Horseradish Crusted Venison Tenderloin
In today’s currency driven age I’m glad to be a cog in the wheel of a small barter-based economy, something that is far from dead in the Catskills. For the past two years I’ve raised heritage breed hogs on pasture and have purposely kept more than I can eat in the freezer to barter with friends for various goodies they have. To date my pork has gotten me massages, mushrooms, various foraged goods, animal sitting, and more. Recently I traded some for a few cuts of venison that I friend hunted in the fall, and I was thrilled to find that he included two tenderloins in the bargain.
Venison is something that is near and deer to my hart (pun and alternate spelling intended). I grew up in a family of avid hunters and as a child most of the red meat we ate was venison. I’ve always loved it, but to me it has always been a commonplace part of my diet. Imagine my shock when I learned that mail order gourmet food retailer D’Artagnan charges $30 for a 12oz venison tenderloin! Sacre bleu! We didn’t know how good we had it.
To address the venison I looked towards the horseradish in my garden. Sharp flavors like horseradish go exceptionally well with game meats, and I knew I would need something to cut through the richness of the cream and cheese in the gnocchi dish I planned to serve with it. To add some texture and contrast I decided to make a crust with the horseradish, which would be placed on top of the venison tenderloin just before it was finished cooking.
This is a pretty straightforward recipe, but the difficulty comes in technique. Timing the cooking of the tenderloin so that the crust browns before the meat becomes overcooked is the biggest concern. To help bring both variables into harmony I brown the tenderloin until it’s nearly finished, then use the broiler to brown the crust fast before it cooks too much. Either gas or electric broilers will work, but make sure you preheat it if it’s electric. This is also a great time to use an instant read thermometer to help in assessing the situation. The thermometer will take a lot of the guesswork out of the process.
Horseradish Crusted Venison Tenderloin
Serves three as an entrée
Freshly grated horseradish and panko breadcrumbs make a crust for the tenderloin that is full of big flavor and texture. This same crust can be applied to other tender cuts, such as the backstrap, or used for beef, lamb, or salmon.
2 venison tenderloins (approx. 1.5lbs)
½ c butter
1 Tbsp Freshly grated horseradish
½ tsp salt
½ c panko breadcrumbs
2 T vegetable oil
Place butter, horseradish, salt, and panko in a small bowl and mix well to combine. Set aside. I prefer to grate the horseradish with a fine microplane grater, which makes quick work of it. Prepared horseradish can be used in a pinch, but most grocery stores carry fresh horseradish in their produce departments.
Liberally season the tenderloins with salt and pepper. In a large skillet heat the vegetable oil over medium high heat and preheat your broiler. Add the tenderloins and brown well on all sides. Brown the tenderloin in the pan until it reaches 110 on the inside, as read by an instant read thermometer stuck into the thickest part. This should take 3-4 minutes on each side.
At this point remove the pan from the range and carefully place the panko mixture on top, packing it down into a ¼” thick crust and taking care not to be burned by the hot grease in the pan. Place the skillet under the broiler and watch it carefully so that the crust doesn’t burn. Once the crust is golden brown remove from the broiler and check the temperature again. If it’s reached 120 or higher remove the loins from the skillet and transfer to a cutting board to rest. If it hasn’t reached 120 yet, allow to rest in the skillet for several more minutes to finish the cooking. In any case, allow the tenderloins to rest uncovered for at least ten minutes before slicing.