Maureen Fraîche

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Pan-Seared Venison Backstrap in Merlot-Dijon-Cream Sauce

Venison with Merlot-Dijon-Cream Sauce

God bless the hunters in my family.  Last time my folks came out to visit, my step-dad lovingly brought me several cuts of both elk and deer meat.  Needless to say, I was way excited, especially when I saw one of the packages was labeled backstrap.  For those of you unfamiliar with venison, the backstrap is a long muscle that runs down the length of the deer’s spine, also known as the tenderloin.  So basically, backstrap is the filet mignon of venison.  Because it is a muscle that is rarely used, it is exceptionally tender and also happens to be very lean.  On top of all this, venison–like other wild game–is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, not to mention iron, zinc, B vitamins, and a host of other nutrients.

This particular prep is incredibly delicious.  It’s an adaptation from Wolgang Puck’s Pan-Seared Beef Filets in Port-Dijon-Cream Sauce, which can be found in Wolfgang Puck Makes it EasyI received an autographed copy from my in-laws and have loved everything I’ve tried thus far.  With each recipe, Wolfgang tries to bring the big, complex flavors of restaurant cuisine to the home cook with his own tricks of the trade.

When I first made this recipe, I used top sirloin and because I don’t keep port on hand, I reached for the merlot.  I couldn’t be happier with the results.  Pan sauces really work wonders for seared meats.  The basic method is to first sear your meat on both sides in a super hot pan that’s been drizzled with a bit of oil.  If you have a pan that isn’t nonstick, USE IT.  You’ll get a much better sear this way.  Once nicely browned on each side, the meat is removed to a plate and the pan deglazed.  This is done by pouring in a liquid–in this case, wine–and scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon.  These little bits, also called fond, are full of flavor.  Plus, by doing this simple step, you’ll actually be making your clean-up much easier.  No crusty pan to scour later!  Once deglazed, other ingredients are added, such as cream, herbs, butter, or other seasonings to create a delicious sauce for serving.  Trust me, though it may seem like a little extra work, you’ll not only save on the clean-up but you’ll also impress anyone at the table that night.

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