There is no shortage of articles, commentary and opinions around the whole “field to plate” movement, and knowing where your food comes from. While at times it can be tiredly viewed as the domain only of hipsters shopping at a Co-Op who drive bio-diesel vans and churn their own butter, it is frankly, the right way to go about viewing food. I for one am a big proponent of it, primarily because I thoroughly enjoy the entire process of hunting, from scouting to training, practicing to the actual hunt, and ultimately, if everything goes according to plan, a cleanly killed big game animal on the ground. Then, the secondary phase of what I consider to be a three-part process begins — getting the animal broken down into manageable cargo, off the mountain and into a freezer, pronto.
Troves of content has been written about how to field dress, quarter, de-bone, trim, gut and skin every kind of animal that walks, flies or swims, and I doubt I will pass along any earth-shattering bits of knowledge. I am a competent “field butcher”, and frankly, enjoy the very visceral, real act of handling game once down, and know that as I work to cut away hide, sinew and fat, the recognizable shapes and forms begin to appear: loins, steaks, chops and roasts. Last fall, I helped haul a few hundred pounds of elk off the mountain as well as an antelope of my own, both of which reside in a chest freezer in my garage. The prime cuts are rapidly disappearing, frequently taking center stage during dinner at my home. I understand that not everyone has the ability, desire nor means to go out and spend days in the mountains and kill an elk or stalk within bow range of a bedded antelope, but each of us can play a small role in gathering, butchering, creating or growing some component of their dinner.
My most recent “Aha”moment was trying my hand at baking bread. I wanted to keep it simple, but hopefully create something worthy of accompanying an elk roast or antelope tenderloin. What I found was a straightforward recipe for Dutch oven bread, that takes very little time and ingredients to make. I am still working on a few details, as the two loaves I have made did not turn out quite as airy and chewy as I would like, but it is pretty damn tasty. Paired with wild game steak au poivre, grilled vegetables and a big red wine, and you have a fine dinner. Here is the recipe:
- 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for shaping
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1 teaspoon Red Star active dry yeast
- 1½ cups warm water (about 110 to 115 degrees F)
- In a large bowl, whisk flour, salt and yeast until well mixed. Pour in warm water and use a wooden spoon to stir until a shaggy dough forms. The mixture will be wet and very sticky to the touch.
- Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place 8 to 18 hours until dough rises, bubbles and flattens on top.
- Heat oven to 450 degrees F. Once oven is preheated, place a 6-quart Dutch oven (with cover) in oven 30 minutes before baking.
- Punch down dough. Generously flour a sheet of parchment paper; transfer dough to parchment and, with floured hands, quickly shape into a ball. Place dough on parchment paper and sprinkle top lightly with flour. Top with a sheet of plastic wrap and let rest 30 minutes.
- Remove Dutch oven from oven. Uncover dough and carefully transfer to Dutch oven, with or without parchment paper beneath (if bottom of Dutch oven is not coated with enamel, keep parchment paper beneath dough). Cover Dutch oven and return to oven.
- Bake bread 45 minutes covered, then another 10 to 15 minutes uncovered until dough is baked through and golden brown on top. Cool slightly before slicing.
And last but not least, the steak au poivre recipe. I have found antelope loin to be the best meat for this dish, but elk, deer, buffalo or moose would work also.
Antelope Steak Au Poivre (serves 2, double for larger groups)
- 1 lb. of antelope loin (backstrap) cut into 1″ thick steaks
- 1 tsp. each black, green and white peppercorns
- Heavy tablespoon butter
- Splash of olive oil
- 1 ½ oz. brandy (good bourbon works too)
- 2 tsp. red currant jelly
- 1 ½ tablespoon heavy cream
To prepare, first roughly grind the peppercorns and spread them out on a plate. Press the steaks on both sides into the pepper so they are evenly coated, but not a thick crust. Too much creates an overwhelming pepper taste. Shoot for a random sprinkling.
Break out your biggest, most well-seasoned cast iron skillet. Melt the butter and the oil, bringing it up to medium-high heat. Fry the steaks for about 1 ½ minutes each side for medium rare, and season with a bit of salt. Right before they are done, pour in the brandy and either use a match or the flame from a gas range to flambé the steaks (watch your eyebrows during this part.) When the flames die down, move the steaks to a warm plate and cover with foil while you work on the sauce.
Scrape loose all of the browned bits in the pan and then add the red currant jelly. When the jelly has melted and the liquid reduces down to the consistency of syrup, add in the heavy cream. Stir and allow it all to reduce a bit more, and remove from heat. Place the steaks on a plate and pour the sauce directly from the skillet onto the steaks. Mashed potatoes go exceptionally well with this dish and a good red wine.
There you go. Two recipes to make and enjoy prior to the hunting season, which will just make you even more eager to get outside come fall. Raise a glass to good eating, successful hunting and full freezers.