Venison Back Strap With Mushrooms & Red Wine Pan Sauce!!
Today, I am going to make your life a better place to live….
If you hunt, specifically deer – Praise Jesus! Thank You Lord for the Back Straps! – you are going to wish you had a freezer full of back straps.
There cannot possibly be a better way to eat a backstrap. I’ve tried several. This rocks.
#1: This is THE BEST way to prepare a venison backstrap.
You will die. So, so, so delicious. As my children were scarfing this down I asked them, “How do you like the venison?”
They said, “This is venison?”
It tasted like beef tenderloin. Fabulous, wonderful beef tenderloin.
#2: This is also an introduction to making a pan sauce.
I adore pan sauces. There is just no other way to develop such wonderful flavors in 10 minutes. Pan sauces are simply that – a sauce you make in a pan. BUT the kicker is that there must have been something cooked in pan FIRST. All the bits of incredible flavor that are left behind (stuck in the pan) are the base for the pan sauce. Brace yourself for the best sauce to ever land on your plate.
Pan sauces are also called fond. It has something to do with another language and foundations and fancy cooking lingo. All you need to know is pan sauces are fond and fonds are pan sauces.
If you’ve never made a pan sauce before, you should! It’s not difficult. It is a wonderful use of all the “bits of stuff” that get stuck to the bottom of the cast iron skillet when cooking meat.
ANNNNNNND a simple pan sauce will elevate a boring steak, pork chop or chicken cutlet into something magnificent! Really, a simple pan sauce can transform a meal.
Pan sauces are also a great way to bring several elements together. If you have some sauteed veggies or some roasted potatoes alongside your main course, a good fond (pan sauce) can unite your plate into one symphony.
First – we’re gonna cook some venison back strap, then we’ll make the fond (pan sauce).
Just so you don’t get overwhelmed – I’m going to give you a quick overview. Then we’ll go through each of the steps in detail.
- Cook meat in pan (don’t burn it) & remove it from the pan.
- Add aromatics (onion, garlic, etc)
- Add liquid & reduce by half (it’s easy & only takes 5 minutes or so)
- Add herbs or mushrooms or whatever floats your boat
- Add butter
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Spoon over your meal & enjoy!
It’s not hard! And for a few mintues of work you will get a lovely, flavorful sauce.
Before we get started I must issue a warning – if you killed your deer today, or yesterday – you do not want to eat it yet. Trust me, I know these things. Bambi is still in full rigor mortis and will be chewy, tough, miserable and may be like eating rubber bands. For more on how long to wait before you eat something you killed go here.
Once 24 hours has passed since the deer died the stiffness of rigor mortis should be gone.
Let’s cook some back strap!
First, put your back straps in a bowl (or zip-top bag) and cover the meat with milk. Cover the bowl with a lid or some plastic wrap and stick in the refrigerator overnight.
If you must cook it tonight – you can. Just let it soak in the milk as long as possible. The longer the venison sits in the milk, the better. The milk will draw the blood out of the meat. This is why my back straps taste like beef tenderloin.
After the 24 hour milk-bath, rinse and trim your venison back straps (try to get all the silverseam off – it lends itself to gamey flavors). Next, pat dry and salt & pepper both sides.
If you would like to have mushrooms in your pan sauce, it is a good idea to cook them ahead of time so you can just add them to your sauce at the end.
To cook mushrooms – wash, remove the tips of the stems and slice them. Toss in a pan with a lot of surface area so they cook fast. Add a tablespoon of lard or butter or oil to the pan & a pinch of salt. Let cook on medium/ high until they release their juices & turn brown (5-8 minutes).
(pre-cooking the mushrooms ahead of time to make the sauce come together quicker)
Now that the mushrooms are done, set them aside & grab a big cast iron skillet.
Get your skillet hot and put some fat in it (start with high heat and back it down to medium-high after you place your meat in it). I am using lard. You can use oil (olive oil, grapeseed or coconut are my favorites). Don’t use butter, it will burn. We don’t want burnt pan sauce.
When the lard (or oil) begins to smoke the pan is ready – lay your back straps into the fat & let them brown on each side.
Be sure to use the right kind of pan. When you plan to make a pan sauce, a nonstick pan is definitely the wrong choice. We want stick. We want bits of stuff left in the pan. Bring me some cast iron! It cooks evenly, traps great flavors and adds iron to all the dishes you cook in it.
For more on why cast iron is fab go here.
I cooked my venison a couple of minutes on both sides to get a nice color on it. I am going to finish cooking it in the oven.
WHY? Mostly, because if we continue to cook it in this pan, all the glorious, tasty bits of leftover meat and seasoning will burn by the time the center reaches 125 degrees.
So, in order to have a perfect pan sauce that is not filled with burnt tidbits (yuck), we move the back straps to another dish to finish in the oven. HuZAH!
Once browned on both sides, I transferred my back straps to another pan and stuck it in the oven (you can see the internal temp was about 100 degrees when I took it off the stove). I will cook these in the oven until the internal temperature is 125 degrees. 5-10 mintues at 300 degrees should do it.
While the venison is finishing in the oven we are going to make the fond.
Yay! Pan sauce!
Depending on what you cooked (in this case it’s venison) and what it was cooked in (fat/ oil) you may have a bunch of fat in your pan.
If you do, pour some off until you are left with a couple of tablespoons of fat.
If your pan is pretty dry, add a couple of tablespoons of fat to it (you can use stock instead of fat).
Add your aromatics to the 2 tablespoons of fat (or stock). Aromatics will add another layer of flavor to your pan sauce. You can use garlic, onions, shallots, green onions, etc. Today, I am using onions.
Mince 2 tbsp of onion and toss them into the pan.
Cook them until they are soft.
Now we are going to add the liquids.
This is so easy!!!
Pour in 1/2 cup of red wine & 1 cup of chicken or beef stock and 2 tsp maple syrup (can use brown sugar). If you don’t want to use the wine, just replace the wine with stock. It will be great.
I freeze stock in ice cube trays for occasions just like this. To see how I do it go here.
This is a good time to check that backstrap. When the internal temperature is about 125 degrees take it out of the oven and let it rest on a platter while you finish the fond (if it has not reached 125, but is close – take it out. It will continue to cook a bit on the counter) . You want the meat to rest for 5-10 minutes. If you slice the backstrap while it’s hot all your juices will run onto the plate. We need it to rest so the juices will redistribute and stay in our meat.
If any juices accumulated in the dish you baked the back strap in – add them to your fond….. flavor baby!
Simmer on medium heat until you have 3/4 cup of liquid left. We are reducing our liquids by half. It’s OK to measure your contents if you’re not sure when it has reduced by half. It is done reducing when you have about 3/4 of a cup left (we started with 1 & 1/2 cups liquid…. 1/2 C red wine & 1 C stock = 1 1/2 cups liquid).
Reducing it in half is important. It will intensify the flavors and thicken the sauce.
This only takes about 5 minutes.
Once the sauce has been reduced – it is time to taste it and adjust the flavors (add salt or pepper). If had added salt or pepper to your pan sauce (salt & pepper) before reducing it – you could easily end up with an over-seasoned sauce. Wait until it has reduced, then taste it & adjust seasonings if needed.
This is the point when you add fresh herbs or extras.
If you were to add the herbs earlier, they would have cooked to death. By adding them at the end, their fresh, bright flavors will remain intact and shine.
Everyone in my house likes mushrooms – so I’m gonna throw some mushrooms (that I sauteed in a separate dish) into the fond. I pre-cook the mushrooms so they don’t re-liquify my beautiful, thick, reduced, pan sauce. If I were to add raw mushrooms into the fond they would release all their juicy liquids and make my pan sauce all watery.
If you don’t want mushrooms just skip this step and go straight to the butter!
DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP.
Sorry for yelling. The butter is so important in a pan sauce. It will make or break it. If you are worried about having a problem with your pants tomorrow, let me assure you – fat does not make you fat. Especially not real butter. It is healthy. It is good. It will feed your brain, give you energy and make you feel satisfied.
Not to mention, it’s delicious.
So, without thinking about fat or cellulite – add 3 tablespoons of butter to your pan sauce & stir until it is melted & combined.
All that’s left to do is slice this perfectly cooked, tender, juicy
beef tenderloin venison backstrap and pour on the mushroom pan sauce. I served mine with a fresh strawberry, vinaigrette salad.
I know you guys are going to love this!!!!!
SUPER HANDY DANDY TIPS FOR PERFECT PAN SAUCES:
TIP #1 For a Great Pan Sauce – The Right Pan
Use the right pan. Pan sauces usually begin with a bit of meat being cooked in a pan. After the meat is done it is removed and set aside. In that pan there will be leftovers….. The whole point of fond is to transform all the bits of meat, fat and seasonings that are stuck in the pan into a fabulous sauce to pour over the dish. In order for this to happen you need a pan that will get things stuck to it. In other words, don’t use a nonstick pan or you won’t have any bits stuck in it to make your sauce.
I always use a cast iron skillet.
Tip #2 For a Great Pan Sauce – The Meat
Some meats can easily be cooked up in your cast iron skillet without the risk of burning the base for your sauce. Other meats are tricky to cook without creating a pan filled with burnt bits of food. Burnt bits is not what you want for a good fond. You want browned bits of goodness.
If you are cooking something really thick (like filets, or thick strips, or thick chops) I have a magic trick that will get your meat cooked, your outside browned and your leftover bits perfectly browned.
Here’s the secret: For super thick cuts of meat – brown the meat in the pan first and finish in a low oven (300 degrees). I use a thermometer to be sure my meat is cooked perfectly. This will sear and brown the outside of your meat and finish cooking the inside. You will be left with browned (not burnt) bits of food left in your pan for your sauce.
TIP #3 For a Great Pan Sauce – Aromatics
If you have a bunch of fat still in your pan you can pour off 1/2 (or just until you are left with about 2 tablespoons of fat). Add your aromatics to this. You can use garlic, onions, shallots or leek. Dice or mince the aromatics first and cook over medium heat until soft.
TIP #4 For a Great Pan Sauce – Liquid
Now that you’ve got your aromatics in there it’s time to “deglaze” the pan. First, you’re going to need to add some liquid. You can use wine, stock or even water. Just grab a wooden spoon and gently scrape all the bits of yum that are stuck to the pan loose. These are going to add tons of deep flavor to your sauce.
Now that you have the liquid in there & the pan scraped clean it’s time to reduce. You want to reduce this liquid by half. Don’t worry – it doesn’t take too long. 5 minutes at a steady boil usually does the trick.
TIP #5 For a Great Pan Sauce – Butter
If some juices have accumulated on the platter holding your meat – add them to your pan sauce. If the sauce gets too thin, just simmer it another minute to thicken. These juices are really going to add flavor (and why would you want to waste those glorious drippings?).
Now it’s time for the butter. Butter makes everything better, including pan sauces. Whisk in 3 tablespoons of butter to your pan sauce. This will enhance your flavors and give the sauce a smooth velvety texture.
TIP #6 For a Great Pan Sauce – Herbs & Extras
The last step is to add any herbs, spices, mushrooms, lemon juice or chutneys you would like in your fond. This is not necessary, but can be a fun addition to really create interesting, complex flavors. Mmmmm.
TIP #7 Finish and Serve!
Check your pan sauce and salt & pepper to taste. Spoon the sauce over your dish and serve to happy people!
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