Wild Game Grilled Tenderloin Stuffed with Piggy Salsa
A recipe featured in the Outdoor News Taste of the Wild
By Eileen Clarke
Need a recipe that starts with the most tender of cuts, then stuffs it with sausage, wraps it in bacon and cooks it outdoors on the grill? What could be better? Oh yeah, only four ingredients–none of which is exotic, hard to find, or hard to prepare. You’ve come to the right place. But I can’t claim that I came up with this all by myself. Our friend Bob Avery, a Texas whitetail hunter, shared this recipe with me a few years ago. It’s one of his favorite ways to cook deer, and is now one of mine.
But first let’s talk about the cut we’re using. Depending on where you are, and who you’re talking to, the terminology gets confusing. Backstraps, tenderloin, butcher’s cut, filet, fillet, filet mignon, hanging tenderloin…the list goes on. (I’ve even heard the underloin called a ‘weenie’ loin.) To simplify, and not run into mis-namers, at our house we call them overloins and underloins: overloins being that tender part of any animal that sits on either side of the spine above (and in front of the hip bone); and that even-more-tender bit that hangs below the spine (from the hip bone back.) So, unless you have a moose or elk in your freezer, whose underloin is fairly substantial, what most of us will use for this recipe is an overloin of a deer, antelope or caribou.
8 to 10-inch length of tenderloin, trimmed
6 slices bacon
1/2 cup pork breakfast sausage
1/2 cup fresh tomato salsa
- In a bowl, combine the sausage and salsa.
- Place the tenderloin on a cutting board and with a sharp boning knife, slice it in half, so you have a top and bottom, and lay the top aside.
- Arrange the bacon slices on the cutting board side by side, and lay the bottom half of the tenderloin on top of them. Combine the sausage and salsa in a small bowl, then spread it evenly on the bottom half of the loin and place the top half on that.
- Now fold the bacon over the top, and secure it with toothpicks. Done? With a ruler, measure the height of the roast. For this recipe, height, not weight, determines the cooking time.
- Preheat the grill to medium heat (about 325˚F). You’ll be grilling indirectly, so set the fire on one side of the grill, leaving room for the roast to sit on the other side. (This will keep the bottom ½” from overcooking to the consistency of a hockey puck.) Place the roast on the grill, toothpick side down, but not directly over the flame. Set a timer for twenty minutes and allow to cook undisturbed.
- After twenty minutes, gently roll the roast over, being careful to position it so it’s not directly over the fire when it settles again. Set the timer for an additional twenty minutes, and check the roast with a meat thermometer. The 2” tall roast pictured here, took 55 minutes at 325⁰F. But be aware that grill temps are harder to control than in an oven. Plus, once a roast gets to 100⁰F internally, it only takes one minute to rise 2 more degrees and will rise another 5-6 degrees after taking it off the heat. Reset your timer accordingly, and take the roast off the grill at 155⁰F.
That’s a higher temperature than I recommend for a plain venison dry roast, but the bacon and the pork stuffing need to cook to that temperature. Don’t worry. All that pork fat keeps the venison quite moist.
- Let the roast sit for a few minutes before slicing it across the grain. Serve with potato salad, or baked potatoes, or as pictured here, with cilantro butter. ( Cilantro butter is easily assembled by combining 1/4 cup each: chopped cilantro and softened butter, and seasoned to taste with salt & pepper.)
About the Chef: This recipe, and 99 other big game recipes and 43 side dishes, is from Slice of the Wild, Eileen Clarke’s bullet-to-fork big game cookbook. Eileen considers the most crucial part of making your game tender and tasty, starts with the shot, and Slice of the Wild pays special attention to this, offering 45 pages of how to get that wild critter to the kitchen in the best shape possible. Eileen also offers a game care and recipe blog: focusing on fish to birds to big game, quick dishes, slow dishes, and everything in between. Eileen’s cookbooks and blog can be found at www.riflesandrecipes.com/ 406-521-0273.