A gift of beautiful venison tenderloins from a good friend inspired this dish along with a helping of beautiful dried cherries. I particularly love fruits in a savory sauce with tender meats. The rich, game flavors of venison here are offset by not just the cherries but the tang of vinegar and the sweetness of dark molasses.
Venison tenderloin, cut into steaks (4 to 6 ounces each)
Salt, Pepper, Spices to taste
4 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 medium onion, diced fine
1 large carrot, diced fine
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup low-sodium beef broth
3 bay leaves
1 cup Door County or Michigan dried cherries
½ cup high quality malt vinegar (balsamic or apple cider may be substituted)
½ cup dark molasses
Sprinkle venison loin with liberal amounts of sea salt, fresh cracked pepper, and dried spices of your choosing. My choice is to add Penzeys Spices Mural of Flavor, which is a hand-mixed blend of dried shallots, onion, garlic, thyme, rosemary, basil, coriander, lemon peel, citric acid, black pepper, chives, green peppercorns, dill weed, and orange peel. You can buy it here. Allow venison to sit out at room temperature while preparing the sauce.
In a large skillet over medium heat melt 2 Tbs. butter and then add onion, carrot, and garlic. Sauté until translucent and beginning to brown. Add beef broth and bay leaf. Allow to reduce to ½ cup. Strain mixture, pressing all liquid out of the vegetables. Return broth to pan over medium heat and add cherries, vinegar, and molasses. Allow sauce to reduce to honey-like consistency, then remove from heat and set aside.
In a cast iron skillet that can accommodate the steaks without crowding, melt remaining butter over medium-high heat. When foam subsides, add steaks to the pan and allow to sear to a deep brown, about 4 minutes on each side. Allow to rest for 4 minutes before serving. Ideally, serve venison rare as it becomes quite tough as it approaches well-done. Serve liberally sauced with warm cherry gastrique.
We enjoyed Hugue Dufour’s Maple-Glazed Carrots as a side dish. The addition of anchovy in the recipe may not be Great Lakes, but it balances these carrots in a wonderful way. We served this accompanied by a blend of wild rice, brown rice, red rice, and black barley, cooked in chicken broth and onions risotto-style, then finished with a generous handful of shredded Montamore from Sartori Cheese and the carrot tops blanched and then pureed. Overall, a very successful combination of textures, colors, and most importantly, flavors.