“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.