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!

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