Monday, November 29, 2010

Venison Tenderloin Marinated and Pan Fried with Onion

Yeah, I know, big title, but it describes this dish to a "T." When the family hunters bring in fresh venison, I always take the extremely tender tenderloins - the strips of meat under the ribcage - marinade them, slice into medallions, and pan fry them with some onion. And I mean right away!

These are the first cuts of meat that come off the deer and make our meal for that night. This is seriously fresh food! Usually there's enough goodness in the bottom of the fry pan to make a great sauce with some butter and broth/wine. True to my "by the pants" method of cooking, I had to wing-it on some of the ingredients this time, but I have never been wrong on how to do this meal. Perfect peasant fare!

Note: There are a lot of people in this area and around the country who go without meat or healthy protein at any meal and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources suggests the Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry program as a way for you to donate your kill to area food banks and to help feed the hungry this winter; FHFH pays the processing fee.

For this dish...

4 venison tenderloins (or about 2 lbs)
1 large onion, sliced
2 T minced garlic
1 t dried thyme
1 t sea salt
1/2 t ground black pepper
Olive oil
Rice wine vinegar
3 pats (tablespoonish) cold butter
broth (beef broth would be best, but if all you have is chicken or veggie, or even just plain water - go for it!)
Red wine (optional! You can use this instead of broth and it is AMAZING!)

Rice, already cooked (I used Nishiki, short-grain white rice because that's what my family prefers, but an aromatic rice, such as Basmati or Jasmine, would be wonderful with this dish.)

Veggie of choice, already cooked (pictured you'll see local green beans that I stir-fried and steamed)

After cleaning the tenderloins (they are very tender, be careful), place in a bowl. In another bowl, pour about a 1/4 - 1/2c olive oil and 2 - 4T or so of the vinegar. I use Rice wine vinegar because of its mild flavor. Add the garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper and whisk until well blended (emulsified - if you really want to know the term!). Pour over the meat and flip the meat around in the mixture to coat. While it sits, heat a fry pan on medium high with a few tablespoons olive oil to coat the bottom. When hot, add sliced onion and saute until the onion is caramelized. REMOVE the onion to a bowl. Remove the pan from the heat, but only for a bit, and add a bit more olive oil to recoat the pan. Time to prep the meat!

**You can let the meat marinade for longer, but it is so tender, it really doesn't need more than a half hour or so, and a few minutes is all the time I wanted to take... :o)

Remove a tenderloin from the marinade, put it on a cutting board, and slice it across the grain to make little nuggets (medallions). You will see that the muscle fibers of the tenderloin run one direction, lengthwise; cut perpendicular across this direction of this "grain." Repeat for all the tenderloins and toss all the cut pieces back into the bowl. Take the bowl of meat pieces to the stove, place the fry pan back on the heat and heat it long enough (med-high) to get sizzling.

Carefully place slices, cut side down, in the pan and sear them - get a good brown on each fresh-cut side. Using tongs or a small spatula, turn each medallion to sear on the other side. When seared, remove the meat pieces to the bowl of onion and repeat the process until all pieces are browned. When you get about half-way done, your pan will look like the one below - all bubbly! If it starts to smoke, turn down the heat a bit, but you need it HOT to get the meat seared. When you are on your last batch of nuggets and frying the second side, add the pats of butter and enough broth to loosen the tasty bits off the bottom of the pan. You can add a few splashes of your wine at this point, too.

Drink the rest of your wine...

Return the meat and onions (and all accumulated juices) to the pan and toss everything together. Turn heat to medium and let the flavors mix for about 5 minutes, tossing once or twice.

To plate it, put it however you want on your plate, but you *have* to make sure to drizzle some of the saucy goodness from the pan all over your rice and veggies. I put the rice down and meat over that, but you could just toss the meat and sauce into a bowl of rice and mix in some veggies. Whatever you want to do, but eat the stuff warm. Oh, wow! My mouth waters again... Enjoy!

A note about our venison:
As for where the meat came from, the family hunters, my son and his Dad, were out today for the first day of gun season in Ohio. My son bagged his first deer today (yay, buddy!) and this meal was his reward (I swear, he ate half of it...).
Eric also got a deer, and we will have venison for most of the winter due to their efforts. Please remember others without the resources to hunt for themselves and consider contributing either USDA certified processed meat (check your processor) or funds to your area food bank (

I will be busy tomorrow processing the carcasses for our freezer, but it is well-worth the trouble. Hmmm... Ask me about that when I'm done; usually I've had it with processing our own meat by the end of the first day and vow never to do it again! :o)

From field-to-plate; don't get squirmy! If you are a meat-eater, your meal once walked this big earth, too...

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