Medallions of Venison with Cranberry-Port Sauce
Venison is a naturally lean meat, and although most venison is farm raised, which means it is tender and mild-flavored, it still benefits from long marination. It also has an affinity for the sweetness of fruit and the bold flavor of big wines. Here, it is marinated in a mixture that includes cranberry juice and is served with a sauce made from dried cranberries plumped in port. If you are using wild venison, marinate it for up to 48 hours.
- 4 tsp. canola oil
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 large shallot, chopped
- 1 small carrot, peeled and sliced
- 1 can (15 oz.) low-sodium, fat-free beef broth
- 1/2 cup cranberry juice
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
- 2 plum tomatoes, chopped
- 6 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs
- 3 cardamom pods, crushed
- 2 tsp. dried thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 1/4 lb. venison tenderloin
- 1/3 cup dried cranberries
- 1/3 cup ruby port
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- Freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 2 Tbs. cold unsalted butter
In a saucepan over medium-high heat, warm 2 tsp. of the canola oil. Add the garlic, shallot and carrot and sauté until the shallot starts to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the broth, cranberry juice, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, tomatoes, parsley, cardamom, thyme and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and boil gently for 10 minutes. Let the marinade cool to room temperature.
Cut the venison crosswise into slices 1 inch thick. Place in a nonreactive bowl and pour in the cooled marinade, including the vegetables, herbs and spices. Cover and marinate the meat in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
When you are ready to cook the venison, place the cranberries in a bowl. Add the port and set aside until the fruit is plump, 20 to 30 minutes.
Set a sieve over a large bowl. Drain the meat into the sieve. Using tongs, remove the venison from the other solids, place it on a plate, cover and set aside. Using the back of a wooden spoon, press against the solids to extract as much of their juices as possible. Discard the solids. Reserve the liquid. Pat the meat dry with paper towels.
Preheat an oven to 200°F.
In a large fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the remaining 2 tsp. canola oil. Arrange the meat in the pan in a single layer, leaving 1 inch between the pieces. (If you do not have a pan large enough, cook the meat in 2 batches.) Cook the venison, turning once, until browned on both sides, 10 to 12 minutes total. The venison should be pink in the center. Transfer the meat to a plate, tent loosely with aluminum foil and set it in the warm oven.
Pour the reserved marinade into the pan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up all the browned bits from the pan bottom. Boil until the liquid is reduced by one-third, about 10 minutes. Using a large, shallow spoon, skim off any foam that forms on the surface. Add the cranberries and any remaining port and cook until the liquid is reduced by one-fourth, about 5 minutes. Season with the salt and pepper. Remove from the heat. Cut the butter into 8 equal pieces. Add the butter to the liquid and whisk until melted and blended into the sauce, 1 to 2 minutes.
Divide the meat among warmed individual plates. Spoon an equal amount of the sauce over each serving, dividing the cranberries evenly as well. Serve immediately. Serves 4.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma, Essentials of Healthful Cooking, by Mary Abbott Hess, Dana Jacobi & Marie Simmons (Oxmoor House, 2003).