Did you get your deer this year? Your elk? Perhaps a pronghorn? Maybe you just like venison and, like us, ordered some delicious and tender medallions. Either way, now you have the meat and you want to cook it right. Venison dries out easily because of its leanness, so temperature control is of the utmost importance, especially in tender cuts like the loin and backstrap.
In this post, we hope to help you cook your venison better. To do that you need to cook to temp, and you need to use a good sauce. We’ve adapted a recipe from Hank Shaw at Honest-food.net that has bold, rich flavors and balances against the gaminess of venison very well. If someone in your family doesn’t like venison, try serving them this dish—it might well change their mind!
What is steak Diane?
Steak Diane goes back to August Escoffier in his immortal book. He named a number of dishes “Diane,” and the link between them all was game. Whether it was a pheasant consommé or a sauce made with leftover bits of venison, dishes that came from hunted animals were given the appellation Diane, named after the goddess of the hunt Diana.
Though the version we present here is a far cry from Escoffier’s original Sauce Diane, the spirit of it remains true to the original.
Venison doneness temperatures
If you harvested your own animal, of course you should use the loin for this recipe, but even if you don’t hunt (or didn’t bag one this year) you can still have this dish! We got our venison from Force of Nature Meats, and loved the flavor as well as that beautiful, dark red color.
Venison behaves in many ways like beef, albeit very lean. You can cook the tender, steaky cuts of venison to the same doneness levels as you would beef, namely 130–135°F (54–57°C) for medium rare and 135–145°F (57–63°C) for medium. Hitting those temperatures just right is important for maximum enjoyment. Luckily, we have a great method for it.
Cooking venison medallions
Getting both a good, seared crust and a perfect doneness temperature on our venison takes a little maneuvering. First, start by drying the surface of the medallions with paper towels to remove excess surface moisture, which will take up lots of heat to cook off before browning can kick in. Then, sear the cutlets in hot fat (butter for us, please!), turning frequently to achieve a deep brown sear.
Once the steaks are seared, remove them from heat and set them aside. If you temp them at this point, using your Thermapen® ONE, you’ll find that the steaks are nowhere near done. Ours were somewhere in the range of 90°F (32°C). In the pan with all that browned-on meaty goodness (fond, we call it), you then make your sauce. Shallots, garlic, and mushrooms, all sauteed together, then combined and cooked with stock, brandy, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and tomato paste makes the base of the sauce.
Once the sauce has reduced somewhat, put the medallions back in the pan. Bathe them in the sauce as it gently simmers, and check their temperatures every minute or so. When you get to within 5°F (3°C) or your desired finish temperature, pull them from the sauce. By searing it hard and gently poaching it up to temperature we ensure beautiful, rosy doneness.
Once the venison is done cooking, the sauce is finished—thickened more until a silicone spatula pulled through the pan leaves a clear path, thinned with a little water if it is too tight— with a dose of cream. The medallions are then served with the sauce and, for best results, some well-roasted vegetables.
Venison really is a special meal—especially the medallions. It’s a rare treat, in both senses of the word. And though it can be gamey, this sauce dresses it so well that even the pickiest eater should find it delicious. The two-stage cooking is gentle and helps guarantee a perfectly done result, and the juiciness of the sauce helps to compensate for venison’s natural toughness. It is a delight and one that we hope you try!
Venison Steak Diane, adapted from Hank Shaw’s recipe at Honest-Food.net.
This recipe scales up easily. Just sear the steaks in batches.
- 1/2 lb venison backstrap or tenderloin
- Salt, pepper
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 shallot, minced
- ~1 1/2 C chopped fresh mushrooms
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 C brandy
- 1/2 C venison stock or beef broth
- 1.5 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 Tbsp mustard (Dijon preferred)
- 1 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1/4 C heavy cream
- Minced herbs for garnish
- Pat the venison dry with paper towels and salt and pepper it. Allow it to sit for a few minutes for the salt to dissolve in.
- Put a heavy-bottomed pan on the stove and turn the heat to medium-high. Add the butter and let it melt.
- Place the meat in the pan and sear it, turning every minute or so. Once you have a good sear on it, remove it from the pan.
- To the same pan, add the shallots and mushrooms. Sauté until they just start to brown and become glossy.
- Add the garlic and sauté about 30 seconds, being careful to not burn it.
- Turn the heat off and add the brandy. Turn the heat back on to medium and cook until the brandy is almost completely cooked out. (If you don’t turn off the heat, there’s a good chance your brandy will ignite. That’s not a problem per se, but it’s something to be aware of.)
- Add the mustard, tomato paste, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir.
- Add the stock and bring the sauce to a good simmer.
- Add the venison back to the pan, and cook, turning frequently, in the simmering liquid.
- Check the temperature with your Thermapen ONE. When the temperature reaches 125–127°F (52–53°C) for medium-rare, remove the venison from the pan. (Cook it higher if you want medium.)
- Continue to reduce the liquid until a silicone spatula dragged through the center of the pan leaves a clear line.
- If the sauce is very thick, add a few tablespoons of water to get it back to the right consistency.
- Add the cream and stir together to combine.
- Serve the venison with the sauce and your chosen accompaniments!
If you want to make this recipe with beef tenderloin (or another beef cut), do so! It will still be delicious, even though it won’t be close to the heart of the hunter goddess.
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