Venison Tenderloin with Aquavit-Cheese Sauce
If you've been looking for a unique main course to serve for a special celebration, this spice-crusted venison tenderloin may fill the bill. Flavored with juniper berries, allspice, fennel and black pepper, the venison is roasted to medium rare and topped with a creamy sauce made with gjetost (a caramelized goat cheese from Norway), sour cream and a splash of aquavit. The sauce and flavorings also work well with pork tenderloin, so if venison is not an option, feel free to substitute.
- 8 to 10 juniper berries
- 4 allspice berries
- 8 black peppercorns
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel pollen
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 venison tenderloins, about 2 to 2-1/2 lbs total
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- For the sauce:
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1 cup hot chicken stock
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 3 ounces gjetost cheese, coarsely grated (see recipe notes)
- 2 tablespoons aquavit (see recipe notes) or vodka
Preheat the oven to 400°F and coat a shallow baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.
Place the juniper berries, allspice, peppercorns, fennel seeds and salt in a mortar and pestle and crush to a coarse grind. Coat the venison (or pork) tenderloins on all sides with the spice mixture.
Heat the vegetable oil in a nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Sear the tenderloins on all sides and transfer to the prepared pan.
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.
If using pork tenderloins, roast for about 12 minutes, to an internal temperature of 140°F in the thickest part. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before carving.
While the meat roasts, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook until golden. Slowly whisk in the hot chicken stock until well blended. Whisk in the sour cream and cook until the mixture is smooth and thickening to a sauce consistency. Stir in the gjetost and continue cooking until the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth. Add the aquavit and keep warm over low heat, stirring occasionally, until ready to serve.
Carve the meat into 3/8-inch thick slices, transfer to a serving dish and drizzle with some sauce. Transfer the remainder of the sauce to a serving bowl and pass at the table.
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.
About the recipe:
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.