Asian Style Elk Meatballs: A Perfect Party Appetizer

“I wanted to be a skinny little ballerina but I was a voluptuous little Italian girl whose dad had meatballs on the table every night.” ~ Lady Gaga

I am not always the best pre-planner. If I am headed on vacation, I am the one packing my bags thirty minutes before we are scheduled to leave.  I tend to forget essentials, you know, like my tooth brush.  I do not know why I have to wait until thirty minutes before our scheduled departure to start preparing for my trip, but I do it every time.  And every time, as I am realizing I don’t have any clean socks to pack, because that would require a pre-check of my dresser drawers to ensure there are socks available for my trip, I curse myself for procrastinating.  You would think I would learn my lesson.  Arriving at your destination without pants to wear can be quite unfortunate.  But every vacation, no matter what, I still find myself packing that bag thirty minutes before jumping in the car and hastily roaring away, most likely with a pair of dirty socks, no toothbrush, and pant-less.

This incredible skill of procrastination is also useful in other situations.  This past New Year’s Eve, I was invited to a late night celebration.  I was invited well over a week in advance, and was told to bring three simple things: myself, a drink to share, and an appetizer dish to share.  Guess what was ready with an hour before party time?  Nothing. Not my drink to share, not my appetizer dish, and certainly not myself.

Realizing people would probably not care if I stopped at the store and grabbed a bottle of some drink to share and that I was dressed like a slob (with dirty socks of course), I did think people would notice if I arrived with no appetizer in hand.  I contemplated buying one of those pre-made vegetable or meat and cheese trays, but I figured my fellow procrastinators would also devise this plan and arrive with the same appetizer.

I opened my refrigerator in search of something to throw together, and luck would have it, there was a pack of elk chunk waiting to become my quick, throw together New Year’s Eve appetizer.  I quickly ran the chunk through my meat grinder.  It resulted in about a pound of ground elk.  To the ground elk, I added a cup of panko bread crumbs, some fresh chopped parsley, and a little nutmeg.  I also seasoned generously with salt and pepper.  I also added in one beaten egg and two tablespoons of milk.

I find the best tactic for mixing meatballs is to just dig right in with your hands.  This gets everything incorporated really thoroughly.  Also, it allows you to test the consistency of the meatballs.  If the meatballs feel too wet and things aren’t really sticking together, add more panko bread crumbs.  If things feel to dry, add in more milk.

Since this was a quick throw together appetizer, I used what was available in my pantry to make my meatballs.  If you don’t have, or maybe you don’t like, panko bread crumbs, traditional bread crumbs will also work.  Also, I don’t always have fresh parsley on hand.  I actually never have it on hand, but for some reason on this particular evening I did.  If you don’t have fresh parsley, dried would also work.  You would only need a tablespoon of dried parsley instead of a quarter cup like with the fresh.

Roll the meatballs into balls using about a tablespoon of the meat mixture.  Place them on an ungreased baking sheet.  For easier clean-up, line the sheet with aluminum foil.  Bake the meatballs in a 400 degree oven for about 12 minutes.  The meatballs should be slightly browned and your kitchen should smell delicious!

While the meatballs are roasting away, pull out a crockpot.  Set the crockpot on low heat.

To the pot, add 3/4 to 1 cup of hoisin sauce.  I started with 3/4 of a cup and then added more at the end of I wanted more of the hoisin flavor to stand out.  A beautiful dark amber color, hoisin is a sweet and salty sauce commonly used in Chinese cuisine.  It is a pungent sauce packed with a ton of flavor, so start with less and you can always add more.

To the hoisin, add one tablespoon of soy sauce, a teaspoon of sesame seed oil, two cloves of minced garlic, and a teaspoon of ground ginger. To help liven up the flavor of the spices in the hoisin sauce, add a tablespoon or two of rice wine vinegar.  Give everything a stir and a quick taste.  The sauce should taste salty and a bit spicy.  Now it is time develop the sweetness of this sauce.  I always taste things before I start adding my sweetener to see where things are at.  This is important with the hoisin because it also adds sweetness to the dish, and you don’t want the meatballs tasting like lollipops!  Anyway, slowly add the honey in a drizzle at a time, tasting as you go, until the sauce is where you want it.  If you desire a bit more salt, add a little more soy sauce.  If you want more hoisin flavor, drizzle some more of that in.  I ended up with about a tablespoon of honey at the end.

After the meatballs are done cooking, add them to the hoisin sauce, making sure to coat all the meatballs with the sauce, and you are ready to party!  I took the entire crockpot to the gathering with me, this way everything stayed nice and warm.  To serve the meatballs, sprinkle a few sesame seeds on top.

Meatballs are a great party appetizer.  A pound of meat and a few simple ingredients make a deliciously quick treat.  They can be served using only toothpicks, so there is no need for utensils or plates.  They can also be made in advance and then just added to the crock-pot to heat back up.

These salty and sweet Asian-style meatballs received lots of praise at the party, and no one suspected they were a product of procrastination.

 

Asian Style Elk Meatballs: A Perfect Party Appetizer

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 22 minutes

Total Time: 32 minutes

20-25 meatballs

Asian Style Elk Meatballs: A Perfect Party Appetizer

Ingredients

    For the Meatballs
  • 1 pound ground elk
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs (more as needed)
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Salt and pepper to taste
    For Hoisin Sauce
  • 3/4 to 1 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1-2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seed oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon honey

Instructions

    For Meatballs
  1. Preheat the oven to 400. For easier clean up, line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the ground elk, panko bread crumbs, parsley, nutmeg, milk, beaten egg, and salt and pepper. Use your hands to thoroughly incorporate all the ingredients. If meatballs seem to wet, add more panko. If meatballs feel to dry, add more milk.
  3. With around a tablespoon size scoop of meat, rolls the meatballs and place on the baking sheet.
  4. Bake in oven for 12 minutes, until meatballs are browned.
    For Hoisin Sauce
  1. Turn the slow cooker on low.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the hoisin, rice vinegar, soy sauce , sesame seed oil, garlic, ginger, and honey. Taste to see if it is as sweet or salty as you desire. If you want it a bit sweeter, add a little more hoisin or honey. If you want things a bit saltier add a little more soy sauce. If you want more acid, add a little more vinegar.
  3. Once things taste how you want it, pour the bowl into the crock pot. Add the meatballs.
  4. Allow meatballs to cook in crock pot for ten minutes before serving so everything is evenly warm. Garnish meatballs with sesame seeds and serve using toothpicks!
  5. Enjoy!
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Whiskey Elk Backstrap Steaks

henrymountainswebsize“You know what my drink is? Jack Daniel’s. Yes, that is a wild man drink. That should come with bail money, you know what I’m saying? Because on Jack, you don’t know where you’re going to end up, but you know when you get there, you won’t be wearing any pants.” ~ Dave Attell

You know that wonderful feeling when you pull out a coat or pair of pants you have not worn in a really long time and find money stashed in the pocket? You can pull out a $20 and you are on top of the world, or even pull out a $1 and think, “It’s gonna be a good day!” I love that feeling. I can’t accurately put into words how excited I get finding money in long forgotten places.

I had that feeling last week.  But it wasn’t evoked by a crumpled old bill hiding in my pocket. It was from the freezer. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed trying to figure out something to make to eat. Sometimes that happens. I am in the mood for something different, but nothing quite seems right or everything sounds too hard to make. I usually end up getting flustered and in a frantic attempt to pull myself out of my indecisive state end up making grilled cheese. That didn’t happen this time. Instead, when I opened the freezer sitting on the top shell, somehow forgotten, was a pack of elk back strap. I could not believe it had been missed! I thought all that was left was roasts or large chunks suitable for sausage or stews.

It was exactly like finding that $20 bill in a pair of old jeans.

And instead of having a dinner of canned tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, I sat down to a fantastic, on-top-of-world feeling, perfectly marinated and cooked elk back strap steak dinner. It was a good day!

I was lucky to find my hidden elk back strap to use for this recipe, but deer or antelope would also work for this dish. Also, if you don’t have back strap on hand, probably because you are like me and ate it all immediately, other cuts that would work great for this recipe include: tenderloin (if you have that on hand, which I never do because it is always my first meal after my harvest and I always make a simple steak and eggs meal to share with everyone who helped me during the hunt), top sirloin (which is found in the hind quarter of the animal), and the flank steak (which is also called the infraspinatus muscle, and I think is greatly under-utilized).

While this is an easy meal to throw together, it does require a little bit of pre-planning in order to properly marinade the meat.  The meat needs at least four hours to sit in the marinade. To make this sweet and smoky whiskey flavored marinade, grab a medium-sized bowl and whisk together 1/2 cup of your favorite sipping whiskey, 1/2 cup of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, a heaping tablespoon of Dijon style mustard (I always cheat and add a little more when I use Dijon mustard because I love that tangy flavor it adds), a quarter cup of honey, 2 cloves of minced garlic, and some fresh cracked black pepper.

whiskeysteakmarinade

Lay the steaks into a large shallow pan and pour in the marinade. Throw a little plastic wrap over the dish, and toss that baby in the fridge. After two hours, flip the steaks over so both sides can enjoy equal time bathing in that delicious marinade.

whiskeysteakmarinating

Once the steaks are done marinating, pull them out of their soaking bath and let them rest on a plate for ten or fifteen minutes. This creates a little more even cooking of the meat if the temperature of the steak is consistent throughout. Also, I like to let the marinade dry out a bit on the surface of the meat, as it creates a bit more of a sticky or somewhat crunchy texture to the outside of the steak.

Get the grilling pan nice and hot. You want the steak to make that beautiful sizzling sound when it hits the pan. You know that sound, that sharp crackling sound when the steak hits the pan and then steam immediately flows off the steak. (Love that moment!) I usually test if my pan is hot enough by sprinkling a little bit of water on the pan. If it starts to sizzle upon contact, I know the pan is hot enough.

whiskeysteakcooking

Drop the steak into the preheated pan and allow it to cook for six to eight minutes on the first side. Try not to move the steak immediately after it first touches the pan. In that first minute or two, the meat tends to grab onto the hot pan and will tear if you try and move it. Once the first side of cooked, flip the steak and cook the second side an additional six to eight minutes. This should result in a medium rare steak. If you are more of a medium to well-done steak person, add a few minutes to each side. If you are a fan of the rare steak, subtract a minute or two per side. Transfer the steak to a plate and allow it to rest before slicing for about five minutes. Allowing the meat to rest is important because it creates a juicier and tastier slice of meat. Also, when it is piping hot and you cut into the steak it really just tears the whole thing up and makes things look not so pretty.

whiskeysteakfinalplate

Well, that is it for this super amazing meal! I served my steak with a side of grilled asparagus. Other fantastic sides would include potatoes, green beans, corn, a simple salad, crusty bread, wild rice, or whatever else your imagination can come up with.

Happy Hunting!

Whiskey Elk Backstrap Steaks

Whiskey Elk Backstrap Steaks

Ingredients

  • 4 elk back strap steaks (about eight ounces each)
  • 1/2 cup favorite whiskey
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. In large, shallow dish lay out steaks.
  2. In medium bowl, whisk together whiskey, soy sauce, olive oil, Dijon mustard, honey, garlic, and pepper. Pour over steaks and cover with plastic wrap. Allow at least four hours in the refrigerator, flipping the steaks half way through.
  3. Remove steaks from marinade and allow to rest at room temperature for fifteen minutes.
  4. Heat grilling pan over high heat.
  5. Add steaks to pan and cook 6 to 8 minutes per side.
  6. Let meat rest for five minutes before slicing.
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Elk Shepherd’s Pie: Dutch Oven Style

shepherdspiescoop
That is shepherd’s pie in all its glory right there: meat, veggies, potatoes, and ooey, gooey cheese!

“I do hunt, and I do fish, and I don’t apologize to anybody for hunting and fishing.” ~ Norman Schwarzkopf

I never had shepherd’s pie as a kid.  My mom never made it. No grandmother on either side of my family passed along their secret ingredient that made their shepherd’s pie a family favorite, requested for any special occasion.  Growing up, the closest I had to shepherd’s pie was when my mom would split a hot dog in half down the center, place it on a baking sheet, pile on a mound of mashed potatoes, sprinkle on cheddar cheese, and melt it under the broiler.  Not exactly shepherd’s pie, but I see some similarities I guess: meat, potatoes, cheese.

I wasn’t introduced to shepherd’s pie until I graduated high school.  Over a college break, I stayed with a friend’s family and we had it for dinner.  I immediately was a fan of the gravy soaked beef with vegetables under a dome of potatoes and cheese.  I was informed then that this meal was a family favorite, ever requested by aunts, uncles, and cousins when they came to visit.  I was secretly a little angry at my own family for trying to pass off hot dogs as an acceptable substitute.  Trust me, aunts and uncles weren’t requesting hot dogs as a special treat when visiting my home growing up.

Since then, I have prepared shepherd’s pie many times and experimented with different flavor and texture combinations.  I have used different meat bases: elk, deer, pronghorn, beef, lamb, buffalo.  I have manipulated the gravy from cream-of-this to cream-of-that or even gone broth or wine based.  I’ve switched up the vegetables: corn, celery, carrots, maybe a little cubed sweet potato.  Once, I even used mashed turnips in place of the mashed potatoes to see if anyone would notice.  For the record, they did, and not really in a good way.  The only thing I always keeps the same is a big pile of cheese to finish everything off.

This recipe is a double bonus; it is a wild game dish, and it is a dutch oven recipe that is perfect for your hunting camp!  To start, light your coals.  I use a charcoal chimney when I am camping.  They heat the coals quickly, and the chimney is easy to use.  Simply pour the desired number of charcoal briquettes in the top, wad up a few pieces of newspaper, stuff them under the chimney, and light the newspaper.  The chimney should start to smoke and the coals should be ready in about 15 minutes.  You can tell they are ready to go when the top layer of coals start to turn to ash around the edges.

shepherdspieelkFor this recipe, I used a 12″ oven, but a 14″ would also work fine.  Place the oven over a fairly large number of coals, like 20 -25.  You want to get the oven as hot as you can in order to fry the meat.  You could also use a gas camp stove for this part, which would save on the number of coals needed for the entire recipe.

Drop in a pound of ground elk meat to the oven.  I used my homemade elk burger for this recipe, which is simply a 1/4 pound of bacon ends ground with 3/4 pound of elk.  I like the bacon because it adds a hint of bacon flavor to the burger but still the perfect amount of fat.  Brown the meat, which takes about five to seven minutes.  About half way through the meat cooking, throw in the diced carrots, onion, and celery.  You want them to cook until they are soft.  Once the vegetables are soft, add two or three tablespoons of tomato paste.  Season the pot with salt and pepper to your liking.

shepherdspievegetables

Okay, it is now gravy time!  With the pot still hot, pour in a cup of red wine.  You can use whatever type of wine you prefer or have on hand.  I used pinot noir this time because I wanted to have a glass of that wine with my dinner, but merlot or cabernet would also be great.  Let the wine reduce down by half and then add two cups of beef stock to the pot.  Continue to cook over medium high heat and allow this to start to reduce down, which can take around ten minutes.

shepherdspiecheeseWhile the beef stock is reducing, in a large pot of water boil two pounds of potatoes.  I used a Yukon potato, but you could use russet or red potatoes too.  Another great option when camping would also be the boxed instant mashed potatoes.  These would eliminate the need to boil a pot of water and cook the actual potatoes.  Boxed instant potatoes simply require adding boiling water to dehydrated potato flakes.  Another option would be to make the mashed potatoes at home and just bring them along.  You will heat them up when you melt the cheese, so this option works just as well as any.

To the potatoes, add a quarter cup of butter and a quarter cup of milk or cream.  You could also add a couple tablespoons of sour cream, if you so desire.  Be sure to salt and pepper the potatoes.

Once the stock has reduced down, pour in the can of corn.  Spread the mashed potatoes over the top of the elk mixture, making sure to reach all the corners of the pot, and sprinkle on a cup of the cheese of your choice. I tend to use cheddar cheese when I make shepherd’s pie, but I went with a Monterey Jack for this recipe, thinking it would pair better with the red wine.  If you are cooking over coals, remove about half the coals, leaving behind 12-14 on the bottom.  If you cooked your meat over a camp stove, set out 12-14 coals for your oven to now sit on.  Place 15-20 coals on the top of the oven.  Let the shepherd’s pie cook for fifteen minutes, giving enough time to melt the cheese, heat the mixture thoroughly, and soften the corn.

shepherdspiefinalplate

Shepherd’s pie is comfort food at it’s best, and this dutch oven version allows you to bring comfort food straight to the outdoors.  Perfect for sharing around the campfire, this meal is hearty with fluffy cheese covered mashed potatoes, and a little bit sweet from the carrots, corn, and touch of red wine.  The elk definitely shines as the star of this dish!  Enjoy!

Happy Hunting!

Elk Shepherd's Pie: Dutch Oven Style!

Elk Shepherd's Pie: Dutch Oven Style!

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground elk
  • 2-3 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 2 pounds potatoes
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup milk or cream
  • 1 can corn
  • 1 cup shredded cheese of choice

Instructions

  1. Start coals for dutch oven.
  2. In large pot add potatoes, cut into quarters, and boil.
  3. In dutch oven over medium-high heat, cook ground elk.
  4. Add diced celery, onion, and carrots, cook until soft.
  5. Add tomato paste and stir. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Pour in red wine and reduce by half, about five minutes.
  7. Add beef stock and continue to reduce, about ten minutes.
  8. When potatoes are soft, about 15 minutes, mash and add butter and milk. Season with salt and pepper.
  9. Once stock has reduced, add the can of corn.
  10. Spread mashed potatoes over elk mixture, covering completely. Sprinkle on cheese.
  11. Cook in dutch oven over 12-14 coals on bottom and 15-20 coals on top for 10 minutes, until cheese has melted.
  12. Enjoy!
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Elk Stroganoff Stuffed Mushrooms: A Dinner Party Hit!

ElkStroganoffFinalPlate“Recipes don’t work unless you use your heart!” ~ Dylan Jones

I love a good dinner party: the friends, the music, the drinks, the food! And nothing makes for a better dinner party than introducing your friends to a new recipe. I also like to use my dinner parties as a forum for letting my friends experience new foods, such as a new fish or seafood, or unique vegetables like dandelion greens, fiddle heads, or jicama, but mostly I especially like to showcase wild game!

As I’m sure every wild game meat fan has found, not everyone is fond of it. Not only does wild game meat have a lot of stigmas around it, such as it is too “gamey” or it tastes like sage brush or its texture is too tough, but also few people have even ever eaten it, and it is a brand new dining experience. For these reasons, one of my favorite approaches for sharing my game meat is through an appetizer.

Appetizers provide a giant pack of flavor, texture, and culinary experience in a single bite. They are the perfect option for introducing friends, family, and especially newcomers, to wild game meat. Appetizers allow the diner a taste of wild game without their own fears of having to finish an entire plate of something they may not like getting in the way. Someone may feel overwhelmed at the idea of an entire elk filet filling their plate, but may be excited by the idea of trying a bite-size piece of elk tenderloin wrapped with a thin slice of bacon.

Appetizers can also allow one to test out a new recipe idea without having to create an entire entrée. When creating appetizers for my dinner parties, I like to think about a meal I really enjoy and then deconstructing that meal into a single bite. This may require omitting certain ingredients, expanding on or adding other ingredients, or changing the texture or actual form of the ingredients in order to fit the overall concept of the appetizer.

For my latest dinner party, I wanted to serve stuffed mushrooms. I like stuffed mushrooms because they truly fit the mold of giant flavor packed into a single bite. Many stuffed mushrooms are filled with garlic and onions, a variety of herbs and seasoned breadcrumbs, different grated cheese, and delicious meat bites like sausage. The mushrooms themselves create perfect bite size containers for the appetizers, but they also add flavor and texture to every bite.

As I said earlier, I like my appetizers to be reminiscent of an entrée meal. I think it is fun when an entire meal fits into a convenient, single bite. For a stuffed mushroom appetizer, I started thinking about meals where mushrooms are a component of the whole entrée. I had a pretty hefty list to choose from, but I couldn’t pull my interest away from making a single bite of stroganoff. Elk stroganoff served over a bed of egg noodles is one of my favorite ways to prepare elk or deer, and I think one of the reasons is I love the way the mushrooms add to the dish. So, I thought a single bite of elk stroganoff served in a little mushroom cap would be perfect. Stroganoff is a very savory and rich meal, and I have to admit that I get full on it very quickly, but this intense, over-the-top flavor is the kind of meal that makes for a great appetizer.

ElkStroganoffSauceBegin with preheating the oven to 350 degrees and spraying a large baking sheet with cooking oil. To prepare the mushrooms, wipe them off with a damp cloth. You don’t want to wash the mushrooms because they are like little sponges and will absorb all the moisture, causing them to become waterlogged and sometimes even slimy. For stuffed mushrooms, I like to use either baby portabellas or cremini. I like the flavor of both these mushrooms and they also are shaped really well for stuffing. To clean out the mushroom cavity, use the end of a spoon and scrape out the gills. I also hollow the cap out a bit to create more room for lots of stuffing. The mushrooms are now ready for stuffing, set them aside while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

For the stroganoff sauce, heat a large sauce pan over medium heat and add the sour cream, heavy cream, Dijon mustard, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, paprika, salt and pepper, and beef base. Combine until a smooth sauce is created and allow the sauce to simmer, not boil, for twenty minutes. During this time the sauce will become thick and glossy. I just have to also comment about how pretty I think this sauce base is. The color is so great! Once the sauce has reduced slightly, pull it from the heat and seat aside.

For the elk, run the chunk through a meat grinder one time. I used a more coarse size grind so the meat still had some of its basic structure. I thought this would help the elk to remain more like the strips of steak found in a stroganoff and less like overworked hamburger meat.

ElkStroganoffMeatChunk
ElkStroganoffMeatGrinder

In a large skillet, sauté a large diced onion for about ten minutes in a pat of butter. I thought that I might share a little trick I learned from watching hundreds of hours of cooking shows (they are my soap opera!) on how to easily dice up an onion into small, even sized pieces. Begin with cutting the onion in half and removing the skin. It is easier to peel an onion once you have cut it open. Then cut each half in half again. You want to leave what I would call the ends of the onion attached.

ElkStroganoffOnionFirst

Place the palm of your hand firmly down on top of the onion slice and cut horizontally into the onion center.

ElkStroganoffOnion3

Next, cut thin slices vertically into the onion, ending your slice just before reaching the knobby part of the onion so the pieces all still hold together.

ElkStroganoffOnion2

Finally, starting above the onion, cut thin slices horizontally down the onion. You will notice your perfectly diced, even-sized onion pieces start to fall on your cutting board.

ElkStroganoffOnion4

Don’t forget to use a nice sharp knife!  And watch your fingers; however, what I like about this method for dicing onions is I think it creates a solid base for cutting against and my fingers feel just a bit safer in the face of knife’s blade.

ElkStroganoffMeatBaseOnce the onion is soft, add the elk. Cook until the meat just starts to brown, about five minutes. It is okay if some of the meat is not quite cooked through, as it will continue to cook while the mushroom caps are in the oven. Add the meat and onion mixture to the stroganoff sauce and combine thoroughly.

It is time to start stuffing the ‘shrooms! Add a heaping spoonful of the stroganoff mixture to each mushroom cap. Don’t be afraid to stack them nice and high so each bite is filled with meat, onions, and sauce. Place the sheet in the preheated oven for twenty minutes, and your appetizers are ready to party!

Happy Hunting!

ElkStroganoffFinalPlate2

Elk Stroganoff Stuffed Mushrooms: A Dinner Party Hit!

Elk Stroganoff Stuffed Mushrooms: A Dinner Party Hit!

Ingredients

    For Sauce
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons paprika, sweet
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoons beef demiglace
    For Stuffed Mushroom
  • 24 baby portabellas or creminis, stems removed and cleaned
  • 1 pound ground elk or deer
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Fresh parsley for garnish

Instructions

    For Sauce
  1. Place heavy cream, sour cream, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, paprika, mustard, salt and pepper, and demiglace in medium sauce pan. Bring the ingredients to a boil and then reduce to a heat to a simmer. Simmer the sauce, stirring occasionally, for twenty minutes until sauce is thick and glossy. Remove from heat and set aside.
    For Mushrooms
  1. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and preheat oven 400 degrees.
  2. Place butter in a large, high sided skillet and melt. Add diced onions to melted butter and cook until soft, about five minutes.
  3. Add ground elk and cook until just brown, about five to seven minutes. Don't worry about completely cooking the elk, as it will finish in the oven.
  4. Add elk and onion mixture to sauce and combine.
  5. Scoop stroganoff mixture into cleaned mushrooms and place on baking sheet.
  6. Bake for twenty to twenty minutes. Garnish with chopped parsley.
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Elk Steak and Eggs: A Four Ingredient Breakfast!

ElkSteakandEggsIngredients“The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.”
~ Julia Child

Family traditions come in many forms. Some traditions are large and noisy, like everyone in the family gathers at a certain aunt’s house every year for Thanksgiving. And the table is always filled with ten different varieties of pie, and everyone eats until they can’t breathe. And then uncle so-and-so turns on the football game, but no one watches it because they are too full to stay awake. So the entire family sleeps through Thanksgiving Day football while grandma washes the dishes in her very special, no one can help, way. And then everyone awakes from their post-turkey slumber to eat the rest of the ten pies.

Then there are the small, more simple family traditions. One of my family traditions was tenderloin steak and eggs the morning after a successful deer or elk hunt. My dad would remove the hide, quarter up his animal to hang, and then put the tenderloin and backstrap in the fridge. In the morning, he would fry thinly butterflied steaks of tenderloin with medium eggs. I always loved that tradition, and shared it with my extended family once I married.

Now, at our house, we keep around about ten bags of those thinly sliced butterflied tenderloin steaks for a quick Saturday morning breakfast, or a quick Monday night dinner. I always think of it as my go-to meal when I don’t feel like cooking, but every time I eat it I wonder why I would consider it a go-to when, even in its simplicity, it is one amazing meal.

There really isn’t much to say about this meal other than it is delicious, simple, and always a crowd pleaser. I often prepare deer or elk in a way that enhances the flavors of the meat, but while enhancing those same tactics can somewhat simultaneously camouflage the flavors of the meat. When I make meals covered in sauce or cheese or some other delicious topping or wrap bacon around the entire thing, I pick cuts of meat that sometimes can’t handle being served solo. They might be a little too tough and need some tenderizing or breaking down. They might really have that “gamey” flavor going on for one reason or another. But tenderloin is tender and exquisite enough to stand on its own, and I truly appreciate a beautifully cooked slice of elk or deer tenderloin. It is ripe with the natural juices of the meat, melt in your mouth tender, and very lean. It is a true treat, and one you should feel incredibly lucky if someone will share with you.

For this simple, four ingredient breakfast, you simply need a couple of thinly sliced, butterflied tenderloin steaks. I should add that backstrap is great this way too, so don’t go throwing that away! Anyway, you will also need a couple of eggs for frying up, some steak seasoning, I personally LOVE Montreal Steak Seasoning and put a dash of it on everything, and some butter.

ElkSteakandEggsMeatTo thinly butterfly the tenderloin, I use a very sharp filet knife and cut slices about a half to three quarter inches thick. I then butterfly those pieces, meaning I cut the thin slices in half almost all the way through. Leave a small section of the meat slice still attached and “butterfly” the steak open. I freeze three or four steaks in a vacuum sealed bag, which is a perfect meal size for two people. Having a couple of bags of the thin sliced steaks is great for several reasons, with two of them being they stack and store great in the freezer, and they also thaw extremely quick. You can pull a bag out and throw it under running water in the sink and have dinner meat ready to use in about five minutes.

Liberally season the tenderloin steaks. There is no need to add salt when using steak seasoning, because the seasoning is a blend of coarse salt, black and red pepper, garlic, coriander, and dill seeds. Preheat a non-stick pan to medium-high heat, and once the pan is hot, drop the steaks in. As with cooking most steaks, you should let the meat come to room temperature before starting, this will ensure even cooking of the steak, and also remember to not disturb the meat once you set it in the pan.

The steaks cook extremely quick! I am talking, like 45 second here if you like a medium-rare cooked steak. Many people say to not overcook your wild game steaks, and I am a big promoter of that as well. I remember ordering buffalo in a restaurant, and at that point in time I was definitely a beef girl and not super adventurous on the culinary front. The waiter suggested I order my meat medium rare, at the most! I was incredibly weirded out, and slightly uncomfortable. I always ordered my meat well-done. The waiter explained that with meats like buffalo, venison, or elk being so lean that they were especially dried out when cooked above medium-rare, and therefore lost most of their flavor and juiciness. I reluctantly followed his suggestion, and haven’t gone back since. So, my suggestion on this steak to you is a cooking time of 45 seconds per side.

ElkSteakandEggsCookingOnce the steaks are cooked, let them rest for a few minutes while the eggs fry. Drop a pat of butter in the pan, this will help keep the eggs from sticking, and drop the eggs in the pan. I use the same pan I cooked my steaks in for the eggs, because I like the flavor the steak juices add, but you can get a new clean pan too. Sprinkle a dash of the Montreal steak seasoning on the eggs (see, I told you I put it on everything!), and allow the eggs to cook. Everyone likes their eggs cooked differently, it is probably the number one question you get at a diner, “How would you like your eggs done?” So, for sunny-side up eggs, cook the egg for a minute, reduce the heat, then cover with a lid and cook an additional four minutes. The steam will finish the egg tops. Four minutes will result in a runny yolk, five minutes will give a medium finished yolk, and six minutes yields a hard yolk. For over easy eggs, start the same as the sunny side, but after the minute of cooking you flip the egg instead of covering with the lid. Cook for a minute more, resulting in a very runny yolk, and then, as before, the longer you cook the egg the more solid the yolk will become. I like a runny yolk for dipping steak slices in, but that is just how I “like my eggs done.”

And…well, that is it. Steak and eggs breakfast in just four ingredients. Enjoy

Happy Hunting!

ElkSteakandEggsFinalPlate

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Elk Tacos in Cheddar Cheese Shells!

ElkCheddarTacosFinalPlate“I didn’t get this physique by not eating tacos.” ~ Jon Tester

I love tacos, but you know what the biggest problem with the taco is? Each time I take a bite into my crunchy shell overflowing with juicy, greasy meat, and diced up lettuce, tomatoes, onions and shredded cheddar cheese with a dollop of salsa and sour cream on top, my entire taco falls apart. The shell crumbles into about four different pieces, the insides spill all over the table top, and I get just a bit angry. Actually, while eating tacos, I can feel myself pass through the five stages of grief. Once my taco shell has fallen into an irreparable state, I immediately enter the state of denial. “My taco shell is not broken!” I reason. ” I can fix this, I just have to hold all the pieces together and it will still seem like a taco.” As I attempt to wrap my hands around the shattered taco shell, quickly crumbling into smaller pieces, and hold all my taco fixings in place, I become angry, the second state of grief. “Stupid taco!” I yell. “I didn’t want to eat tacos anyway.” Then I quickly enter the third stage, bargaining, and think, “Maybe I can make a taco salad instead. It won’t be the same, but it could be close.” The fourth stage, depression, hits next. “I never can eat tacos correctly. I don’t even know why I try.” And finally, I accept that my taco is indeed broken and no more. See, five stages of grief in a single taco shell.

The grief associated with eating tacos is hard to avoid; however, I have discovered a cure for the taco predicament. Instead of using a corn or flour tortilla shell, I have started making cheddar cheese shells. Haven’t had one yet? They are fantastic, super easy and quick to put together, and definitely solve the dilemma of the crumbling taco shell.

ElkCheddarTacosShellsRawStart with preheating the oven to 400 degrees. Pull out a cookie sheet and liberally spray it with cooking spray. You could also put down a sheet of parchment paper. To save you time, I tried aluminum foil and that was a disaster. So, either coat the sheet with cooking spray or a sheet of parchment paper, and no aluminum foil. For this recipe, I would suggest using pre-shredded cheese. You could shred your own, but the shells hold together a bit better with the pre-shredded bagged cheese. I am sure the reason has to do with whatever they add to the cheese to keep it from clumping together in the bags makes the shells melt together just right, but I don’t know that for sure. Also, I used cheddar cheese for this recipe, mainly because a mild cheddar sounded like a great pairing with the elk burger, but you could use pretty much any type of cheese: parmesan, Monterey jack, or provolone. It really is your choice.

ElkCheddarTacosShellsCookedOn the baking sheet, spread a half cup of cheese into an evenly filled circle. I made my tacos about six inches across, so with an eight ounce bag of cheese you can make four shells. Place the sheet in the preheated oven and set the timer for six minutes. The shells take between six and eight minutes to cook. I set the timer at six, and then that way I can decide if they need a little longer. They cook pretty quick, so you have to keep an eye on them. You will know they are finished when the edges of the shells are turning brown and crunchy and the center is bubbling. Pull the shells out of the oven and allow them to sit for a few seconds, maybe twenty to thirty, just so they are set enough to handle. Once they have quit bubbling, use a spatula to carefully remove them from the sheet.

To form the shells, set a long handled wooden spoon between to cans. Drape the shells over the handle and allow gravity to work its magic. The shells should start to form around the spoon, making a nice taco shell. Sometimes I am too hungry to wait, and I will just form the shells with my hand and kind of balance them on my plate. They don’t look as pretty, but it works too.

Okay, so the shells are done. Now onto the meat! I used elk for my tacos, but you could easily make this recipe with deer or pronghorn. It would also work with upland game birds like pheasant or turkey. For my elk meat, I ran about 3/4 of a pound of elk steak through the meat grinder with a 1/4 pound of bacon ends, which you can find at most grocery stores or butchers. You could also use plain old bacon, but bacon ends tend to be cheaper. I use bacon ends because it adds a really nice amount of fat to the meat and you also get a hint of bacon flavor, which is great when you are making burgers, meatloaf, and even these tacos. It isn’t an overpowering bacon flavor, just the hint.

ElkCheddarTacosMeatStart a pan over medium-high heat, add a drizzle of oil and soften some diced onions for a few minutes. Once the onions are soft, I add the meat. When the meat is about half way through cooking, I add my taco seasonings. My absolute favorite taco seasoning is Bolner’s Fiesta Brand Extra Fancy Taco Seasoning. Bolner’s Fiesta Products, located in San Antonio, are some of my favorite seasonings to cook with. I also really like their fajita seasoning, which I flavor burgers with all the time, and their jalapeno pepper powder is great on fries. You can use any type of taco seasoning though, and you could even make your own and add that. I start out with about two tablespoons of the taco seasoning, let the meat finish cooking, taste it, and then add more if needed. I also add salt and pepper to taste at this point.

With the meat cooked and the cheese shells ready to go, all that is left to do is fill your tacos! Everyone styles their taco a little differently, but some suggestions for toppings include: lettuce, tomatoes, pico de gallo, salsa, avocadoes, guacamole, sour cream, radish slices, cilantro, jalapenos, onions, and lime wedges.

If you haven’t tried a taco with elk, I suggest you get started making some tacos! And if you haven’t tried one with a cheese shell, you should get started on that too! The cheese shells hold together beautiful, but also still provide the crunch of a corn shell. They also ensure that every bite has the perfect amount of cheese! Super delicious!

Happy Hunting!

Elk Tacos in Cheddar Cheese Shells!

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

4

Elk Tacos in Cheddar Cheese Shells!

Ingredients

  • 8oz bag shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 pound elk burger
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons Taco Seasoning - or one packet
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste

Instructions

    For the Cheddar Shells
  1. Preheat the oven to 400. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray or cover with parchment paper.
  2. Evenly spread half a cup into a six inch circle. An 8oz bag should result in four cheese shells.
  3. Place in oven for six to eight minutes, pulling when the edges are brown and crunchy and the center is bubbling.
  4. Allow the cheese to settle for a few second, ten to twenty, and then drape the shells over a wooden spoon placed between to cans. Gravity will pull the cheese into nicely shaped taco shells.
    For the Taco Meat
  1. Preheat a pan to medium-high heat and add the olive oil.
  2. Once heated, drop in a medium diced onion. Soften the onions for two or three minutes.
  3. Add the pound of elk burger.
  4. About half way through cooking, add two tablespoons of taco seasoning.
  5. Once the meat is finished cooking, taste to see if more seasoning is needed and for salt and pepper.
  6. Garnish the tacos with lettuce, tomatoes, pico de gallo, salsa, avocado, guacamole, sour cream, jalapenos, onions, cilantro, radishes, lime wedges, or whatever else your heart desires. Enjoy!
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Sticky Tomato Sauce and Pesto Elk Tenderloin!

TreeDolores2Websize“All the sounds of this valley run together into one great echo, a song that is sung by all the spirits of this valley. Only a hunter hears it.” ~ Chaim Potok

I can’t express how much I love basil. The scent alone invokes visions of summer evenings sitting on a porch enjoying the colors, sounds, and of course smells of the season. I find that basil makes something as simple as a bowl of plain pasta noodles transform into an elegant, expensive tasting meal. It adds such a different depth to the flavors and aromas of food that I try and think up how to cram it into every meal possible.

Traditionally, I have always served basil pesto in three different versions. First, and most obviously, as a sauce for noodles. I like to use cavatapi noodles with my basil pesto and then add chicken or shrimp. Second, my absolute favorite dutch oven meal is chicken pesto with mozzarella cheese. That meal is so amazing when you are “roughing” it in the outdoors. I always feel like I am at a fancy Italian restaurant instead of sitting in a folding chair in the dirt when I eat that meal. Finally, I am a big fan of basil pesto served as a pizza topping.

As you can see from my basil pesto favorites list, I really like to pair pesto with chicken. I think that pesto is an easy flavor to balance with the light taste of meats like chicken or turkey. There is no fight between the two. They just marry together in a perfectly balanced flavor union.

Well, that all changed last Monday night. I had previously made a stuffed meatloaf from elk burger and topped the loaf with a sauce of sticky, sweet cherry tomatoes. I was preparing these beautiful elk tenderloin fillets and decided that sauce would be amazing on top of the steaks. But the idea of only tomatoes sounded almost too sweet and acidic. What to do? What to do?

Caprese salad is one of all-time favorite salads. I love the mixture of beautiful, red juicy tomatoes paired with the bite and spice of a basil leaf and the oh-so creamy goodness of fresh mozzarella cheese. I figured the flavor profile would pair wonderfully with the sticky tomato sauce from the meatloaf, but would it taste good on top of elk?

StickyTomatoElkIngredientsThe answer is an exuberant yes! So, if you are hoping for a quick, easy meal on a weeknight then this is the recipe for you. And if you are looking to impress and provide an ambiance of elegance then this is also the recipe for you. It is a quick and simple meal that is dressed to impress, and what better way is there to serve up elk tenderloin?

One of the things I like best about this meal is you can pre-make the basil pesto and the sticky tomato sauce. Then, when it is dinner time all you have to do is cook the steaks and heat up the tomato sauce. It also is a recipe that utilizes a lot of items already in the pantry. Pesto is essentially basil, olive oil, nuts, and parmesan cheese. And the sticky tomato sauce is tomatoes, canned tomatoes, honey, and Worcestershire.

StickyTomatoElkBasilPreMix To start, make the pesto. Pesto tastes like it is difficult to make, but in all actuality it is one of the most simple of recipes to execute. Pesto requires four steps. Step one: pull out the food processor. Step two: drop in the basil, your nut of choice, the parmesan cheese, and two to three garlic cloves. Step three: push start and grind everything up for about thirty seconds. Step four: with the food processor still running, drizzle in the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Viola! Pesto!

So, a few little notes about the pesto. This is a basil pesto, and it is traditionally prepared with pine nuts. At our house, pine nuts don’t agree with everyone so I substitute in walnuts. Pesto is amazingly flexible, and you can use virtually any nut you like. Some of the ones I like to use are almonds if I am looking for a bit more crunch in the sauce, pecans if I want a more hearty flavor, and cashews, well, just because cashews are insanely good. But like I said, this a super flexible sauce you could throw in things like sunflower or pumpkin seeds if you wanted. Get crazy!

Also, you can change the consistency of the pesto to your liking by how much olive oil you add. With this recipe, the pesto is going to sit on top of the steak. So, I pulsed the ingredients for a very short amount of time, in order to leave things more coarse, and added only a half cup of olive oil. When I make pesto as a sauce for pasta, I pulse the ingredients to a much smoother consistency and add in more olive oil. It is all about your personal preference. StickyTomatoElkBasil

Okay, so now that the pesto is complete, it is time to make the sticky tomato sauce. For the meatloaf, I used cherry tomatoes. For this recipe, I decided to go with grape tomatoes. Grape tomatoes are typically a little larger than cherry and a bit less sweet tasting. Either would be fine with this recipe. I went with the grape because I wanted the bigger tomato in each bite.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a medium sized bowl, put the entire pint of tomatoes and pour in a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and coat the tomatoes entirely in the oil. I just use my hands to accomplish this task. Pour the tomatoes on a baking sheet, and put them in the oven for 20 minutes. This creates a great roasted flavor for the sauce.

StickyTomatoElkSauce Once the tomatoes are done, add them to a medium sized sauce pan. Pour in a 12 oz can of diced tomatoes. If you can find the roasted kind they will help develop that rich, savory flavor you are going for, but if your supermarket only carries regular that is fine too. If you can’t find diced, you could also used crushed. I like the texture the diced adds to the sauce better though. Add in the two tablespoons of honey, the one tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, and the one tablespoon of Dijon mustard. Stir everything together, turn the heat to medium-low, and let the pot simmer for 15 minutes. As the sauce reduces, it will start to thicken. Sometimes if the tomatoes are overly juicy, I will let the sauce simmer longer. Just get it to the consistency you want for piling on top of your steak.

Okay, now for the steaks! I used tenderloin for this recipe, but you could use other steak cuts as well. I let my meat sit on the counter for 10 to 15 minutes so it can come to room temperature. Removing the chill off the meat will help to guarantee more even cooking of the steak. Season both sides with a good amount of salt and pepper. Preheat your skillet to medium-high and settle in the steak. Once you have touched the steak to the pan, do not mess with it. My steaks were about one inch thick, so I let them go for a minute to a minute and a half per side. This resulted in medium-rare steaks. I have said this before, so please excuse me if you have heard it like a billion times, but I like my steaks to be on the rare side. Wild game is better when it is not overcooked.

So, after the steaks have cooked for a minute on each side. place a thin slice of mozzarella on top of each steak. Turn the broiler on to high, and slide the entire pan into the oven. Cook until the mozzarella has melted, which takes about a minute or two. Two quick things here! One, make sure your pan is one that can go from stove-top to oven. If it can’t, you will need to place your steaks on a baking sheet to melt the cheese or you could cover the pan with a lid on the stovetop. Two, if you do use the broiler, DON’T WALK AWAY! You can go from nicely melted mozzarella to blackened mozzarella very quick! Just keep close so you can watch the melting process!

StickyTomatoElkFinalPlate

To finish the steak, place a spoonful of the basil pesto on top of the melted mozzarella and then a heaping helping of the sticky tomato sauce. What you will find on the end of your fork is a bite filled with the aromatic, spicy basil and sticky, sweet tomato covering juicy bites of steak. Man oh man is this a good one!

Happy Hunting!

Sticky Tomato Sauce and Pesto Elk Tenderloin!

Sticky Tomato Sauce and Pesto Elk Tenderloin!

Ingredients

  • Four elk tenderloin steaks, cut to an inch and half thick
  • 4 thin slices mozzarella cheese
    For Basil Pesto
  • One cup basil leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
    For Sticky Tomato Sauce
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • 12 ounce can diced roasted tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Instructions

    For Pesto
  1. In a food processor, place cup of basil leaves, two whole garlic cloves, and walnuts. Pulse until desired consistency. I prefer to leave this a bit more chunky for this recipe.
  2. Add parmesan cheese, pulse a few times to mix in.
  3. With food processor running, drizzle in the half cup of olive oil. If you would like the sauce to be a bit more thin, add more olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
    For Sticky Tomato Sauce
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pour a little olive oil over the grape tomatoes, place on cookie sheet, and roast tomatoes for 20 minutes.
  2. Once tomatoes are roasted, add to a medium size sauce pan with diced tomatoes, honey, Worcestershire sauce, and Dijon mustard. Stir until combined and simmer for 15 minutes. Reduce sauce until desired consistency.
    To Assemble
  1. Set steaks out and allow to come to room temperature, about ten to fifteen minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. In preheated pan over medium high heat, place steaks. Cook for 2 to 2 and half minutes, depending on how well done you would like your steak. Flip and cook second side for additional 2 minutes.
  3. Place mozzarella on top and slide pan in oven under the broiler, which should be set on high.
  4. Allow to broil for a minute. Remove once mozzarella has melted.
  5. Place spoonful of basil pesto and sticky tomato sauce over the steak.
  6. Enjoy!
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