I would love more than anything to have a prologue to this blog post. The prologue would be this great adventure of how I went out and hiked several miles, bow slung over my back, and I crossed creeks and hid in brush. After a long, exhausting day I would fall asleep in my chair at the campfire and have to be nudged to go crawl in my sleeping bag so I would be ready at 5:00am to cross more creeks and hide in more brush. I would love to say how I did that for three days before tracking down my buck, and then explain all the anticipation and nerves and adrenaline rushing through my body as I got my first buck. I would love to tell that story before posting this recipe.
I would also like to have a blog post on how to clean and store all the meat from that big buck I got. But there are two problems. First, I did go out this past fall for my first mule deer season. I did cross creeks and hide in brush and fall asleep in my chair. But I didn’t see anything. The second problem is if I waited until deer season to post this blog I would be waiting a long nine months. And I wanted to eat this deer tenderloin now! This recipe is incredibly simple and soooo delicious!
So, before I get started on the food, I guess I will share the less exciting, for me anyway, story about my husband and his buck. My husband landed this desert mule deer along the banks of the Colorado River. In Utah, you can apply for a special license called the Dedicated Hunter. With the Dedicated Hunter program, you have to complete so many hours of community service and pay the license fee. In return, your license allows you to hunt for three years and harvest two mule deer bucks in that time frame. You also get to hunt all three general seasons: archery, muzzleloader, and rifle.
My husband struggled this season. Our very unsuccessful archery hunt, which was the season I had a tag for, was disappointing. It was a very quiet season. We didn’t see or hear anything. The muzzleloader season was also very similar for him: unsuccessful. This was the second year of his permit, and his first year had also ended with him not using his tag. He went out after work for the rifle season along the Colorado River and started following some tracks. The tracks entered a large bunch of tamarisk and Russian olive trees. This buck and another small male were lying down in the covering. He was very excited with this buck, which measured around 190. I will admit, I was very jealous. But I love deer meat and now I get to share this very wonderful recipe with you!
We cut our tenderloin into very thin, 1/2 inch butterflied filets. We do this for two reasons, you get to have a lot more tenderloin meals! And cooking up these little filets is super easy. I always let my steaks sit out on the counter for a bit before I start cooking. You want to take the chill off your meat. Letting them sit on the counter for 15 minutes or so will help them to cook quicker, more evenly, and they will take the seasonings better. I season my steaks up with just a little bit of salt and pepper.
Before you start cooking, you want to prepare your gorgonzola cheese topping. These steaks are going to cook up in mere minutes, and you want your cheese topping to be completely prepared so you can drop those big spoonfuls of cheese on at just the right time. To make the cheese topping, start with your crumbled gorgonzola cheese in a big bowl. You could also use blue cheese if you are not a huge fan of gorgonzola. With me, the stinkier the cheese the better. Mince your herbs and add them to your cheese bowl. I like to use sage, rosemary, and thyme. You could try adding other herbs if you like. I go with sage, rosemary, and thyme because I think they have real earthy flavors and that pairs well with the flavor of deer.
Alright, we are on to frying those bad boys up! To start, heat your pan over medium high. You can add a tablespoon of oil to fry your steak in, if you want. I prefer to not do that with deer tenderloin because I don’t want the meat to absorb any of the oil flavor. Like I said before, I just season them up with a bit of salt and pepper and enjoy the taste of the meat.
Once the pan is heated up, drop the filets in. There are two very important steps you are going to perform here. First, lay that meat down and then DON’T touch it! If you try and move the meat once it has touched the hot pan you will rip your steak. You want to let the meat fry up and get that beautiful, slightly brown color. Second, DON’T walk away! These filets are thin, and they will over cook faster than you are prepared for. Don’t leave this meat unattended. It will overcook and you will be sad. I let mine go for about a minute, sometimes a minute and a half on the first side and then flip it. It should release easily. If the meat won’t let go of the pan, don’t force it. Give the meat a few more seconds until it is ready.
Once you flip your meat, let it cook for about thirty seconds and then start piling on your cheese mixture. I am greedy with the cheese mixture. I usually put a GIANT heaping spoonful on mine. I drop a regular spoonful on the other steaks. After you have covered each of the steaks with the cheese mixture, and added the leftovers to your steak because, like I said, I am greedy with the cheese and I get the most in this case, you want to cover the pan with a lid. It doesn’t even have to be the lid for this pan. You just want something to hold the steam in for a bit while your cheese melts. I usually let my cheese melt for another minute. You have to watch this closely though, you don’t want to over cook your steaks.
After the cheese is melted, pull your steaks from the heat and let them rest for just a minute. They don’t need to rest like a thicker steak because you don’t want them to over cook. Just a minute will let them get right to where they need to be. So delicious!
For the side on this meal, I made brussels sprouts. As a side note, until this exact moment in time, the moment where I typed the word “brussels” into the computer, I always thought they were brussel (singular) sprouts. I stand corrected. They are brussels sprout. Huh, you learn something new everyday I guess.
Anyway, I would start this side before I actually cooked my steaks. The steaks cook so quickly and are best eaten warm that you would want to prepare your side before cooking your steak. I made a very simple brussels sprout side. I think with this meal, any green side would be fantastic. I would definitely recommend asparagus, kale, mashed potatoes, mashed turnips, carrots, corn, or anything else your heart desires. I even have a small confession to make here. I thought I would love brussels sprouts with this meal. I actually found it to be a less than satisfactory side. Brussels sprouts have a very buttery flavor. They just did not pair as well with the deer as I feel asparagus would. Lesson learned.
For these brussels sprouts, I preheated the oven to 400 degrees and then covered the sprouts in olive oil. I sprinkled in some salt and pepper, gave everything a good stir with hands to ensure proper coating, and tossed everyone in the oven. I let them go about 20 minutes. I like my brussels sprouts to be very dark on the outside leaves. I like how crunchy they get. You might want to let your sprouts only go for 15 minutes if you don’t like them quite as dark as I do.
I knew what wine I wanted to pair with this meal the moment I started planning it. I knew I wanted the oaky, earthy flavor of Cline red zinfandel. Cline has a very strong flavor, and I can always taste the black cherry and strawberries. It is a very bold wine, especially for a zinfandel. I knew this would taste so great paired with the deer meat and strong taste of gorgonzola cheese. This is a bold meal and it needs a bold drink. That being said, the Cline was AWFUL with the brussels sprouts. AWFUL! They paired together so horribly that it almost ruined my meal. Brussels sprouts are definitely a white wine vegetable. The deer and gorgonzola were EXCELLENT with the wine though! So, my recommendation for the day is this: don’t make brussels sprouts like I did!
Cheers and I hope you enjoy!
* five to six 1/2 inch butterflied deer steaks
* four ounces crumbled gorgonzola cheese (you can only use half the container if you don’t like HUGE amounts of cheese, like me)
* 1 tablespoon fresh sage, minced
* 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
* 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced