Venison Tenderloin with Aquavit-Cheese Sauce
If you've been looking for a unique main course to serve for a special celebration, a venison tenderloin may fill the bill. The meat is lightly spiced with juniper and black pepper, roasted to medium rare and topped with a sauce made with a caramelized goat cheese from Norway called gjetost. A splash of aquavit cuts the richness and accentuates the juniper flavor. The sauce and flavorings also work well with pork tenderloin, so don't feel that you have to seek out the venison if it's difficult to find in your area.
- 6 juniper berries
- 2 allspice berries
- 6 black peppercorns
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 whole venison or pork tenderloins, about 3 to 3-1/2 lbs total
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1 cup hot chicken stock
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 2 ounces gjetost cheese, cut into small cubes (see recipe notes)
- 2 tablespoons aquavit (see recipe notes) or vodka
Preheat the oven to 400°F and spray the bottom half of a broiler pan thoroughly with nonstick spray.
Put the juniper, allspice, peppercorns, fennel seeds and salt in a mortar and pestle and crush to a coarse grind. Rub the tenderloins on all sides with the spice mixture.
Heat the vegetable oil in a nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Sear the tenderloins, one at a time, on all sides and transfer to the prepared pan.
For venison, roast for about 8 minutes to an internal temperature of 130°F for medium rare. Allow the meat to rest for 10 minutes before carving. For pork, allow an additional 4 minutes roasting time until the tenderloins reach an internal temperature of 140°F in the thickest part. Like the venison, allow the pork to rest for 10 minutes before carving.
While the meat cooks, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook until the flour turns golden brown. Slowly whisk in the hot chicken stock until well blended. Add the sour cream and cook until the mixture is smooth and starting to thicken. Add the gjetost and continue cooking until the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth. Stir in the aquavit and keep warm until ready to serve, stirring occasionally.
Carve the meat into 3/8-inch thick slices, transfer to a serving dish and drizzle with some sauce. Transfer the rest of the sauce to a serving bowl.
Makes 6 to 8 servings
Gjetost (pronounced "yay-toast") develops its distinctive color and flavor because the milk sugars are caramelized during the cheese-making process. The cheese is slightly sweet and nutty and has a smooth, rich texture. We used Ski Queen gjetost, which we buy at our local Whole Foods, but we've had other brands in the past that we found at Scandinavian markets. Gjetost generally comes in an 8-ounce block. It's delicious when brought to room temperature, sliced and served with Norwegian flatbread.
Aquavit is a Scandinavian spirit whose name translates to mean the "water of life." Similar to vodka, it is distilled from either fermented potatoes or grain and flavored with aromatic spices like caraway, fennel, anise, cumin, dill and coriander, along with citrus peel and other herbs.
This recipe is inspired by one we found on the New Scandinavian Cooking website. It's a terrific resource, filled with wonderful recipes and great information for anyone who wants to learn more about Scandinavian cuisine.