Thursday, August 11, 2011

Venison Steak with Blue Cheese & Chive Sauce

We eat a ton of venison.

I grew up eating venison (my dad hunted occasionally) and then I jumped from the frying pan into the fire when I married Brian McHunter Hunterson. He brings home carcasses by the truckload. So it's not really an option for me to 'not like' venison. Nevertheless, I love it. It's locally grown, free range, antibiotic-free, humanely harvested, and free. It's a versatile meat to cook and it's got a rich flavor that is absolutely delicious. Some people complain about 'gamey' taste, but I have to say that in five years of marriage, I have never served a gamey piece of venison.

Venison is absolutely delicious when it's prepared right! But I definitely don't say that as a nod to my cooking. Not many people realize that preparing venison the right way begins before it reaches the kitchen. Brian is an excellent hunter, and I know the reason we've never had a bad batch of deer meat is because of the way he harvests it.

(If the thought of hunting offends you or grosses you out, you can skip this next part and click here to go to the recipe.)

According to Brian, gamey/tough venison is avoided by the following:

1. Get a great shot in the vitals. Shooting a deer in the guts (instead of the heart or lungs) will loosen the digestive tract contents, and those are disgusting.

2. Getting a great shot in the vitals also ensures the deer will expire very quickly. Not only is this humane, it prevents the nervous system from flooding the muscles with adrenaline and other hormones as it lies in pain and fear. These hormones can make the meat taste bad.

3. Cool the meat as quickly as possible.

4. Age the venison quarters (either in a cooler, with ice, if the weather is warm, or covered loosely outside in cold weather for a few days). It must be very cold, but not frozen to age. This helps with tenderness, not with flavor (unless it's dry-aged, in which case it deepens the (good) venison flavor).

In honor of hunting season fast approaching, I've decided to compile my favorite venison meals on the blog - in case there are others of you out there whose husbands are like mine. OR, in case any of you have friends whose husbands are like mine, but for whatever reason have decided they hate deer meat and want to give it all away. (Take it!)

Today's recipe is for simple venison steak with an EASY sauce. This is adapted from Ina Garten's Steakhouse Steaks recipe, so it's not an original, but Brian and I have found that the sauce goes even better with venison than with mild beef.

(As a side note, if blue cheese is not your thing, try this anyway. Brian HATES blue cheese - the smell, the flavor, the weird blue moldy veins. But he LOVES this sauce. Something about it mellows the flavor of the cheese. I even served this on the side to guests one time and both of them - who also told me they don't like blue cheese - tried the sauce and loved it too. The wife saw me at church a few days later and asked for the recipe. So try it once! If you don't like it, you can just eat your steak plain.)

Without further ado:

Venison Steak with Blue Cheese and Chive Sauce

For the sauce, measure 1 1/2 cups of heavy whipping cream.

Pour the cream into a heavy saucepan and cook over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring every so often.

In the meantime, measure 2 oz. blue cheese and grab a handful of chives.

Prepare your ingredients to be added later to the sauce.

Save a few chives for garnish, if you're feeling rather fancy.

Once the cream has simmered to a thicker consistency, turn off the heat and whisk in the cheese and chives. Add a pinch of salt and a couple grinds of black pepper. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Blue Cheese and Chive Sauce (adapted from the Food Network)

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

2 ounces blue cheese, crumbled (4 ounces with rind)

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon (I like more) of chopped fresh chives

Bring the heavy cream to a boil in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook at a low boil, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has become thick and creamy, about 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, add the cheese, salt, pepper and chives and whisk rapidly until the cheese melts.

Yield: 4 servings (Brian eats two or three - you may want to double it if you're cooking for more than two people!)

In the meantime, prepare the venison steak. For this recipe, you want a tender cut. Here I'm using a length of backstrap (the meat along the spine - similar to tenderloin). Please ignore the pale color of the meat. I had tried something new - marinating it in milk - which didn't do much and was simply an unfortunate waste of milk. Oh well.

Cut the meat into four thick pieces.

Cut each section in half without cutting all the way through. Leave a thin piece connecting the two halves. Now you know how to butterfly a steak!

Salt and pepper your steaks and dry them on a paper towel.

Sear them over very high heat in a cast iron or stainless steel pan. (I've found that I get better results in my stainless steel pan, honestly. I have no idea why.)

The trick to cooking venison steak is to NOT cook it until it's well-done. You want some pink in the middle - medium-rare is best. Steaks of this thickness would be perfect after about 2.5 minutes on each side over high heat. Unfortunately, I overcooked these, but the sauce helped that problem.

When the steak is done, let it rest for 4-5 minutes. If you like, slice it before plating.

(Meanwhile, I roasted some asparagus on the grill after tossing it with olive oil, salt and pepper, lemon juice, and a little extra blue cheese (next time I'd leave off the cheese - it didn't make a difference in the flavor but made a messier pan.)

Finally, plate the sauce in a dish for dipping (this is half the sauce - it boils down quite a lot).




  1. My husband is not a hunter, but I do love venison. And I dislike blue cheese, but anything made with heavy whipping cream has got to be good. So if our hunter friend ever parts with any of his deer meat, I'll give this a try!

  2. P.S. great food pictures. those are Pioneer Woman's blog worthy.

  3. OMG. That's extremely kind of you. That's just about the highest compliment I have ever received! I adore her blog but I have a loooong way to go. (My fancy schmancy new camera helps things a little.) And the blue cheese sauce - definitely try it. It tastes like a rich alfredo sauce.

  4. :-) i love her blog too! i want a DSLR camera so i can take better pictures. mine broke awhile ago and point and clicks just aren't the same. and i will totally try the blue cheese sauce - i love alfredo!

  5. Looks delicious. Seriously want to try the making the sauce. Unfortunately, since I haven't lived in a place with a dishwasher in years, I haven't cooked much meat. I have a paranoia of contamination and hand washing doesn't ease my mind. And now due to lack of experience I abhor the idea of ruining a good steak. Think of any vegetarian substitute this sauce would go with? Oh, maybe thick, homemade fries...

  6. The pictures do indeed look great. Since you've decided to leave facebook that means you must start blogging more so we can have a glimpses of you life. Looking forward to the next one which I know will be posted very, very soon. ;)