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Elk Venison Tenderloin Tataki Recipe

Whet your guests' appetites by serving this venison tenderloin tataki recipe as an appetizer. It takes only 20 minutes to make and is a light yet flavorful dish to start a meal.

Elk Venison Tenderloin Tataki Recipe

Everyone will love this venison appetizer recipe! Rare elk venison tenderloin slices are served in a bowl with Ponzu sauce and garnished with furikake, pickled ginger, green onion, and a few drops of chili oil. (Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley photo)

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Editor's note: If you don't have elk loin to make this venison recipe, you can substitute deer loin.

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The first time I had beef tataki was at a sushi restaurant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota – of all places – and it was one of the best meals I’ve ever had on a business trip. I was working at a hunting/fishing trade show then and having been sent to the middle of nowhere – if you can get any more middle of nowhere than Norfolk, Nebraska, where I was living at the time – to promote all that outdoor Nebraska has to offer, I didn’t have much hope for the kind of food I would find.

Thanks to Yelp, it turned out that I was dead wrong. And I’m glad I was. The Sushi-Masa Japanese Restaurant in this small, Midwestern city was a pleasant surprise. Their fish was authentically prepared, but the giant bowl of beef tataki that I ordered was something special. I still think about it to this day, and thoughts of doing something similar with wild game has been swirling in my mind since. (On a different note, Sioux Falls also has a decent Cambodian restaurant that serves excellent curry.)

Tataki means “pounded” in Japanese. However, the only ingredient that was pounded in this recipe was the wasabi, and I prefer my pickled ginger thinly sliced rather than as a paste. The meat doesn’t actually get pounded. Rather, it’s quickly, hotly seared for a nice crust on the outside and a rare center inside, and then thinly sliced to be enjoyed much like sashimi. Tuna tataki is also popular and a nice option for those squeamish about eating completely raw fish.

For this recipe, you can use deer loin if you don’t have elk tenderloin – they are roughly about the same size. With the combination of the salty, lemony Ponzu along with sweetness of the ginger, the umami from the furikake (dried fish seasoning) and the pungent, sinus-clearing kick of wasabi – go easy on it – elk tataki is a great starter for whetting appetites. Is this an authentic recipe? Not really. I recreated what I remember with a bit of improv, but the spirit is there.

How to Make This Elk Venison Tenderloin Tataki Recipe

Serves: 4 (appetizers)
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes

Ingredients:

  • ½ pound of elk (or deer) venison tenderloin
  • Olive oil
  • Ponzu dipping sauce
  • Furikake seasoning
  • Pickled ginger (store-bought or homemade)
  • 1 or 2 green onions, sliced thinly on the bias
  • Prepared wasabi
  • Chili oil, optional

Special Equipment:

  • Cooking twine

Directions:

  1. Remove all silver skin from the elk tenderloin. Tuck in the thinner end(s), if any, for a roll that is uniform in thickness and tie snugly with cooking twine—this will help the tenderloin keep a round shape while searing.

    If you don’t have cooking twine, it’s not absolutely necessary since the meat won’t be cooked for long at all. But I do recommend this technique when cooking any type of tenderloin or loin for a longer period of time. Meat tends to lay flat on cooking surfaces if not tied. The twine will help the loin cook more evenly and give you nice round medallions for the plate later.

    Elk Tenderloin Tataki Recipe
    Wrap cooking twine around the venison loin to help keep its round shape when searing it. (Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley photo)
  2. Pat tenderloin dry with paper towels. 
  3. Grease a skillet with olive oil and heat to medium-high or high.
  4. When the oil begins to smoke, sear the tenderloin on all sides for a nice brown crust. You want to just sear the outside; the inside should remain rare. Remove the tenderloin from the heat and allow to rest for 10 minutes, un-tented. Then cut off the twine and thinly slice the tenderloin with a good knife.
  5. Pour some Ponzu sauce into the bottom of a bowl or dish. (You probably won’t need quite as much as I used for this photo—it’s plenty salty.) Lay the slices of rare elk tenderloin into the Ponzu and garnish with furikake, pickled ginger, green onion, and few drops of chili oil. Serve with wasabi on the side and enjoy to taste.

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