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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Deer Crossing

I was never much of a hunter. Even growing up on a farm in rural western Kentucky surrounded by a family of hunters, I was odd man out. Oh sure, I had frog gigging and trout fishing down pat, but wielding a shotgun to shoot things simply wasn't my cup of tea. The closest I came to bagging a deer was from the passenger seat of an old Volkswagon involved in an unfortunate late night incident with a darting deer. Hardly a feat to hang a hat on. Hunting, in general,  was a big deal for my hometown folks. While there seemed to be a hunting season for just about everything and anything, deer season was the Super Bowl in my neck of the woods. When it finally rolled around, the release of anticipation catapulted  the boys in my family into hunter frenzy. They played hard ball. Kills and points were badges of honor. Trophies were strapped onto dusty old trucks for display. Photos were taken and shared. Camouflage was the norm at most family gatherings. It's what we did. They did. As a misfit country boy, I was more amused than bothered by the madness. As a venison lover, I certainly wasn't taking a moral high road. I got  what the all fuss was about.. It's just that hunting wasn't my thing and camo wasn't my color.

Years and years later,  after moving away from the family farm, Michael and I dutifully returned home for family gatherings. Most often than not, it was during deer season. Not much changed over the years. Why would it? Driving through the winding roads and hills of those rural counties during deer season was precarious at best. The typical serene drives through the countryside were shattered by invisible gunshots echoing through the damp misty valleys. Duck, cover, and drive. Home. Pass the camo.

Yeah, I was never much of a hunter, but I always loved the spoils. I still do. When real hunters hunt and want to share their bounty, count me in as one very lucky boy.

Pan Seared Venison Tenderloin With Green Peppercorn Sauce.
Venison tenderloin is leaner than lean. It simply needs a kiss of heat for medium rare, added fat, and tender care.

I trimmed a 3/4 pound Woodford County venison tenderloin and seasoned the meat with salt, black pepper, and smoked paprika before slipping it into a screaming hot cast iron skillet drizzled with 1 tablespoon olive oil. After adding 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, 2 whole garlic cloves, and fresh thyme sprigs, I seared the tenderloin 3 to 4 minutes per side (mounting the steak with the sizzling butter after each turn) until a gorgeous crust formed and slid it into a preheated 400 degree oven.  When the internal temperature reached 120 degrees, I pulled the tenderloin from the oven, removed it to a cutting board, and tented it for 10 minutes to rest and  allow the internal temp to reach 125 degrees for medium rare.

After removing the spent thyme, I returned the skillet to the heat, added 2 tablespoons unsalted butter,1 chopped shallot, 1 minced garlic clove, and 2 tablespoons brined green peppercorns. When the shallots turned translucent, I splashed the skillet with 1/3 cup Makers Mark bourbon, tipped the skillet to ignite the alcohol, took a quick shot of bourbon, and let the flames taper off before adding 1 heaping tablespoon dijon mustard, 1/4 cup heavily reduced beef stock (almost a demi glace), a pinch of salt, pepper,  and 3/4 cup heavy cream. When the sauced reduced and thickened, I pulled it from the heat and set it aside.

I sliced the venison tenderloin on the bias, overlapped the medallions onto toasted Bluegrass Bakery ciabatta croutons, and plated the sauce  before finishing with flaked sea salt, cracked black pepper, fresh slivered scallions, and flash fried parsnip ribbons.

Flecked with pops of briny heat, the dijon-infused cream sauce tempered the slight gaminess of the tender deer meat. While the slivered scallions provided grassy freshness, the fried parsnips added an earthy delicate crunch. Total win.

Respect the hunt.
Respect the bounty.

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