Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Being Thankful for Elk Pastrami

Elk Pastrami Sandwich
I realized this year that if Dante had been around to experience the joys of Thanksgiving, he would have worked into his Divine Comedy, somewhere in the first 5 Circles of Hell (reserved for the self-indulgent!) a punishment similar to contracting strep throat the day before Thanksgiving, meaning you can neither eat, drink or be around others the whole day. Now I'm not saying I've done anything deserving of this punishment, but it did happen to me a few weeks ago, and I missed out on partaking in the freshly-cooked 10-pound elk pastrami roast I spent most of a week preparing (I did get some later, but I'll get to that).

The trick to a good pastrami is giving yourself enough time to properly brine and roast a beautiful piece of meat. Ideally, you would soak your roast in brine for 10 days, but you can speed things up if you use an injector during the process. I did, and I was able to properly tenderize a 10-pound roast in five days. 

Of course, I had not planned to get sick when I committed to preparing this course for Thanksgiving (which, thankfully, was being hosted by our friends), but we play the cards we're dealt. On Thanksgiving morning I started the long, slow process of oven-roasting the brined meat, with plans to finish it off at our host's house, but since I wasn't there to monitor its process (and probably since I didn't start it early enough) it ended up being finished in a deep fryer that was present for deep-frying a turkey. Now, I certainly don't mind a little hot oil on meat, but it meant that I couldn't snap a photo of the finished product (hence the snazzy pastrami sandwich above). The result of the half-roasted / half-deep-friend pastrami: totally, epically delicious according to my friends and family! After lots of medication, I was finally able to eat solid foods by Sunday afternoon, and the first morsel in my mouth was a slice of my elk pastrami - and yes, it was epic! 

There was so much meat that I ended up freezing about half of this roast to be consumed on a later holiday - I'm thinking St. Patty's Day! But in case you would like to get started today brining your own pastrami roast, you have exactly 10 days before Christmas, so get going!

Elk Pastrami
10 lbs. elk top round (you can also use bear, moose or venison)
12 Tbls. Morton's Tender Quick 
1 Tbls. + 1 tsp. garlic powder 
1/2 c. sugar 
5 qt. water 
4 Tbls. coarse black pepper 
4 Tbls. ground coriander

Combine the Morton's Tender Quick, garlic powder and sugar with 1 qt. of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil, dissolving the dry ingredients. Cool the brine and place your top round roast in a food-grade storage container or soup pot. My roast fit perfectly in a stainless steel 10 QT soup pot. At a 4:1 ratio (ex. 1/2 c. brine + 4 cups water), add the brine and water to the pot or bucket until the meat is totally submerged. If you are injecting the meat for a quicker brine, now is the time. Every other day turn the meat over, re-inject it and remove any surface mold that appears.

After the brining period is complete, remove the top round and rinse it thoroughly in cold water, then soak in fresh water for two hours. After soaking, drain, dry and rub the coarse black pepper and coriander mixture on all sides of the roast. 

In a preheated 150 degree oven, place the meat in a roasting pan and bake for one hour, until the surface of the meat is dry. Then gradually increase the temperature of the oven to 200 - 215 degrees until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 170 degrees. Remove and let rest for five minutes before slicing thinly. This can be served on its own with mustard or made into a sandwich. I hope it's epic for you too!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Venison Rindsrouladen (German Pickle Steak)

Venison Rindsrouladen (German Pickle Steak)
There's nothing like cold weather to stir up one's appetite. And while soups, stews and stocks might rule the traditional snowy roost, I simply salivate over this venison rendition of Rindsrouladen (German Pickle Steak). It has all the key ingredients of a delicious dinner: venison, bacon, pickles. What more could you ask for?

This recipe was adapted from a traditional Rindsrouladen I prepared with a local German chef and friend. So pour a pint of stout, get out your dumplings, spaetzle or potato pancakes and let's get wrapped up in bacon and red meat.

Venison Rindsrouladen (German Pickle Steak)
Venison backstrap
1 lb. bacon, cut in half
Carrots, peeled, cut into 2" lengths and quartered (about four carrots-worth - Save odds and ends for sauce)
Celery stalks, cut into 2" length and then into thirds lengthwise (Save odds and ends for sauce)
Kosher pickle spears, cut into 2" lengths (Save some pickle juice for sauce)
2 white onions, cut in half and sliced thinly
Dijon mustard
Fresh garlic, about 4 cloves
6 oz. tomato paste
Marjoram to taste (start with a 1/4 tsp. and add more if needed)
Oregano to taste (start with a 1/4 tsp. and add more if needed)
Bay leaf
Oil for browning meat
1 quart beef stock
Salt and pepper to taste

Start by slicing venison backstrap into about 1"-thick steaks, then place between two sheet of plastic wrap and pound until very thin. Season slices with salt and pepper and spread a layer of Dijon mustard on one side. Then place two small strips of bacon, a carrot stick, celery stick, pickle spear and few strips of sliced onion over mustard-coated venison pieces. Roll up venison around the vegetables (tightly) and secure roll with a couple of toothpicks.

Heat up your favorite skillet with a little oil. Brown rolled venison slowly and carefully, then transfer to your favorite dutch oven, add beef stock and begin to simmer. In the skillet used for browning meat, add garlic, remaining onion slices and all your odds-and-ends pieces of the carrots and celery and saute until onions are translucent. Then, to the vegetables, add Marjoram, Oregano, a little pickle juice, about a tablespoon of mustard, Bay leaf and a little water. Simmer for about 5 minutes.

Back to the dutch oven and venison, add the can of tomato paste and 1 cup of warm water, then add the vegetables and juices from the skillet to the dutch oven. Put the lid on and simmer lightly for about 2 1/2 hours. Before serving, remove meat and use a hand blender to puree the vegetable and beef stock in the dutch oven. Ladle this sauce generously over the rolled meat and your dumplings, spaetzle or potato pancakes. Prost!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Cheesy 'Venisony' Lasagna

Be honest, how many of you out there have a box or two of lasagna noodles tucked away in the cupboard, probably behind the can of exotic alligator meat that a friend gave you as a half-joke-half-serious-to-see-if-you-would-eat-it present?

Well, I did, exactly behind said can of alligator meat (still uneaten!). I finally dug it out when I was recently "uninspired" to make a well thought out meal. My wife was skeptical, of course (as she should be), but ultimately gave her approval of my thrown-together lasagna when she had roughly 2.5 servings.

I do not claim this recipe to be a traditional lasagna, but it does claim to be easy and quick. I hope you enjoy half as much as my wife did.

Note: we are mostly dairy-free in this household, so I used soy cheese, but you can use whatever you like.

Cheesy "Venisony" Lasagna
1 - 1 1/2 pounds ground venison
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Jar or can of tomato-based sauce (pizza, pasta, whatever is in your cupboard)
Fresh spinach
1 - 2 cups shredded cheese
Box of lasagna noodles
Italian seasoning spice mix
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Boil lasagna noodles for about 10 minutes to soften. You don't need to cook these long, as they continue cooking when you bake the dish.

Brown venison in a splash of olive oil. Add chopped onion, garlic, Italian seasoning and salt/pepper (to taste) and cook until onions are clear.

Grease a glass casserole dish and begin layering - in order: lasagna noodles, venison/onion mixture, fresh spinach, generous spoonfuls of tomato-based sauce, cheese. Continue layering until you end with a layer of lasagna noodles on top. Top this with only tomato sauce and then cheese. I like to add a sprinkle of salt and pepper to the top.

Place dish in oven and cook 30-35 minutes. Cool, serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Grouse Schnitzel with Red Cabbage and Green Apples

One of the first open hunting seasons that brings hunters into the outdoors in Montana is Upland Bird season, opening September 1. I adore walking the hillsides of western Montana with my trusty 20 gauge Browning BPS shotgun and a vest full of Mountain Grouse (aka. Ruffed Grouse). Just hearing those birds take off in flight...thump, thump, thump...gets my juices flowing!

The other thing that gets juicy is this dish of Grouse Schnitzel with Red Cabbage and Green Apples. Many of you know I fully embrace my German heritage, and with Oktoberfest just around the corner, it's time to perfect your German-inspired menus.

Traditionally, schnitzel is an Austrian dish and prepared with veal or pork. This dish is also great with venison backstrap, pounded thin and cut into 1/2-inch-thick cutlets. But the richness of the grouse makes this dish for me. Enjoy and Prost!

Grouse Schnitzel with Red Cabbage and Green Apples
1/4 c. flour 
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. celery salt
1/4 tsp. onion salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 c. dry bread crumbs, fine
4 medium-sized Grouse breasts, cut into strips
8 Tbls. butter
2 c. water
1 piece of smoked bacon, diced
1 head of cabbage, small and shredded
1 medium onion, diced
2 green apples, preferably Granny Smith, diced with peel on 
2 Tbls. brown sugar
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1 c. apple juice
5 Tbls. apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp. caraway seeds

Mix flour, smoked paprika, celery salt and onion salt in a bowl and set aside. Arrange the bowl of beaten eggs between the bowl of flour and a plate of bread crumbs. Dredge the strips of grouse in flour first, then the eggs and lastly in the bread crumbs. 

Melt butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the grouse on both sides. Then reduce heat, add water and cover. Simmer the meat for at least 30 minutes until tender.

While the grouse is cooking, brown the bacon pieces in a large pot over medium-high heat. Then add cabbage, onion and apples. Stir and saute for about 5 minutes. 

Add the remaining ingredients to this large pot (except for the meat), reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. 

To serve, dish out a bed of the red cabbage and apple mixture, then place strips of the grouse schnitzel on top. Ladle the "gravy" from the schnitzel pan on top of everything. I recommend serving with a side of cooked asparagus, topped with your favorite nuts. Serves four.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Two Recipes for Fresh Trout!

After a nice two-night camping trip this last weekend, I'm full and refreshed. I took the family camping and canoeing on a little lake we go to every year. The lake is known for its stock cutthroat trout, and they were biting. I received a little "lure tip" from a fellow fisherman who had two baskets filled with 40+ perch after an afternoon of fishing. I'd imagine he's pretty full from his fish fry too. 

For this post, I'm inspired to give you two recipes for fresh trout. The first one is so simple and quick that I couldn't post it alone, but it is my favorite one to use camping, as there are really only three ingredients. I hope you try them both and let me know how they work for you.

Trout with Orange-Basil Sauce
Two medium-size fresh trout, dressed
1 orange
1/4 c. + 2 Tbls butter
handful of fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste

Cook trout with skin on in available cast iron pan or roasting over fire until tender and moist. To make butter sauce, chop meat of orange in a bowl, careful to preserve juices. Chop handful of fresh basil. Melt 1/4 c. butter in a pan and add orange and basil. Heat through but no need to simmer for long. Peel back trout's skin, salt and add spoonfuls of orange-basil sauce.

Trout Stuffed with Green-Chilis, Corn and Lime
Four whole trout, about 12 inches long and dressed
1 lime

1 seven-ounce can of diced green chilis
1 can of yellow corn, drained
1/4 c. minced fresh cilantro
3 green onions, chopped, including tops
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. oregano, dried
1/4 c. bread crumbs

1 crushed garlic clove
1 c. white wine
Juice of 1 lime
2 tsps. arrowroot powder (or cornstarch)
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 Tbl. sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Combine and cook all sauce ingredients in a pan, stirring over medium heat until thick and smooth (about 6-7 minutes). Set aside and keep warm.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix ingredients for stuffing in a large bowl and stir well. Divide the stuffing mixture between all four fish and fill each one's cavity, pressing firmly until a small mound is formed on the outside. 

Wrap each prepared fish individually with aluminum foil and place them on a baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes. Uncover fish and squeeze the juice of one lime, then bake for an additional 8 minutes until golden brown.

Ladle the sauce into the middle of four dinner plates and place a stuffed trout in the middle of each one. Serves four.

Monday, July 12, 2010

German Goulash Soup (Gulash Suppe)

I have to admit that I am an avid Word Cup soccer fan, and I watched about 55 of the 64 tournament games. I was sad to see USA advance from group play but lose to Ghana. However, I have deep roots to Germany so I was happy to follow the third-place success of the German team. In honor of their win against Uruguay on Saturday, I prepared a delicious German Goulash dinner. This recipe was given to me by a friend and local professional German chef.

Goulash Soup (Gulash Suppe)
2 lbs. course ground or cubed venison or elk (I used ground lamb)
1 1/2 lbs. diced yellow onion
2 1/2 Tbls. smoked Paprika
2 Tbls. Oregano
2 Tbls. Marjoram
6 cloves garlic
4 c. beef broth
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 small can of tomato paste
3 small Yukon gold potatoes, diced
1 1/2 c. button mushrooms (optional)
salt, pepper, red pepper flakes to taste

Serve over cooked rice or (traditionally) Spaetzle

Saute meat in stock pot with oil until lightly browned then remove and set aside. Add diced onions to the pot and saute in oil until translucent. Add all spices, crushed tomatoes and tomato paste to onions and stir. Then add beef broth and meat and simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Add diced potatoes and mushrooms and cook another 30 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Thicken with Roux, Arrowroot powder or cornstarch (your preference). Serve hot over cooked rice or Spaetzle.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Nuts...So Warm and Tasty!

Yes, it has been a while since I've posted to the blog, but in the mean time I've been taking life by the nuts! It's fishing season now, my hunting tags have been applied for, and what better to do than get creative. The first thing you may notice is that I've updated to look of my blog, Cooked Animals. I hope you like it! Secondly, I've been slowly getting through my elk meat, so I'll be posting more meat-related recipes soon. And lastly, for Father's Day I got the most "manly" of gifts - a new GrillMaster 4-burner grill from Lowe's, complete with Rotisserie.

For today's recipe, I'm reminded of that one place that is a "Mecca" for outdoors-people, and that is Cabela's. My dad used to work for Cabela's in Michigan, and I know he's had his fair share of those warm, sugary nuts from the Nuts Cart nearly every Cabela's store has right up front. I've made it a goal of mine to recreate those tasty morsels of goodness, and while this recipe is close, there's no substitute for what Cabela's sells, so head out to your nearest Cabela's superstore and get your hands on some nuts!

Note: This recipe uses almonds. Feel free to experiment with your favorite nuts. You may have to adjust the cooking time.

Roasted Almonds 
1 egg white
1 tsp. cold water
4 c. whole almonds
1/2 c. white sugar
3 Tbls. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Grease a cookie sheet or line with a Silpat (makes life much easier!).

Mix together egg white, cold water, white sugar, salt and ground cinnamon. Toss in nuts and stir until evenly coated. Spread nuts evenly on prepared cookie sheet then sprinkle brown sugar over the top.

Bake for one hour, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Allow to cool (but not too much!). Store in airtight container.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sharpening the Reading List: Free ebooks on Cooking, Living and Doing!

I've been down for the count this past week due to a little late-winter illness running through the household. My taste buds were shot, so no exciting dishes to share. I did, however, find lots of time to curl up with a good book and time to check on a few of my favorite Web sites. I don't know if you've ever heard of a site called ManyBooks (thanks to Project Gutenberg), but they are an incredible resource for DIY/simple living/home cook/outdoors-people types, like me and you. You can download copies of ebooks from many genres, all for free. I especially recommend checking out the Instructional genre.

One of the coolest I found was a copy of Carving and Serving by Mrs. D.A. Lincoln, dated 1906. In the book she writes:

     One must learn first of all to carve neatly, without scattering crumbs or
     splashing gravy over the cloth or platter; also to cut straight, uniform
     slices. This may seem an easy matter; but do we often see pressed
     beef, tongue, or even bread cut as it should be?

I know I often second-guess myself the moment before I cut into a beautiful smoked turkey or slow-cooked roast. Now, thanks to Carving and Serving, I have a deeper understanding and appreciation for my carving knife and the importance of a well-carved, properly-served main course. I hope you enjoy reading it, too!

Here's a short list of other books on you might find interesting:

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Grilled Venison Panini with Mango Chutney and Goat Brie

I often like to say that "food is my favorite meal of the day!" And when it comes to dining on good game meats, I don't discriminate between breakfast, lunch or dinner. 

Today's recipe is for a great hot sandwich that's super easy to prepare and extremely tasty. I recommend serving this sandwich with a side of fresh potato salad made with lots of relish!

Grilled Venison Panini with Mango Chutney and Goat Brie
Venison back strap, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 Tbl. Italian seasonings
2 Tbls. Olive oil
4 slices fresh baked bread, your choice
Mango chutney
Goat brie

Mix Italian seasoning and olive oil together and coat one side of bread, all four slices. Let stand for about 10 minutes. 

Sprinkle venison slices with salt and pepper and cook for a few minutes on your George Foreman Grill. Make sure you keep them a little pink on the inside. 

With oil-coated sides out, assemble your sandwich with a thin spread of mango chutney, cooked venison slices and slices of goat brie. Spray your George Foreman Grill with non-stick spray and place sandwiches on griddle, pressing sandwiches firmly and cooking about 1-2 minutes on medium heat, long enough to make bread crispy. Serve hot with a tasty side item and beverage (like a tall glass of Guinness Extra Stout).

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Elk Burgers and Cheesy Baked Grits

Who says you can't have grits for dinner and a burger without a bun? Not me. These recipes come adapted from a classic, The Complete Venison Cookbook, by Harold W. Webster, Jr.

Elk Burgers
2 1/2 lbs. ground elk
1/2 c. onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
4 Tbs. parsley, chopped
1/2 c. dry red wine
2 Tbs. soy sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients and form into patties. Cook on grill, cast iron or broil in oven (10 minutes per side). Serve on bed of mixed greens, garnish with a little barbecue sauce.

Cheesy Baked Grits
3 c. water
3/4 c. quick grits, uncooked
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg, beaten
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
2 Tbs. margarine
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
dash of red pepper sauce

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 1 1/2-quart baking dish. Prepare grits according to package directions. After prepared, add about 1/3 c. cooked grits to beaten egg. Add mixture and remaining ingredients to grits and cook over low for an additional minute until cheese is melted. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish and bake 30-40 minutes, or until top is set and lightly puffy. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Serves 4-6.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Candied Bacon! Yes, Bacon.

I didn't believe it myself, when I first heard of candied bacon. But there it was, posted on one of my favorite blogs, Food Wishes. Chef John has managed, in no small part, to perfect bacon! I cooked a batch of these strips of little heavens for a Christmas Fondue party, and yes, a couple did end up dipped in cheese and chocolate! And yes, they were delicious that way, too. So here's the recipes for candied bacon, adapted from Chef John's Food Wishes blog.

Candied Bacon

1 pound thick center-cut bacon, preferably peppered
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 TBS. maple syrup
2 TBS. rice vinegar
black pepper to taste

Prepare glaze by mixing together the brown sugar, maple syrup and rice vinegar and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange uncooked bacon on a wire rack and place over a lined cookie sheet. I used aluminum foil. Cook bacon for 10 minutes, flip and cook for an additional five minutes, then add glaze to up-side and bake for an additional five minutes. Flip, glaze and cook for five minutes. Keep repeating this process until total cooked time is about 35-40 minutes. Actual cooking times depends on how thick your bacon cuts are. After the bacon is fully cooked and hardening, set aside so it can fully set up. Enjoy!