Wild game at big meals is a tradition we like to practice, and one of our favorite venison tenderloin recipes creates an epic feast that your family is sure to enjoy.
We're all accustomed to having two types of holiday meals - the one with our in-laws that has an overcooked store-bought turkey doused in some unknown "cranberry" goo, and the one at our house that's chock full of fresh, delicious game meat.
Regardless of your cooking abilities, that meal at the in-laws just won't stand, which is why we're saving you and yours from the travesties of tasteless bird for venison - freshly harvested by none other than yourself.
Below is a step-by-step tutorial on how to make a relatively cheap, but luxurious meal for 6 - 8 of your closest relatives this holiday season. This is one of our favorite venison tenderloin recipes, and we've used this as a Thanksgiving meal, a Christmas Eve/Day meal, or just a general celebratory feast. Enjoy!
Espresso-rubbed Venison Tenderloin with Black Garlic, Juniper Red Wine Sauce and Caramelized Cipollini Red Onions, Braised Carrots and Heirloom Apples, and Roasted Fingerling Potatoes
NOTE: We strive to buy only local, organic produce and ingredients because they produce the best flavors without tons of seasoning. If you cannot find local or organic at your grocer, we encourage you to check out your area farmer's market.
- One (1) Venison Tenderloin or Backstrap
- 1/3 c Espresso Beans
- 1 Tbs Whole Black Pepper
- 1/2 Tbs Whole Allspice
- 1 tsp Sea Salt
Black Garlic, Juniper Red Wine Sauce:
- Three (3) Cloves Black Garlic
- 1/2 tsp Juniper Berries
- 1 large Shallot, minced
- 2 cups Red Wine, divided (Wines like Cotes Du Rhone, Pinot Noir, and Malbec work well here)
- 1 packet Brown Gravy Mix
- 1 Tbs Olive Oil
- 3 Tbs Honey
- 2 Tbs Brown Sugar
Caramelized Cipollini Red Onions
- 1 lb Cipollini Red Onions
- 2 Tbs Unsalted Butter
- 1 tsp Sea Salt
Braised Carrots and Heirloom Apples
- 15 Carrots
- 10 Heirloom Apples (We used Ananas Reinette apples)
- 1 large Shallot, minced
- 1/2 c Coconut Oil
Roasted Fingerling Potatoes
- 3 lbs Fingerling Potatoes (We used the Ruby Crescent variety)
- Five (5) cloves Garlic, minced
- 1/4 c Fresh Thyme, minced
- 2 tsp Ground Black Pepper
- 2 tsp Sea Salt
- ~3 Tbs of Olive Oil
Instructions: Now, time to get to the dirty work.
1. After gathering all of your ingredients and setting them out, it's time to trim the outer layer of fat and any silverskin (thin, silvery membrane) from the tenderloin.
2. Once your tenderloin is trimmed, collect your allspice, black peppercorns, salt, and espresso beans to make the rub.
3. Add all four rub ingredients to a food processor to finely grind.
4. Fire up your food processor, and pulse until it reaches the right consistency.
5. Place your tenderloin on a long piece of plastic wrap, and begin to add the rub to the meat with one hand while the other presses the rub into the meat.
6. Once finished, look for areas to touch up and add rub wherever missing. Tightly pull the plastic wrap around the meat until it is fully enclosed. Twist ends off to seal, and place in refrigerator while prepping and cooking the rest of the meal.
7. Now that your meat is absorbing the flavors of the rub, it's time to prep and get your veggies cooking.
8. After washing your carrots, take a pair of scissors (or you can use a knife) and remove the majority of the stem from the carrots. The stem is left on solely for presentation purposes, so if you're not a fan just go ahead and take off the entire end of each carrot. After trimming, peel carrots.
10. Next, wash off all of your apples. You can also peel the apples if you wish, but leaving the skin on allows them to hold together longer during the braising process that's soon to come.
11. Now, it's time to get your coconut oil going. Get out a large, thick-bottomed pot and spoon in the coconut oil and heat until oil has melted clear and covered the bottom. Coconut oil is pretty crucial to this part of the dish, as its unique flavor lends itself to the sugars in the carrots and apples as they caramelize during the braising process. That said, if you do not have or wish to purchase coconut oil, a mix of butter and canola oil will work.
12. Next, place the carrots into the pot and add your chopped shallot. Roll the carrots around so they're coated in the coconut oil and so the chopped shallot is covering each piece.
13. The carrots take a lot longer to braise than the apples, so keep the apples on top of the carrots for as long as possible, but also make sure they get rolled around in that delicious coconut oil and chopped shallot. Set burner to medium-low heat and place lid on pot.
14. Now it's time to get the fingerling potatoes going. If you have a scrubber, use it on the potatoes to get all the dirt and any little sprouts off the skin. Don't scrub too hard though - that skin is going to need to be there to get super crispy later on. Go ahead and preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
15. With the potatoes cleaned, place them on a baking tray with aluminum foil on top. Make sure there's room for each potato to touch the pan and they are not overlapping too much. Slowly drizzle ~3 Tbs of olive oil onto the potatoes, and then roll the potatoes around on the pan until they are thoroughly coated.
16. Once coated in oil, sprinkle thyme, garlic, salt and pepper on potatoes and roll them around in the pan once more to evenly coat. Next, when your oven is ready, place the tray of potatoes onto the middle rack and set timer for 45 minutes.
17. Now that most of your long-term cooking is going, it's time to get the gravy started. Pour olive oil in pot and heat over medium-high, then add shallot, black garlic, and juniper berries. Let the shallot sweat and the garlic start to smell before adding in the honey. Diligently stir the pot until it comes to a boil, and then add the first cup of wine, bring to a boil again, and set to medium heat for the mixture to begin reducing.
18. While the gravy reduces, start peeling your onions. Cut the tops of the onions off to expose the flesh underneath, then carefully begin peeling away the top layer of skin while keeping the rest of the onion intact. Pinch off the bottom roots and place in bowl.
20. Melt butter in pot over medium heat, then add onions. Once the onions have had a minute or two to begin to sweat, add salt and stir to coat evenly. Reduce heat to medium-low.
21. Get your grill going. I like to use charcoal, but gas would work as well. You can also bake your tenderloin, if you do not have or want to use a grill. 425 degrees is the temperature you want, whatever the method. Once your grill is hot, sear tenderloin on all four sides for 2-3 minutes per side for medium rare, and up time to 3-4 minutes per side for medium. Do not cook it well done, no matter what anyone says.
23. While your tenderloin is searing, pop inside and toss the potatoes in the oven, and stir carrots and apples.
24. Flip your tenderloin out on the grill. Go back in and add the remaining cup of wine to the gravy, as well as the brown gravy packet and brown sugar. Raise heat to medium for 2 minutes while constantly stirring. Reduce heat to low.
25. Return to the tenderloin, which should be close to done, and flip once more. Check international temperature - remove it from heat at 120-125 degrees for medium rare.
25. Let the meat sit at room temperature for 5-7 minutes before cutting. While it's resting, stir the gravy until smooth. Remove the gravy and apples and carrots from heat. Remove the potatoes from the oven, and begin plating the side dishes. Once the sides are plated and the meat has rested, slice the venison in 1.5 - 2 inch cuts.
26. By now, your relatives should be standing on top of you with their plates in their hands. We like to plate everything on the table for people to pass dishes around and serve each other. Plate however you like, and most of all - ENJOY!
Looking for more venison tenderloin recipes? Click HERE for our Top 6.
Photography provided by: Chris Bohlin