Stews provide an easy introduction to game, like elk. The braising liquid and the variety of herbs and aromatic vegetables can tame even the wildest of flavors. Since elk is one of the mildest flavored of game meats, this dish is appetizing to even to the most timid diner.
I cook my elk in a simple red wine braise, using the freshest herbs and farmers market vegetables. For the wine, I like a good Chianti because sangiovese grapes typically produce a leaner, more acidic wine than, say, a big fruit-forward merlot or zinfandel. Elk is quite lean and can be considerably tougher than a similar cut from corn-fed cattle. Sangiovese’s acidity helps break down that tough connective tissue.
Once the elk is done cooking, it will taste like the best braised beef short ribs, only without all the beef fat. The meat will be tender with great beef flavor: savory, rich, with a touch of sweetness, just like a good steak ought to be.
4 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 pound elk round steak
2 cups chopped carrots
3 celery ribs, chopped
1 small yellow onion, chopped
8 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1 sprig fresh rosemary, plus more for garnish
5 large sprigs fresh thyme
2 tablespoons fresh oregano (packed)
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 cup Chianti (or your favorite dry red wine)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 300°F.
Begin by searing the elk steak. Heat 2 tablespoons of the grapeseed oil in a large braising pan or sauté pan over medium-high heat. Sear the elk on both sides until nicely browned. Remove the meat from the pan and set on a plate, along with any juices.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil in the pan and sear the carrots. Then add the celery, cooking a couple minutes longer until softened. Add the onion and cook until it has sufficiently “sweated,” and finally add the garlic. Add the butter. When the butter has melted, add in the herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano, crushed red pepper). Add the red wine and bring to a boil. Cook until the liquid is reduced to about half, then season with salt and pepper.
Return the seared elk steak, along with the juices, to the pan. Place a tight-fitting lid over the pan and set in the preheated oven. Let the meat braise for about 2 hours.
Remove from oven and test the meat with a fork; it should begin to pull apart with a light tug. Once done, remove the elk from the braise and cut into large bite-sized pieces. Return the meat back to the stew and carefully toss with the vegetables. Ladle into bowls, garnish with a sprig of rosemary, and serve.