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Flame-Grilled Whitetail Tenderloin and Wild Morels: Jack Hennessy

Jack Hennessy starts off his recipes for the outdoors section of Sports Saturday for the Sun-Times with ``Flame-Grilled Whitetail Tenderloin and Wild Morels.''
Credit: Jack Hennessy

NOTE: This is the start of Jack Hennessy doing weekly recipes from the wilds as part of the expanded outdoors package in the Sun-Times’ Sports Saturday. I will have more on this in coming weeks. But looking at what he already has planned, I am really excited.

With that, here is the start to something good:

Flame-Grilled Whitetail Tenderloin and Wild Morels

Every serious hunter-forager knows the secret behind the perfect dinner plate: Use ingredients you find in close proximity of one another, as they are almost always guaranteed to compliment each other very well.

This time of year, from as early as mid-April to early-June, fungus fanatics set out in pursuit of the year’s rarest and most delicious shroom: the morel.

With a wild mushroom, I ALWAYS advise foragers to make certain they know what they’re eating, to cook it beforehand AND taste-test (half a teaspoon) 24 hours prior to consuming the whole mushroom. A small percentage of the population is allergic to morels, and these folks can become very sick if they eat more than a small amount.

Because I jumped a few whitetail prior to picking these morels, it only made sense to me to pair my find with the most-tender cut of venison sitting in my freezer.

Ingredients (serves 2 people)

  • Two venison tenderloins, approximately 16 to 20 ounces
  • A mix of kosher salt and black pepper
  • A handful of half-fist-sized morels, halved
  • 2 tablespoons butter

How to Make It

  1. Should there be any silver skin on tenderloins, make sure to trim off with a fillet knife.
  2. Liberally salt and pepper and let sit for minimum 2 hours to bring to room temperature.
  3. While tenderloins sit, cut morels in half and soak in a saltwater solution to help remove dirt and any bugs.
  4. Heat up grill or skillet to medium-high heat. If using charcoal, I like to add a couple mesquite or hickory chunks atop coals right before grilling to add a subtle smoky flavor to venison.
  5. At this same time, thoroughly rinse morels and place on napkin-covered plate and cover with a napkin to dry but also keep moist.
  6. Add tenderloins to hot, clean grate. Do not cover with lid.
  7. Adequately sear all sides, approximately 2 minutes per side. (In my experience, venison tenderloins have three sides when it comes to resting on a grill, so 6 minutes of direct sear.)
  8. Place tenderloin on outer rim of grate for indirect heat and close lid. Ideal temperature here is 425/450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  9. Let tenderloin roast for approximately 4 to 6 minutes. Remove once internal temperature reaches 125/130 and cover with aluminum foil (test with meat thermometer).
  10. In a skillet, melt a tablespoon of butter.
  11. Add morels and liberally sprinkle salt and pepper overtop, followed by slightly melted butter.
  12. Sautee until slightly brown and soft (but not MUSHY).
  13. Slice tenderloin once it has had 8 to 10 minutes to rest under aluminum foil.
  14. Any questions, feel free to reach out to me on In