Venison Loin (Backstrap) with Bourbon-Cherry Sauce

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Credit: ACF Chef John Lucchesi, CEC, MBA

From the Chef

“Venison pairs great with foods that deer would eat and find in their own environment, such as fruits like cherries, apples, persimmons and pears; berries like raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, boysenberries, currants and raisins; herbs like fresh thyme, fresh rosemary and juniper; as well as pumpkin, squashes and corn. Season your accompaniments with flavors that compliment or provide a nice contrast balance, (e.g., sweet and sour, spicy and cool), to the venison and the sauce. I’ve served venison with starches like mashed potatoes, soft polenta, cooked rice or mushroom risotto and vegetable sides such as grilled portobello mushrooms, asparagus, roasted carrots or winter squash roasted with a touch of brown sugar. You can even add some bourbon-soaked dried cherries as a garnish or even red wine- or apple cider vinegar-pickled cherries for a bit of tang. Note: I like to use a bourbon that has a bit of smokiness and earthy notes to it, as well as some sweet accents. Have fun and experiment with flavors you like.”


2 pounds venison loin (backstrap)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tablespoon freshly cracked black pepper, plus more for finishing
1 tablespoon grapeseed or canola oil
1/4 to 1/2 cup bourbon
1/2 cup beef or venison stock
2 cloves fresh garlic, peeled, smashed
1 - 2 cups dried cherries
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
Salt, to taste


1. Clean the venison loin of all sinew, trimming the ends to square it off for even cooking. Tie the loin if preferred to ensure even cooking and consistency in thickness from end to end.
2. Place the venison in a non-reactive container and rub with the olive oil. Season with pepper. De-stem leaves from two of the thyme sprigs and set aside. Top venison with remaining two thyme sprigs. Cover and “marinate" the venison in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.
3. Preheat oven to 350°F.
4. Heat a heavy-bottom saute pan over high heat until smoking hot. Add the grapeseed or canola oil and sear the venison loin on all sides until nicely browned. Note that this might create a bit of smoke in a home kitchen so consider cooking outdoors.
5. Once evenly seared, place the pan in the oven. Cook until an internal temperature reads 130 to 135°F for medium-rare doneness. Remove venison from pan and place on a racked tray. Tent with foil and let rest in a warm area while preparing the sauce.
6. Place the pan used to sear and cook the venison over medium-high heat. Add bourbon and deglaze, scraping up browned bits. Reduce by half. Add the stock, garlic cloves, dried cherries and reserved fresh thyme leaves and reduce until thick and syrupy.
7. Once sauce is thickened, strain through a fine sieve or sieve lined with cheesecloth. Be sure to press all liquid from cherries when straining. The back of a ladle or a muddler works well for this.
8. Once sauce is strained return it to the heat and bring to a low simmer. Adjust the seasoning with salt and black pepper. Adjust the thickness of the sauce by adding a bit more stock, as needed, to thin. You can also use a slurry of stock and cornstarch or stock and arrowroot to thicken. Once sauce has reached desired consistency, remove from heat and whisk in butter, one tablespoon at a time.
9. To serve, slice the venison loin into 1/4 inch-thick slices. Place on a warm plate and drizzle sauce over all. Serve with a starch and vegetable of your choice.


4 – 8 Servings


Game, Main Dish, The National Culinary Review

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Association of Nutrition & Foodservice Professionals