the least cooking time. For our video version of the dish, we started with smoked venison, adding a bold nuance to the sandwich’s flavor. You can finish the meat in a slow cooker, a stovetop pot on very low heat or a pressure cooker (if you want to speed things up). Here’s how to make it with a pressure cooker (and a saucepan, and a smoker – it’s worth it).
1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
1 pound smoked venison roast
2 teaspoons steak seasoning (we used Hi Mountain Seasonings’ Rib Rub and a dash of Garlic Pepper)
4 ounces sliced mushrooms
2 cups beef broth or stock
Cornstarch or flour to thicken gravy
4 quality sandwich rolls or French bread (something a little “crusty” is good)
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
Shredded lettuce (iceberg is fine but you can go “fancier”)
Sliced tomato (use yellow and red tomatoes for eye appeal)
1/4 sweet bell pepper (chopped)
1/4 medium-size sweet onion (chopped)
3 cloves garlic (chopped)
1 heaping teaspoon “Better than Bouillon” flavor enhancer
2 teaspoons horseradish (optional)
4 thin slices of provolone cheese (optional)
Pierce the venison roast and then rub it with olive oil. Season it with your rib rub and garlic pepper. Slow smoke the seasoned meat until the internal temperature is between 130-135 degrees.
Moving indoors, add the chopped onion, peppers, mushrooms and garlic to the pressure cooker. Then, add the smoked meat and cover with beef broth or stock. Cook for 20-30 minutes in the pressure cooker. The stock and vegetables will cook down into the beginnings of a gravy.
Our gravy is, in essence, the soul of this meal. Retrieve the liquid and cooked vegetables from the pressure cooker and place it in a small saucepan. Mash it up a little. I know -- you’re thinking this is starting to sound like work. Trust me. It’s worth it. Add the heaping teaspoon of Better than Bouillon and stir while cooking over medium heat. Sample the gravy as it cooks to ensure the desired seasoning. Dip a piece of French bread in and let it soak in the sauce. Have a sip of wine, too, while you are at it. Stir in the cornstarch and let it cook and thicken for a minute. Finally, thinly slice the venison and add it to the saucepan. Let everything simmer for a couple minutes.
To build the sandwiches, spread baguettes, sliced like a hinge to better hold the ingredients, on a platter. Spoon a generous amount of the gravy onto the bread. Wet it nicely, but don’t soak it too much – we don’t want this a soggy mess! We want it to be a subtle, semi-soggy mess. The air pockets in a fine bread will readily welcome your incredible gravy. Next, squeeze out or spread a little mayo on the bread. If you’re really adventurous, feel free to add a slightest dab of horseradish. Now, spread some lettuce and then start adding the meat, which still should be bathing in that delectable gravy. Artfully array your sliced tomatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper. You hungry yet?
Cut them in half and serve. Enjoy with a favorite beer or medium-bodied red wine.
P.S. I know some people who can’t fathom a sandwich without cheese. Cheese heads will be happy to know that a slice of provolone may be added when you are dressing the sandwich with the tomatoes. There, you can breathe now…
A little history lesson: The Po Boy sandwich had its beginnings during tough times in the late 1920s when New Orleans streetcar conductors went on strike. Brothers Benny and Clovis Martin, had had moved to New Orleans from the Cajun Country near Raceland, La., and opened a sandwich shop at the French Market after first working as conductors themselves. They had been experimenting with a way to make a better sandwich using French bread that was baked in a more symmetrical shape, versus the tapered baguettes commonly seen. When the conductors went on strike, the Martins vowed to feed them sandwiches for free. Supposedly, when a striker entered their shop, one of the brothers would call out, "Here comes another po-boy!" New Orleans Po Boys can feature everything from oysters, to shrimp, crawfish, chicken, beef or even French fries. The free sandwiches the Martins provided were said to be mostly fried potatoes, gravy and bread.