This time of year, there’s nothing better than the crackle of a warm fire teamed with the smells of a pot of slowly simmering cubes of elk cloaked in a fragrant, rich sauce. The combination of flavors you can use is endless. I love teaming the full flavors of elk with the sweetness of bell peppers and onions along with the tamed heat of green chilies, be they serranos or jalapenos.
flour for dusting
4 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp fresh minced garlic
1 large yellow onion sliced thin
1 large bell pepper sliced thin
2 cups raw garbanzo beans (picked through for stones and soaked in cold water overnight)
2 jalapeno or serrano peppers, fried in oil to blister the skins, seeds removed. Cut into very small dices or strips
Raw green chilies have a very sharp, biting heat, especially when the seeds are left in them. Caramelizing these chilies, either by roasting in a hot oven or frying in oil, really gives them a very different flavor profile. Once the skins are blistered, peel them, cut in half and scrape out the seeds.
You’re now left with just the chili flesh. Roasted chilies prepared this way have an almost sweet spice and can be used wherever you want a mild hit of heat. I always have a container at the ready in my kitchen.
1 tsp toasted cumin seeds, ground fine
1 tsp toasted coriander seeds, ground fine
2 bay leaves
Whole spices also benefit from a caramelization process. Whole seeds retain much more flavor than do the pre-ground versions, which lose much of their flavor sitting on the shelf at the supermarket. To toast, slowly shake these whole seeds in a dry sauté pan over medium heat until they turn golden brown. You can also place the spices on a sheet pan and toast them in a 350 F oven for about 10 minutes. Once toasted let them cool down a little before grinding in a spice or coffee grinder. You will immediately notice an unbelievable fragrance in your kitchen! Once you do this it will become your go- to secret weapon.
2 qts. beef or game broth/stock
3-4 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup quality red wine
salt and pepper to taste
chopped cilantro, sliced scallions, fresh basil, even fresh mint works with this dish
Lightly season the diced meat with salt and pepper (or your own favorite dry rub) and dust with the flour. Heat the olive oil in a heavy-gauge sauté pan. Brown the meat in small batches. Once browned, remove to a crock or braising pot. After the meat is browned, deglaze the pan with the red wine. Scrape the bottom of the pan to collect any unburned caramelized meat particles and add to the pot with the meat. To the pot, add the stock, garbanzo beans, tomato paste, toasted spices and bay leaves. Bring this to a slow simmer, removing any scum, fat or oil that forms on top. Continue to braise for about 1 ½ hours uncovered.
Add the bell peppers, onions and green chilies, mix well and continue to cook for another 30 minutes or so or until the meat is fork-tender.
As with any braised dish, it will actually be better the next day. The dish has so many different flavor nuances that resting overnight allows them all to mature together.
The majority of my hunting meals are braised dishes. They offer superior nutrition, great hearty flavor and most importantly, they are easy to reheat back at camp, which keeps me out in the field longer.