Monday, October 29, 2007

Skip this entry if you're vegan: Venison Tenderloin

This past Friday afternoon was one of those warm-hazy-golden-fall-light afternoons where time is suspended until there is a sunset as gaudy as a Vegas dancer. Edward had taken the boat to the island, hoping to find another incredible point like the one he'd stumbled upon earlier in the week. Trey, our neighbor's twelve year old nephew, had asked to go along and was so grateful for the lesson that a short time after they returned he came over to the cabin bearing a small Ziploc bag of fresh venison tenderloin. Trey has been practicing all fall to use a bow, and he had killed his first deer with a shot straight to the heart. My success rate cooking edible venison is only about 50/50, so I called my best cooking buddy Lowell. Here's the method he told me to use. It turned out to be the very best venison I've ever had the pleasure to prepare. Edward said the fact that the animal instantly died was the key.

Slice the tenderloin into 4 small filets about 3/4 inch thick. Heat a large saute pan and add 1 T good olive oil. Then cut in half two slices of thick-cut pepper-coated country cured bacon and begin to brown them in the oil over high (not the very highest, one step down) heat. Meanwhile, lightly salt the venison medallions and heavily pepper them with good coarse-ground pepper, coating them with 2 tsp. dry mustard. When it's time to turn the bacon, move it away from the center of the pan to the outside edges and place the medallions into the middle of the pan, searing them well on both sides. Here's the trick on timing: When the bacon is crispy and done, the venison will be cooked to the perfect degree of doneness, not too rare and not overcooked and tough. Place the medallions on a warm plate and drain the bacon on a paper towel. Drain all the fat from the saute pan and pour into the pan a cup or so of red wine to deglaze. Leave the heat under the pan on high, reduce the liquid until it's a sauce, and drizzle over the medallions. Arrange the bacon on the sides as crispy lardons. You'll need an oven-warmed baguette to go with this so that you can capture every last drop of the glaze.

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