Saturday, January 16, 2010

Oh Deer – Venison Tenderloin

December 2009 107

All you vegetarians out there look away. But you carnivores stay with me. Even if you’ve never eaten venison and don’t plan to.  This recipe can easily be made with beef tenderloin as well. Truth be told, I’d don’t go searching out venison. It always comes finding me. The first time was many years ago on my way to work when a deer hit my car. I was determined to catch the train and continue my commute to New York, so I called my husband to alert the police. It’s a long story, but bottom line is my husband did in fact alert the police but also obtained a “permit to possess an accidentally killed deer.” I guess you know where this is going.

Yes, he and our son heaved the carcass into the trunk of the car and took it home, a deed I didn’t find out about until a few days later when “Sal the butcher” called.  Sal had butchered the beast, but before doing so, it had to be gutted, he told them. Though neither my husband nor my son had ever performed such a task, my son was certainly savvy when it came to surfing the web.  A few clicks pulled up the very useful “How To Field Dress A Deer.”  A corner of our backyard served as the gutting ground, followed by a drive to Sal’s shop, resulting in a winter where venison made a frequent appearance at the dinner table and a springtime where the daffodils in that corner of the yard never bloomed so profusely.

Sounds appalling to some I know, and I was freaked out when I first found out what they had done.  But little goes to waste in our house – from leftover bread crusts to rinsed-out baggies. And you should know that my husband is a scavenger who pulls cast-offs from other people’s trash and turns them to treasure. At one point we had seven working lawn mowers in our garage, all rescued from someone’s garbage.  So after the initial shock subsided, I came to the realization that leaving the freshly killed deer on the side of the road really would have been wasteful. Besides, what creative cook doesn’t want to experiment with new and unusual ingredients once in a while?

Thankfully, Bambi and her ilk don’t come crashing into my car on a regular basis. But my hunter-gatherer brother does head to the Pocono Mountains each year to hunt with his buddies. The irony is that his wife is a vegetarian, so I’m the lucky recipient of his bounty – or at least some of it.

This year he brought me a couple of venison tenderloins – the filet mignon of the animal - as well as a whole leg that I’ll braise and post about later. This is the same recipe I made years ago with the road kill deer my husband and son seized. At the time, I called a few friends to invite them to dinner without telling them what I planned to serve. I just asked them if they had “adventurous” appetites. To a person, they said “yes.”

Fast forward to the dinner party, where I prepared the venison in a red-wine reduction sauce with porcini mushrooms, accompanied by polenta and sweet and sour red cabbage.  I do not exaggerate when I say people were asking for seconds. It was not an inexpensive meal though. I figured after paying for the car repairs from the deer damage, the venison cost me about $85 a pound. Are you game? Let me know and I’ll steer my car in the right direction. You just have to pay my deductible.

Start by marinating the venison tenderloins in some good red wine and other ingredients (recipe below).

December 2009 095

Drain the liquid from the meat, and chop up some vegetables. Put everything in a saucepan, add a few more ingredients and cook down, reducing the liquid.  Strain out all the veggies and herbs, reserving the liquid.

December 2009 098 

Pat the meat dry, then place in a cast iron or other oven-proof skillet along with some butter and brown it on all sides.  Place the skillet with the meat in the oven and roast for about eight minutes for medium rare.

December 2009 104

Remove the meat from the pan and set aside. Deglaze the pan and add the porcini mushrooms and a few other ingredients and let it reduce further.

December 2009 100

Pour around the meat and serve.

December 2009 105

Venison Tenderloin cooked in Red Wine with Porcini Mushrooms

printer friendly recipe here

venison tenderloins (I had two that weighed about 11 ounces each – enough to serve about six to eight people)

for the marinade:

1 1/2 cups dry red wine (take your pick – anything from an expensive bordeaux to a less expensive merlot or shiraz will do)

8 juniper berries

a couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary and fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

4 cloves of garlic

Let the meat marinate a couple of hours, or overnight preferably. Drain the marinade and set aside. Pat the meat dry.

1 1/2 cup minced onion

1 or 2 carrots, chopped

3 T. olive oil

1 cup chicken or beef stock (I prefer chicken, but you may like the more robust flavor of the beef stock)

dried porcini mushrooms

4 T. butter for sauteeing venison

juice of one lemon

2 T. brandy

2 T. butter

1/4 c. cream (optional)

a few drops kitchen bouquet

salt and pepper

Pour the olive oil into a skillet and saute the onions and carrots until soft. Pour in the reserved marinade, making sure to add the juniper berries and other ingredients. Add the chicken or beef stock. Let this mixture cook down and reduce a bit on medium high heat, for about 15 to 20 minutes. The liquid will not be really thick yet. Strain out the vegetables, but reserve the liquid.

Place the butter in a heavy skillet or cast iron pan. Season the meat with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the juice of one lemon. Saute the meat in the skillet, turning on all sides until it’s browned. Put the entire pan into a 350 degree oven for about 8 to 10 minutes, depending on whether you like your meat medium rare or medium. Remove from the oven and keep the meat covered on a warm platter while you finish the sauce.

Deglaze the bits of meat that remain on the inside of the cast iron skillet, by straining the liquid from the porcini mushrooms into the pan and adding them to the pan, scraping up the bits on the bottom. Add the porcini mushrooms as well, and all the liquid from the first pan (the one with the marinade and chicken stock). Cook it at high heat until it reduces. Lower the heat and add the brandy and two tablespoons of butter. If you want a creamier sauce, add 1/4 cup cream. Add the kitchen bouquet to get a darker color sauce. Taste the sauce and add more salt and/or pepper if needed.



  1. I've never tried venison but it looks good...

  2. bella ricetta Linda, anche se di cervo avevo solo mangiato i salumi (il salame di cervo è ottimo!), l'hai preparato molto bene con i giusti aromi e la giusta cottura.... Se mi capiterà di prepararlo, proverò senz'altro la tua ricetta!!

  3. Linda, those tenderloins look so tender and juicy ~ cooked to perfection! What an exquisite dish.

    I would have had the same reaction if dh & our son had "taken care" of the deer in preparation for the butcher in the yard ~ but like you I detest waste. Making the best of the situation is very good thing. :)

    Venison doesn't make it's way here very often~ I've only had it about 5 times in my life, but I would love to try your recipe with beef tenderloin. It looks so delicious and succulent, and the mushrooms just put it over the top.

    Thank you for sharing!

  4. I haven't had venison in many years. I would love to try your venison tenderloin with red wine and porcini mushrooms - sounds amazing. We do not waste in my household either. Good for your husband and his resourcefulness!

  5. Assaggarei molto volentieri questa ricetta da 10 e lode; io uso una marinatura simile alla tua per la lepre, il cervo ancora non l'ho mai provato.Buon fine settimana Daniela.

  6. I haver had venison quite a few times (I live in deer country) and it is quite good I love the way you prepared it braised in all that luscious wine. Yay for you for not letting it go to waste. In MN, if you are hit by a deer you also have the option of having it feed the hungry- something I very much approve of. Yay for no wasting and a delicious meal.I am fond of Bambi, but I am not fond of waste.

  7. It does look wonderful and living in Texas I've had my share of venison. But I just can't bring myself to liking it. It has a "wild" taste to me??? My husband thinks I'm crazy??? Maybe?
    Anyway, it does still look wonderful!

  8. Oh Linda...I love your pics...but I can not eat the venison...
    There is a small herd living in the woods behind my house and even though they eat everything I grow, I just could not do it...:(
    that said I have no problem with beef and i think a tenderloin would be fabulous this way!

  9. Linda I love your story of hitting the deer. It was too funny! (poor deer!). I love that you cooked it up!

    The dish looks great too by the way!

  10. I love venison, especially because it's lower in fat and cholesterol than beef. It's a nice change of pace from the norm. I hope everyone gives it a try.

  11. I haven't eaten venison in many years. A neighbor used to make venison jerkey that was out of this world. 'Tis a shame the deer bit the asphalt...but it's great that it didn't go to waste. I spotted the red cabbage and drooled. I love red cabbage. The venison was beautiful prepared. I should look into trying this meat...I wonder how "gamey" it tastes. Hmmm...

  12. I have tried Venison, it is very tasty.

    Oh what a story for family.. :-)

  13. You are very fortunate. Venison loin is outstanding!People pay huge amounts of money for the cut.
    For those who won't eat "Bambi" you are missing out.Its as good(if not better than) any beef tenderloin you have ever had.
    Great post!!

  14. I LOVE venison. The last time I cooked it, I served it with red wine poached pears and celeriac mash.....delish!

  15. You know, I think it's great that you put the carcass to good use, kudos! The deer didn't die just to become something gross on the side of the road - he fed a family and became famous on the internet! That's better then most deer can say.

    Looks very yum, btw. My boyfriend brings venison up from a hunter in Indiana from time to time. It's always a great treat!

  16. Ok the ingredients for this are just divine! I will try with beef tenderloin. Brandy? Butter? Wine? Oh this made my night!

  17. The colour! Obviously cooked to perfection. You are very lucky to have a hunter-gatherer brother. I've seen your posts on the mushrooms he collects too! The best venison I've ever eaten (so far) was in Scotland, but even that didn't look as good as this.

  18. My favourite game meat. You have the best, coveted cut and it's cooked just right.

  19. I recently ate venison for the first time - it was a venison stew with chanterelles. Oh my, how delicious. I could have eaten the whole pot!