Beer Cheese and Venison Smothered Grilled Tater Tots
One of the great things about a Traeger Grill is that the precise temperature control lets you use it just like an oven, but with all that wood-fired flavor. Tater tots are one of our favorite side dishes to cook on the Traeger. They come out crisp on the outside, tender in the middle, and full of smoky goodness.
While plain tots cooked on the grill are great, loading them up with grilled venison steak, beer cheese, and jalapeno peppers turns a side dish into a full meal.
Cook the tots on the upper rack while you grill seasoned deer steak below. A grill pan like the Traeger Grilling Basket is perfect for tots. The pan prevents the tots from falling through the slots of the grill rack, but the holes allow heat and flavor to hit the bottom for an even cook.
Dress the loaded tots any way you like. Peppers are always good, as are diced green onions, chives, fresh cilantro, tomatoes, you name it. Make them your own. Use a tender cut of venison for the steaks, like top round or backstrap, then grill to medium-rare and slice it thin for tot topping.
2 pounds venison steaks seasoned well with Traeger Big Game Rub or your favorite steak seasoning blend
32-ounce bag of frozen tater tots
Jarred sliced jalapeno peppers (optional)
Chili powder for garnish
Beer cheese sauce
3 tablespoons salted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 cup beer
1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 teaspoon stone-ground mustard or whole-grain garlic mustard
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
3 cups shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese (we used a mixture of white and yellow cheddar)
Heat your grill to 350 degrees. Spread the tots evenly, one layer deep, over the grill pan. Place the tots on the upper rack of the grill for 30 to 40 minutes or until the surface is crisp.
While the tots cook, season the deer steaks on all sides with Big Game Rub. Set the steaks on the counter and allow them to come to room temperature.
After the tots have cooked for 10 minutes or so, place the venison steak on the bottom rack. Grill to medium-rare, 3 to 7 minutes per side, depending on thickness. Once they have reached your desired doneness, remove the steaks and tent with foil to rest while the tots finish cooking.
To make the beer cheese sauce, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the better. Whisk in the flour and stir well until it starts to take on a golden color, about 5 minutes.
Drizzle in the milk, a few tablespoons at a time, whisking well before adding more. Once the milk/roux mixture is smooth, add the remaining milk and bring to a light boil, whisking constantly, until the mixture begins to thicken. Remove the pan from the burner.
Stir in the beer, mustard, garlic powder, salt, Worcestershire, smoked paprika and cayenne. Return the pan to medium heat and stir until thick and bubbling, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
Add the cheese, one big handful at a time, whisking after each addition to melt it in. Taste and add more garlic, salt and cayenne if desired. Garnish with a pinch more of cayenne, if desired. Cover the saucepan and leave on very low heat until the venison and tots are ready.
Once the venison has rested, use a sharp knife to slice it into thin, bite-sized pieces.
To plate, pile the tots on a large serving platter. Spoon over the beer cheese sauce, pile on the shaved venison, then top with a bit more sauce. Add the toppings of choice, like sliced jalapeno peppers, then dust with chili powder. Serve immediately so that the tots don't sit in the cheese sauce too long and get soggy.