Food & Drink

Cakebread Cellars's Peppered Venison Loin

Who Cares Where the Beef Is?

peppered venison loin!

A healthy alternative to beef (and even chicken!), naturally sweet venison welcomes a tart, fruity sauce. The perfect side? Potato puree or Brussels sprouts nail it every time.

Peppered Venison Loin with Zinfandel Huckleberry Sauce
Serves four


For the venison
1 venison loin, trimmed of fat and silverskin, about 1 lb.
4 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp. coarsely cracked black peppercorns
¾ tsp. kosher salt

1. Rub the venison with 2 tbsp. oil, thyme, peppercorns, and salt. Let stand for 1 hour at room temperature.

2. Preheat oven to 500°.

3. Heat a large, ovenproof skillet on high. Add the rest of the oil.

4. When the oil is almost smoking, add the venison and sear on all sides, about 2 minutes total, then transfer the skillet to the oven and roast the venison until the internal temperature reaches 120° (for medium rare), 5-6 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes before carving.

For the sauce
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
½ lg. yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1 celery rib, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
½ Granny Smith apple, diced (no need to core)
1 c. Cakebread Cellars zinfandel
½ c. ruby port
3 c. chicken stock
1 sprig fresh thyme
½ c. plus 2 tbsp. fresh huckleberries or frozen wild Maine blueberries, thawed

1. Heat the oil in a 4-qt. saucepan on high.

2. Add onion, celery, carrots, and apple. Saute over high heat, stirring often, until the vegetables caramelize slightly, 10-15 minutes.

3. Add the zinfandel and port. Simmer briskly until reduced to a syrup, about 15 minutes.

4. Add the chicken stock, thyme, and ½ c. berries. Simmer until reduced to a sauce consistency, about 30 minutes.

5. Strain through a fine sieve, pressing on the solids. You should have about ½ c. sauce.

6. Return the sauce to a small saucepan and add the remaining 2 tbsp. berries.

To serve

1. Slice the venison about ¼-inch thick.

2. Arrange the venison on dinner plates and spoon the sauce around it, not over it.

3. Pair with Cakebread Cellars zinfandel or another fruity, full-bodied red wine.

Adapted from The Cakebread Cellars American Harvest Cookbook, available online at amazon.com, $22.

Photo: Marshall Gordon / Courtesy of Ten Speed Press

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