Growing up, I hated mushrooms with a passion. My dad loved them. He would always order pizza with everything on it, including white button mushrooms. I could smell those white button mushrooms before the box was even open. And then I would complain, and whine, and moan, and let him know that not only had he ruined the pizza but my life as well. You know, a typically six year-old meltdown that somehow starts with mushrooms and evolves to a young life being destroyed by the mere presence of mushrooms in the home.
My mom would tell me to just pick them off. I would grumpily, using only two fingers, pull them off and place them as far away from my pizza slice as possible.
“I can still taste them,” I would whine. “And see where they were on my pizza!”
My parents would ignore me.
Eventually, I would start to reluctantly eat my slice because I was hungry, and well because I was six and it was pizza. What six year old can turn down pizza? Everything would be going fine until I realized that not only were there mushrooms on this pizza, but there were also onions. And I had just eaten one. Return to complain, whine, moan mode with probably a little crying because my dad had “tricked” me into eating onions and my life was once again ruined.
Nowadays, I love mushrooms and onions. I actually think of ways I can add them to my meal. Six year-old me would definitely be red-faced scolding me right now, hands in little tight fists, and a massive melt-down just around the corner. Luckily, she isn’t here, and I get to share this amazing, savory whiskey rosemary cream sauce over deer steak and mushrooms dish with you!
To start, select the cut of deer steak you want to serve for this dish. I used tenderloin, but this dish works well with any steak from the deer. Other suggestions I have are the back strap, the infraspinatus found in the shoulder of the deer, or a sirloin, which is cut from the hind quarter. To help get a better sear on my steaks, I usually pat them with a paper towel quickly to remove any moisture on the outside of the steak. Cut a clove of garlic in half and rub the cut side over the outside of the steaks. Season liberally with salt and pepper and place in the hot pan, which is my favorite part of cooking steak. I love that sizzling sound of the meat first hitting the pan.
Deer, like other wild game steaks, is best when cooked on the rare side of doneness. Deer is a very lean meat, and without the extra fat on the steaks, like is found on beef, it tends to dry out quickly when cooked. A well-done deer steak will be very tough and have an unpleasant texture, almost rubbery. So, I suggest cooking deer steaks to medium-rare or less. I like mine medium-rare and reach that cooking the steak about five minutes per side.
Once the steaks are finished cooking, plate them under a loosely constructed aluminum foil tent. Allow the steaks to rest under the tent while you finish the cream sauce. A proper meat resting, which is about ten minutes, allows the juices to reabsorb into the meat. While cooking the meat, the moisture tends to move towards the surface of the steak, and if you immediately pull the meat from the heat source and cut into it, the juices will rush out of steak. This resting time stops that from happening and results in a moist, juicy steak.
While the steaks are resting, add four tablespoons of butter to the skillet. Once the butter is melted, drop in the diced onion and sauté for three minutes, allowing the onions to become soft. Add the minced garlic and cook an additional two minutes. Watch the garlic closely. If it starts to brown, drop the temperature on the skillet, as browned garlic adds a bitter taste to the dish.
Time to add the mushrooms! Roughly chop your favorite mushroom and add it to the onions and garlic. I used shiitakes this time, but I have also prepared this meal with baby portabellas or cremini mushrooms. Be sure to clean the mushrooms before using by taking a damp paper towel and gently rubbing the surface of the mushroom to remove any dirt. Also, with the portabellas or cremini, pull the stems from the mushrooms before chopping. Season the skillet with nutmeg, salt and pepper. Cook the mushrooms with the garlic and onions for five minutes.
Once the mushrooms have cooked down a bit, remove the pan from the heat source and deglaze with a half cup of whiskey. This is also one of those moments I love. When the whiskey hits the pan, it sizzles! Such a great sound! And I should mention that the kitchen will be smelling amazing at this point! The aromas created from the whiskey, onions and mushrooms together is intoxicating, and if you weren’t hungry when you started cooking this meal, you will be after those smells start mingling around the kitchen.
Return the skillet to the heat source, and allow the whiskey to cook down for about two minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and continue reducing the liquids for an additional two minutes.
Finally, add in 3/4 cup of cream, the minced fresh rosemary, and a tablespoon of Dijon mustard. Give everything a quick stir, reduce the heat to medium-low, and allow the sauce to simmer for five minutes. The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of spoon. It should be creamy and glossy.
To serve, slice the steaks against the grain into thick slabs, cover generously in the whiskey cream sauce, making sure to get a heaping serving of the mushrooms on each plate, and add a suitable side. I like to add a side of asparagus because it pairs wonderfully with the cream sauce. A side of mashed potatoes would also be delicious for absorbing some of the sauce.
I love this meal because it has simple flavors that highlight the tender, juicy deer steak. The earthy hints of rosemary and mushrooms pair great with the flavor from the deer, and the onions and cream add a savory but almost slightly sweet hit to the dish.