Wow your dinner guests with this fabulous Elk Tenderloin with Blackberry Port Sauce recipe. This is a healthy special occasion dish that is surprisingly quick and easy to prepare and is oh-so-delicious. The elk tenderloin is lean and tender and cooks very quickly. And the sauce is so scrumptious, your guests will swoon over it and want to eat it with a spoon!
Begin a special meal with a special green salad, such as The Admiral Arugula Salad. Serve the Elk Tenderloin with Blackberry Port Sauce as your main course with simple sides that won’t compete with the incredible blackberry port sauce. I suggest a simple baked potato and some roasted asparagus. Finish with a light dessert such as Fresh Berries with White Chocolate Sauce.
This recipe is a loose adaptation of a recipe published on the Food Network website, which was submitted by a restaurant called Jake's Fine Dining, in Deadwood, South Dakota.
Why eat elk?
Beef is highly available and widely consumed in the US. It’s also mostly sourced from farm-raised cows, that live unpleasant lives in pens and feed on grains made from soy and corn. Even worse, these animals are injected with hormones and antibiotics that make their way into the meat that you eat. So, game animals can be a much healthier option to commercially grown beef. Elk, for example, are a type of deer and most live free-roaming lives in the wild. Their diet consists of grasses, shrubs, and leaves. As a result, elk meat is rich in protein (30 g of protein per 100 g of meat), but has half the fat of beef. That makes it compatible with a heart healthy diet. Elk meat also generally contains no hormones or antibiotics.
Where do you buy elk tenderloin?
My husband is fortunate to have a client that has a home in Wyoming and spends time hunting in neighboring Montana. The particular elk tenderloins pictured in the recipe below came from an animal that was hunted on a private ranch called Perfect Light Ranch in south central Montana, in a treed elevated portion of the ranch at around 6,200 feet.
Elk can be challenging to find in a regular grocery store. Still, if you don't have a hunter friend, you can purchase elk tenderloin from specialty grocery stores, such as Wild Forks or from online purveyors, like Blackwing Meats.
Ingredients for Elk Tenderloin with Blackberry Port Sauce
- extra virgin olive oil
- elk tenderloin
- tawny port wine
- steak sauce
- light brown sugar
See recipe card for quantities.
Take the elk tenderloin out of the refrigerator, slice crosswise into 8 one inch thick medallions. Let the medallions come to room temperature for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 400ºF (375ºF for convection). Pat the tenderloins dry with a paper towel. Place a cast iron frying pan on medium-high heat. When very hot, add the olive oil and then the elk tenderloins. Brown one side for 2 minutes, then flip the tenderloins and place in the oven for 2 more minutes for medium-rare.
Take the cast iron pan out of the oven and remove the tenderloins to a warm plate. Return the pan to -medium-high heat on the stove and add the shallots and berries and sautéed for a minute or two, until the berries start to break down.
Add the port wine and reduce the liquid by half. Add the steak sauce and the brown sugar and stir until incorporated and the sauce is bubbling happily.
Spoon the blackberry port sauce onto a heated serving platter or individual plates and then top with the elk tenderloin medallions. Serve immediately.
The blackberry port sauce in this elk tenderloin recipe is too good to be a one hit wonder. Try it on these other cuts of meat:
- Beef tenderloin - The flavor of elk tenderloin is quite beefy, so why not serve the delicious blackberry port sauce with beef tenderloin?
- Pork tenderloin - Without proper seasoning or a flavorful sauce, I sometimes fine pork tenderloin to be quite bland. The blackberry port sauce really dresses up pork tenderloin, elevating it to a special dish.
- Elk chops - Elk loin chops are, to me, even more delicious than lamb chops and look beautiful with the blackberry port sauce on top.
Additionally, ruby port or even a late harvest red wine can substitute for the tawny port in this recipe.
The main piece of gear that you need for this elk tenderloin recipe is a good quality cast iron frying pan. For over 100 years, Lodge has been the gold standard for cast iron cookware. This 12" Lodge Cast Iron Skillet with Red Silicone Hot Handle Holder is the perfect size for 8 elk tenderloin medallions. It comes pre-seasoned and has an easy-release finish that just gets better over time. And it heats evenly and will create a great sear on your elk steaks.
Top tip for cooking elk tenderloin
Don't overcook the elk! With a cut this lean, medium-rare is the correct temperature. Any more and you'll have dry, flavorless pucks of meat. Too rare, and the meat will be tough. Like Goldilocks, your medium-rare elk tenderloin will be "just right."
Also, make sure you pat the elk tenderloins dry with paper towels, prior to searing. Drying it ensures that we sear a nice crust onto the steaks, rather than steam them.
There are two very tender boneless cuts of elk meat: backstops and tenderloins. Backstraps are the long muscles that run parallel along both sides of an elk’s spine. The tenderloins are smaller and are located inside the abdominal cavity beneath the backstop and the spine. Both the backstops and the tenderloins are very lean and cook quickly.
Because elk tenderloin is so lean, the lack of marbled fat means it will cook quickly and it’s very easy to overcook, which results in tough and dry meat. The best way to cook it is to pan sear on medium-high heat and finish in the oven for a couple of minutes. Take the meat out of the refrigerator and let come to room temperature for 20 minutes. Using paper towels, pat the tenderloins dry. Drying it ensures that we sear, rather than steam the meat. When ready, heat a heavy cast iron pan on medium-high. When hot, add a little olive oil to the pan and then the elk tenderloins. Sear for two minutes and then flip the tenderloins and finish in a 400ºF oven for another two minutes.
If you have never tasted elk meat before, you are in for a real treat with these elk tenderloins. Elk is very lean and has a mild beefy flavor. It is not "gamey" like other wild caught meats.
Elk Tenderloin with Blackberry Port Sauce
- 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lb elk tenderloin
- ⅓ cup shallots, minced
- 1 pint fresh blackberries
- 1 cup tawny port wine
- ¼ cup steak sauce (A1, HP or your favorite brand)
- ¼ cup light or dark brown sugar
- Take the elk tenderloin out of the refrigerator, slice crosswise into 8 one inch thick medallions. Let the medallions come to room temperature for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 400ºF (375ºF for convection). Pat the tenderloins dry with a paper towel. Place a cast iron frying pan on medium-high heat. When very hot, add the olive oil and then the elk tenderloins. Brown one side for 2 minutes, then flip the tenderloins and place in the oven for 2 more minutes for medium-rare.
- Take the cast iron pan out of the oven and remove the tenderloins to a warm plate. Return the pan to high heat on the stove and add the shallots and berries and sautéed for a minute or two, until the berries start to break down.
- Add the port wine and reduce the liquid by half. Then add the steak sauce and the brown sugar and stir until incorporated and the sauce is bubbling happily.
- Spoon the blackberry port sauce onto a heated serving platter or individual plates and then top with the elk tenderloin medallions. Serve immediately.