Bison tenderloin in bourbon sauce

If you’ve been eying the frozen Bison meat in your supermarket but are afraid of cooking with it, fear not. A good cut of bison is as hard to screw up as a good beef steak, and if you take a few extra steps to impart as much flavor as possible, it’s a great “special” meal.

I lived in North Dakota for four years, and have spent quite a bit of time in Montana and South Dakota, all places where bison meat is easy to find. In other states, you might find it at a specialty market, in higher-end grocery stores or, like us, at a bison ranch (Wild Winds Buffalo Preserve).

Like all specialty meats, you’ll pay more for bison, but it’s comparable to grass-fed beef. And, since most herds are small and most bison ranches are mom-and-pop operations, the meat tends to be consistently good.

Tonight I prepared bison tenderloin in the style you might use to pan-sear a good steak, or venison. In my world, that means lots of butter, which unfortunately might denigrate the health benefits of bison (it has fewer calories per gram cooked than chicken, for example). I used 8-ounce bison tenderloins and butterflied them. Why butterfly? Because the flavor comes from the Maillard reaction (the breaking down of long protein chains into short protein chains that our tastebuds can process), you want that reaction to happen over the largest possible surface area. If you want to serve it on the rare side, or want a presentation more akin to a proper filet mignon, then don’t butterfly it (and add a few minutes to the cooking time).

Here’s what you’ll need for two people:

  • Two 8-ounce bison tenderloin filets, butterflied
  • Half a stick of butter in 1/2-Tablespoon pads
  • 1/4 cup bourbon (I prefer Maker’s Mark, both for cooking and for drinking. Especially for drinking.)
  • 1/4 cup half and half
  • salt, pepper and garlic powder

For hardware, you’ll need two saute pans, a spatula, a soup spoon and a whisk.

Here’s what to do:

  • Put one saute pan, lightly oiled if needed, over high heat. Allow it to heat for a solid two minutes, until it’s blazing hot. In a second saute pan, melt 3 Tablespoons butter over medium heat.
  • Season both sides of the tenderloin generously with salt, pepper and garlic powder, about a total of a teaspoon of seasoning on each side of both.
  • Sear both sides of the tenderloins in the hot pan, getting a medium-brown sear on both sides.
  • Once the tenderloins are seared, move them into the pan with melted butter at medium heat. Continuously spoon melted butter over the tops of the bison to keep it moist (and, because bison is so lean, you need the butter to add some fat to it).
  • Once fluid rises to the top of the tenderloins (about 10 minutes), flip. Continue to spoon butter over the top until cooked to desired temperature (although I like my beef medium-rare, I like my bison medium).
  • Set the meat aside to rest.
  • Increase the heat to medium-high and pour in the bourbon and half and half. Reduce by half, until it coats the back of a spoon, remove from the heat, and add in 1 Tablespoon of butter to finish.
  • Season the sauce with a few sprinkles of garlic powder, salt and pepper, and drizzle over the bison to serve.

This same technique works very well with any red game meat, and any cut of beef. Of course anything tastes good drowned in butter.

Related posts:

  1. Easy steak in brown ale sauce
  2. Pork with Riesling and shallots
  3. Stuffed peppers that go to 11
  4. Beef short-ribs with veg in red wine
  5. Mac ‘n cheese with bacon

About the Author

Owner of a graphic design firm specializing in magazine design and wannabe chef. Former resident of Belgium, the United Kingdom and...North Dakota.