Cooked venison tenderloin cut in half and served on a late with a side of squash and sage.
Travis Rathbone

The first Thanksgiving featured plenty of wild game, so why shouldn’t yours? To that end, we’re sharing some of our favorite game recipes this week. So raid the freezer, crank up the stove, and get cooking.

I distinctly remember tasting the gaminess of venison when I first tried it many years ago–it was ex-traor-dinary. I cook seasonally and always look forward to cooking with venison after so many months of working with lamb, chicken, and beef. And I like the versatility of the garnishes you can use with venison. I chose this recipe because it’s seasonal with the pumpkin and prunes, and it’s easy for the home cook to prepare.

Editors’ Take: You’ll love this for how its taste will remind you of fall, and for how its color will make you look as artistic as an Iron Chef. Also, either tenderloin or backstrap will work for this dish.


  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1⁄2 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1⁄4 tsp. ground star anise
  • 1⁄4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1⁄4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 4 venison tenderloins, 6-7 oz. each
  • 1⁄4 cup (packed) prunes, chopped in 1⁄4-inch pieces
  • 2 Tbsp. Armagnac (optional)
  • 12 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened at room temperature, cut in tablespoon-size pieces
  • 2 cups peeled cheese pumpkin, cut in 1⁄4-inch dice
  • 10 sage leaves, minced


  1. In a bowl, stir together 11⁄2 tsp. salt, 1⁄2 tsp. pepper, allspice, star anise, and cinnamon. Whisk in 2 Tbsp. of oil. Rub mixture on both sides of each venison loin.
  2. Put prunes in a bowl. If using Armagnac, pour over prunes and set aside to soak.
  3. Heat 2 Tbsp. of oil and 2 Tbsp. of butter in 10-inch saute pan over medium heat. Add pumpkin and cook, tossing and stirring every few minutes, until lightly caramelized on all sides, 15 to 18 minutes. Toss in prunes. Remove pan from heat and season with salt and four grinds of pepper, or to taste.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put 2 Tbsp. each of the oil and butter in a 12-inch ovenproof saute pan over medium-high heat. When butter starts to sizzle and foam, add venison loins and sear for 1 minute. Turn them over and transfer pan to oven. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted to the center of loin reads 120 degrees for rare. Remove pan from oven and let venison rest on a clean, dry surface for 3 to 4 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, heat a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add remaining butter and cook until it melts and turns brown, approximately 1 minute. Remove pan from heat and stir in sage leaves. When sage leaves get crispy, set aside.

Serving Tip: divide pumpkin and prunes evenly around four plates. Top each portion with a venison loin, a drizzle of brown butter, and crisped sage.

Terrance Brennan is the chef-proprietor of Picholine Restaurant and Artisanal Bistro and Wine Bar in New York City.