Pan Seared Venison Tenderloin with Bourbon Reduction Sauce

Served with Wild Rice and Pinon Nut Confit on Cheese Polenta

Guest Recipe and Photo by Neal Zeller

Servings: 4
Prep Time: 1 1/2 hours
- 1 1/2 lb of venison tenderloin
- 1 cup raw wild rice
- 2 tbs. of chopped dates or raisins
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup raw pinon nuts
- 1 cup of yellow corn grits - polenta
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup bourbon
- 1/2 cup venison, elk or beef stock
- 1 whole shallot
- 3 to 4 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 cup of dried mushrooms, Chantarelle or other favorite non-lethal fungi
- olive oil
- 1 tbs. of unsalted butter
- sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper


1.Venison tenderloin is such a rare treat that I don't try to amend the flavor with a lot of marinades or rubs. Pat the tenderloin dry and lightly coat the tenderloin with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. That's it. Allow the tenderloin to come to room temperature.

2. Wash wild rice thoroughly. Bring rice and 2 cups of chicken stock to a boil. Cover and reduce to a simmer; cook about 40 - 45 minutes. Fully cooked wild rice still has some "tooth" to it. It won't be as soft as white or brown rice. Drain any excess stock from rice. Remove from heat and keep warm.

3. Lightly coat pinon nuts with olive oil and saute over medium heat until lightly golden brown. Pinons burn easily, so keep your eye on 'em. Remove from heat and keep warm, reserving a few of the best looking ones for garnish.

4. Peel and slice shallots thinly. Separate into rings. Next, peel and chop garlic finely. Coat the bottom of a heavy bottom pan with olive oil and saute the shallot until tender and slightly translucent. Add chopped garlic and continue to saute until garlic lightly browns. Add mushrooms and saute for about 3 minutes. 

5. Carefully add the bourbon to saute pan. It's best to remove the pan from the heat, then pour in the bourbon. Return the pan to the heat. If you think you have the chops for it, tilt the pan slightly away from you to ignite the bourbon and burn off the alcohol. Yes, it's tres dramitique, and really dangerous if you mess it up. Much of the drama will be lost on your guests if you set your kitchen on fire. Otherwise, the non-flambe method will evaporate the alcohol rather quickly anyway.

6. Add the venison, elk or beef stock. If using commercial beef stock, use one with low or no sodium. Reduce heat to medium low and continue to reduce sauce. For this prep, I strained the sauce for a classier plating. After about 20 minutes, strain the sauce, reserving the liquid. Everything else gets tossed on the compost heap or frozen for soup or something else later. Put strained sauce back into a clean pan and continue to reduce the sauce to your desired consistency. Keep warm and just before plating, whisk in the unsalted butter. Add salt and pepper to taste.

7. Bring the other 2 cups of chicken stock to a boil and add the grits. Return to a boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring regularly. When the grits have absorbed all the stock and are slightly thickened, add grated Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and keep warm.

8. Beat the egg thoroughly in a bowl. Add cooked wild rice, pinons, chopped dates or raisins and mix. Place confit mixture in a small, buttered pastry mold of your choice or an old tuna can with the label and both ends removed. Works like a charm. Bake in a 325 degree oven for about 15 minutes, or until confit has set. Remove from oven and keep warm.

9. Heat a little olive oil in a cast iron pan or heavy skillet to medium high. The oil should just start to smoke. Place the room temperature tenderloin in the hot pan and sear all sides, but turning it only once to sear each side. Reduce heat to medium and after about 6 - 8 minutes, start taking readings with a good meat thermometer. I can't say enough good things about meat thermometers. We're looking for an internal temperature of about 115 - 120 degrees. You want this exquisite roast cooked rare. When the temperature has been reached, immediately remove the roast to a cutting board. Tent loosely with foil and let it rest for about 10 minutes. The internal temperature will rise slightly to about 125 degrees.

10. On warm plates, place rice, pinon confit and some cheese polenta around the confit. Slice the rested tenderloin in thick slices and stand them against the confit. spoon the bourbon reduction sauce at the base of the roast and garnish with a few pinons.