I’ve been really reluctant to go the route of beef stocks with game preparations – game stocks for game meats, right? I’ve made my share. I’ve followed Escoffier’s rules. I’ve followed my own [which involve far less cooking time, especially with poultry]. I have failed to make a game stock that I find appealing. Beef it is. And so far, thumbs up.
Coming Up: the shaggy manes are popping through the fall grasses, the bush is starting to stink from the ripe high-bush cranberries, big game season is starting soon, and the garden harvest is coming in.
This time, sauteed rather than pan roasted. I’d thrown in some thyme, chive, and a crushed clove of garlic to fry with the meat. That clove of garlic, all caramelized, was one of the best parts of the dish.
This time, with mashed potato. And baby dill. And wild chive. And cottage cheese. And sour cream. My one-year-old felt it was a good medium with which to mash in minced tenderloin, so one could eat it with a spoon.
And this time, with young swiss chard – my first good feed of the year. A most underrated veg. Just eating it makes you feel good.
The photo: Monday night’s dinner after a day of yawns-ville seminars. Some pan-roasted marinated cow elk tenderloin with some made-yesterday black pepper smoked bacon on the last of the garden potatoes and some in-season asparagus. I make this kind of food a lot, as you likely know, but this execution turned out particularly well. Cooking the tenderloin whole helps a great deal, the marinade didn’t hurt [garlic, scrap bacon skin, red wine vinegar, red wine, black peppercorns], and the bacon was crispy for some textural contrast.
Didn’t hurt that it was paired with a 2004 Chateau Fonbadet, I suppose. Which was followed by a 2005 Torbreck Woodcutter’s Shiraz. Which, fortunately, was NOT followed by a headache through the next day of yawns-ville seminars. Must be the new computer.
ps – I’m working on a post about the bacon making. Finally documented the process for some bacon-blog-action.
“Not all meat should be aged. Young game animals are tender by nature. Aging game that has been skinned often results in excessive weight loss, dehydration and surface discoloration of the lean tissue…”
I’d had this pang of guilt tucked in me somewhere that I should be aging even the calves. But yesterday’s experience confirmed for me that I never want to age calves again. Ever.
The animals we cut yesterday were hanging for 4-7 days at a good temperature. It’s super-dry here right now…30% relative humidity at best. The meat dried out considerably with only a few days of hanging. This didn’t impact the ‘inside’ cuts, but it essentially destroyed any exposed cuts, namely the ribs, and any thin exterior piece of meat. Everything needed trimming, and when it’s a small animal, this creates a lot of waste. My guess is that proper aging requires what good wine storage and sausage curing requires: proper humidity.
I can wholeheartedly conclude that in this case, any improvement in the meat would be marginal compared to the extreme loss in quality and mass of the exposed cuts. To top it all off, all the extra trimming simply means a whole lot more work that in my mind is completely unnecessary. In the future, my rule of thumb will be: butcher asap. No question.
Worth noting that the last calves we’d butchered day after the kill. The product on the cutting board was FAR superior [no exterior trimming, ribs fresh and plump]. FAR easier to work with. And I’d bet quite a few dollars that in a blind taste test, nobody could tell me which was cut the next day, and which was hung.
Calf elk neck. In my little world, this is exciting stuff. It’s an achievement.
I grew up eating bull moose and deer – moose generally being preferred over deer. Elk were not around the parts my family hunted – so until the past few years, I knew little to nothing about elk. Once introduced to our kitchen, the general preference seemed to lean towards elk over moose. Then came calf moose, which we also had no experience with. Calf moose easily trumped elk – and I’ve since gushed about it ad nauseum. But a theory remained to be proven: if elk trumps moose, and calf moose trumps elk, then calf elk should logically trump calf moose. But we didn’t know. Put in draws. Tried last year. No luck.
But I got an email today – the hunters were on their way home, and needed a hand hanging the animals. I knew they had a calf moose and a calf elk – but found out today that they we lucky enough to get another calf elk. Three calves. Crazy. The elk calves are a fantastic size. They reminded me of a giant lamb. I simply couldn’t wait until next week to try some, so I grabbed a knife and took a piece of neck meat to try a braise this weekend.
For the record, I am extremely grateful that they who hunt a lot in our family were actually quite receptive to changing the objective of the hunts towards calves. They’ve also been receptive to my relatively anal methods of cutting meat. And lastly for the record: this post is elk-centric, but I’m equally stoked about their success with another calf moose. What a year.
I’m posting this last photo because a) I thought it was a good photo, and b) I was reluctant to. I was reluctant to as I know animal carcasses aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. However. I have been advocating a ‘know where your food comes from’ philosophy, and like it or not, this is where meat comes from. There are far nastier parts of the process, trust me. To me, this is an exciting part of the process: all my favorite cuts are hanging right there, waiting to be transformed into all kinds of tasty dishes.
I took a picture of the meat because it was so astonishingly pleasant. In my haste, I cut it into what one might call ‘huge, unbecoming dice’. Pieces 2-3″ long and wide went in. But it was better off for it. You really got to enjoy the fall-apart tender aspect of the shoulder meat. Which is exciting for me, as I’m still in this ‘ah-ha’ stage of using cuts of game that benefit tremendously from slow cooking.
The recent deep freeze [-20C tonight] and ample snow has made me a little less than ambitious lately. Add some busy work, Christmas shopping, etc – and I just feel a little…behind. Today was a good catch-up day. I’m going to go pull a ‘Barefoot Contessa’ [or perhaps 'Nigella Lawson'] and go raid the fridge. that elk was damn good….
They had a busy day, and a calf elk and calf moose will need butchering later this week. This is good news. Extremely good news.
And before you wonder how it is we need so much game – keep in mind that the animals are generally split between hunters. So we’ll only be tackling and consuming a side of each of the recent kills. And those sides will supply both my dad and my family.
An additional issue this year is that there’s a very good chance I may not be able to go up for a calf hunt next year – which means having an ample stock in the freezer is important to us. Mission accomplished.
Times have changed. Last year we were tripping on moose out here, and had a hard time finding elk. This year, the moose are scarce, and the elk are far easier to find. This is bad news as I have a calf moose tag. Filling it this year will be a challenge.
Dinner in ‘camp’ tonight? Fresh cow elk tenderloin in cambozola cream sauce with onions and mushrooms. And a favorite bordeaux to wash it down, of course. I figure this is one of those occasions that warrants a nice bottle.
Another thing that has changed – last year there was no wireless connection here. This year, there is. So I will be able to post while up here.
Today’s tally. I saw a couple elk driving up here, and we saw about 20 deer on this evening’s drive. Zero moose. Ouch. We saw 2 grouse, both of which I’m happy to report are in our fridge now – both Ruffed grouse. Tomorrow morning, calf moose season opens. Big day.
A little more math. Calf moose, as it is essentially veal, would logically [and deservedly] demand a premium over elk. And yes, this is an imaginary world we’re doing this math for, as there is no such market. Assuming a modest premium, I’m guessing the calf I harvested last year would retail out at about $1,500. That makes me, a born-again-cheap-ass, very, very pleased.
And if you think I’m out to lunch – they’ve been carrying these elk cuts, at $14/kg for burger, for at least a couple years. Someone’s buyin’ the stuff. And no, it’s not me – I took the photo sheepishly standing outside the freezer at the store.