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Lean and tender French-cut venison rack roasted in a maple, thyme and garlic reduction, paired with roasted carrots and pearl onions and served over a creamy, cheesy cranberry-thyme polenta. 

Maple-Roasted Rack of Venison with Cranberry Thyme Polenta

I received complimentary samples of venison for participation in Marx Foods Venison Recipe Challenge. By posting this recipe, I am eligible to win prizes associated with this contest. 

A couple weeks ago, my friends over at Marx Foods reached out to me to see if I was interested in entering their Venison Recipe Challenge. I’ll admit, at first I was hesitant. I’d never cooked venison before. Luckily, I have a Dad who loves game meat and was interested in helping me come up with a recipe! I was excited to try out the rack of venison I received! 

Venison is a traditional fall and winter meat because it’s rich game flavor pairs well with staple fall and winter ingredients, like apples, pears, and red wine. It’s perfect for this time of year. For this challenge, we were tasked with creating delicious venison dishes that focus on fall and winter flavors.

I received a 2.2 lb Frenched rack and 8 small venison medallions. This particular venison is from a farm in New Zealand, and according to Marx Foods, is prized for its lean yet tender cuts, robust flavor, and excellent animal husbandry standards. Its flavor is elegant and less intense than wild venison, so it lends itself well to many different flavor combinations. Venison is very game-y (like lamb or dove) so you have to flavor and pair ingredients well when cooking. 

Their biggest tip? Don’t overcook it! Marx Foods suggested serving it rare or medium rare. 

Maple-Roasted Rack of Venison with Cranberry Thyme Polenta

Because venison doesn’t have much fat, you have to be careful how you cut its richness. The addition of fruit (sweet) or vinegar (tangy) helps give flavor without overpowering. When doing research on venison (and using my Flavor Bible— best thing ever), I took note that flavors of onions, wine, stock, butter, shallots, thyme, and sweet fruits paired best. 

For this recipe, I chose a maple, thyme and garlic sauce/glaze to roast the rack and the vegetables in. The veggies soak up the maple flavor and juice from the roasting meat and taste amazing. The pearl onions puff up and are so moist and juicy! The cranberry-thyme polenta adds a creamy, sweet flavor. When served under the venison rack, the polenta soaks up some of the meat juices and that’s where you can notice the magical pairing. Venison + sweet + salty + fruity. 

I am not usually a fan of this rare of meat, but I’ll have to admit that venison definitely does have to stay on the rare side. If you overcook it, venison gets tough. My Dad, brother and I all tried this dish and it was amazing. The venison, polenta and roasted veggies really tie in well together. 

Here’s the recipe for the Maple-Roasted Rack of Venison with Cranberry Thyme Polenta:  

Maple-Roasted Rack of Venison

Servings 4
Author Emily Weeks, RDN, LD


For the Venison:

  • 2 - 2.5 lb rack of venison trimmed
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • olive oil
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 8 peppercorns
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 2 cloves garlic peeled
  • 5 large carrots peeled and sliced
  • 15-20 pearl onions peeled

For the Polenta:

  • 1 32oz box of chicken broth
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 1/4 cup yellow corn meal
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 cup shallots, finely minced
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 cup dried cranberries


For the venison:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Season the venison with salt and pepper, and rub a little olive oil and let rest at room temperature.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine the maple syrup, chicken stock, thyme, bay leaf, peppercorns and garlic. Boil until reduced by half.
  3. In a large pan, melt the butter over high heat. When hot, add the rack and brown on all sides. Remove from pan and add to a large roasting pan, meat side up. Add the carrots and onions, season with salt, and cover everything with the maple reduction.
  4. Cook for ten minutes, flipping the meat half way through. Continue cooking until a thermometer registers 130 degrees, 10 to 15 minutes more.
  5. Remove the rack from the oven and let rest for 1 minutes before slicing.
  6. Slice the rack and serve with the roasted vegetables.

For the polenta:

  1. In a medium sauce pan, add the chicken stock, wine, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Sprinkle corn meal, 1/4 cup at a time, into the hot stock mixture, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, until the polenta reaches a porridge-like consistency. Remove from heat. Stir in the parmesan. Stir until smooth and set aside.

  2. In a small sauce pan, melt the butter. Add the shallots and dried thyme, stirring until shallots are soft, about 3-4 minutes. Add the shallots and the cranberries to the polenta mixture.


  1. Mmm, mmm! I do love venison! Even more so than beef or pork. I practically grew up on venison, although I hadn’t had much experience cooking it for myself until just this past month when I broke into my dad’s stock of venison. Even though he’s no longer on this Earth, I feel like he’s providing for my mother and I will a fully stocked freezer of venison for us after he’s gone. Venison can be tricky to cook since it is so lean, but I think you nailed it, Emily! Outstanding! I have never heard of Marx Foods venison, but I’m going to check it out.

  2. Sounds delicious.! I think I’ve only had venison sausage. Good luck!

  3. I bought a ton of polenta but I haven’t used it yet!! This looks AWESOME and the meat looks so tender.

  4. I’m feeling that maple flavor! I also would never have thought to add cranberries to polenta, gotta try that :)

  5. Sound delicious,great recipe I do love venison, i will cook now :), thanks

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