Good venison is buttery and beefy, hardly gamey at all. Amy Thielen likes to freeze then wet-age wild venison to allow its fibers to relax, thawing it in its vacuum-sealed package in the refrigerator for at least a week. Because the loin is so lean, it is best cooked over a steady push of medium-high heat—not high heat, which creates a bull's-eye effect. To help the outside caramelize, Thielen adds malted milk powder to the spice rub, which also adds a subtle, nutty richness to the final sauce.
Each year, deep in Minnesota's northwoods, Amy Thielen invites a close-knit band of friends to hunt her land, and fortifies them with lusty, late-fall dishes like venison and sauerkraut that rival any turkey and stuffing
- 2 tbsp. malted milk powder
- 2 tbsp. poppy seeds
- 2 tsp. dried thyme
- 1 1⁄2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 6 tbsp. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
- 2 1⁄2 lb. venison loin (about 3 loins), trimmed and halved crosswise
- 4 small shallots, peeled and cut into thin wedges
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 whole cloves
- 1⁄2 cup dry, robust red wine
- 2⁄3 cup chicken stock
Preheat the oven to 400°. In a small bowl, mix the malt powder, poppy seeds, thyme, and black pepper. Transfer the seasoning mixture to a large platter and add the venison. Roll the meat in the spices, patting the meat with your hands to help the seasonings adhere. Let rest at room temperature for 10 minutes.
In a large, ovenproof skillet over medium heat, melt 4 tablespoons butter. Once hot and bubbling, add the venison pieces, and lower the heat slightly. Cook, rotating the meat one-quarter of the way about every 3 minutes, about 9 minutes total (meat will be only browned on three of its four sides). Add the shallots, thyme, and the whole cloves to the pan, stirring briefly to coat in the butter. Rotate the meat to its final side and cook until browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer the pan to the oven and roast until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat reads 125°, about 10 minutes.
Remove the venison to a large platter and let rest.
Meanwhile, place the skillet back over medium-high heat, and add the red wine. Bring to a boil, then let cook until reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and bring the mixture back to a boil; cook until it is bubbling around the shallots, about 3 minutes. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and cook, stirring or swirling the pan occasionally, until the butter is melted and the sauce is thickened to the consistency of heavy cream, about 2 minutes. Stir in any juices that have accumulated on the venison platter.
Transfer the venison to a cutting board, and clean the platter. Pour the sauce through a fine-mesh sieve onto the clean platter. Slice the venison into 1-inch-thick medallions and transfer to the platter with the sauce. Serve immediately.