We were treated to stuffed elk tenderloin by my brother-in-law when we were in Montana. This method is courtesy of BIL’s mother, trying to keep up with a family of hunters.
Elk is a rich-textured, bright red, mild-flavored game. Procuring your meat from hunters with good kill skills is crucial. We talked about how the meat was skinned and hung to age it. I realized that I shouldn’t complain about my husband’s bike paraphenalia ever again when I heard that carcasses are a frequent occupant in Montana garages in the fall and winter.
You probably won’t be able to buy wild elk at your local restaurant, even in Montana, because laws prohibit, or at leas inhibit, its use in culinary settings. So when you see elk on the menu of your favorite restaurant, know it’s usually from somewhere like Canada or…egads…New Zealand.
Wild elk, meanwhile, proliferate in the Western ranges. They can be quite canny, we learned from the ranchers at my recent conference. They herd up with cattle against predators, and seeking out pastures carefully prepared for cowfood instead of the rougher, less-maintained mountain grasses.
But even with their mad skillz, elk are very lean, and you have to be careful not to overcook the meat, especially a tender cut like a tenderloin.
The tenderloin is smaller than a beef tenderloin, so butterflying it is difficult. We tried to slice it open as evenly as possible. Once butterflied, we marinated the meat in a mix of soy, worcestershire sauce, beer, pepper, salt, and spices. As it marinated, I minced a couple of cups of little shiitakes, onions, and garlic. These were sauteed in butter and a bit of truffle oil, then mixed with breadcrumbs and parsley. We stuffed the tenderloin (I’d use fewer breadcrumbs and less stuffing altogether next time) and secured it en triage: kitchen twine and toothpicks.
The rolled tenderloin was quickly seared on a hot cast iron pan, then popped in a 350 degree oven for just a few minutes to medium rare. We used the drippings from the searing, extending them a little with some wine, as an “au jus” just before serving.
As delicious as it was, the best thing was that my BIL sent us home with 5 lbs. of elk meat hamburger. I’m planning to use Hunter Angler Gardener Cook Hank Shaw’s swoonworthy moose meatball recipe, maybe for an upcoming very special birthday party? (Yes, mine.)
Speaking of Hank, I am so privileged and excited to be attending his wild foods dinner at Castagna on Sunday. It will feature foods foraged on a hike on Saturday. The hike/dinner celebrates his excellent new cookbook, Hunt Gather Cook. Can’t wait!