Recipe book review contributed by Editor in Chief J. Townsend.
I was recentlyÂ contacted by a fellow wild game chef and friend, Randy King, who asked me to provide him with a review of his upcoming cookbook, Chef in the Wild. Being a chef, cook books, especially new cook books, provide a level of excitement seen only when kids open presents on Christmas morning. I quickly agreed to Randyâ€™s request and he forwarded over a copy of the book. I thought I would provide you all with a brief review of the book as well as a recipe to try until you can buy your own copy of Randyâ€™s book.
I read through the book and was instantly impressed by the recipes and the adventure stories. Many cookbooksÂ lack context. These books simply compile a list of ingredients into a delicious meal, but are lacking substance. Food is just as much about perspective and the experience as it is about a combination of ingredients. Randy provides the reader an entertaining tale to accompany almost every recipe. This allows you to tie the meal intoÂ the real life adventure which lead to its creation.
Chef in the Wild speaks directly to the heart of the hunter and angler in us all with narratives of adventure, camaraderie, tradition, danger, and excitement, which paint a picture of the journey wild food makes to fork. The recipes convey a life and passion of food that honor the animal from whence it came and will call out to the stomach of any person who admires a real, properly prepared meal from the wild.
Randyâ€™s adventures and recipes span the air, field, water and some special recipes from his own home. The table of contents reads like a foodieâ€™s top ten wish list with star studded recipes for meals such as Curried Wild Turkey Drumsticks, Barbecue Bear Ribs, Homemade Bacon, Grilled Albacore Tuna with Sweet Corn Dungeness Crab Sauce, and Apricot and Cherry Cobbler. Needless to say, this recipe book will certainly please the wild chef in you and the most reluctant eater in your house. His instructions are clear, detailed, and to the point. They do not require a wealth of knowledge or a gourmet kitchen to prepare. They can be conjured up in the normal kitchen with fresh simple ingredients that donâ€™t require a turkey chase to findâ€¦. UnlessÂ the recipeÂ calls for wild turkey.
Until then, here is a little Elk recipe for you to try out, complements of Randy.
Elk Shank with Red Wine and Rosemary
If I could shoot one animal per year to stock my freezer it would be a nice, youngish, cow elk. They are perfect table fare: tender, flavorful and ample in proportion, they are like giant whitetail deer. Of course, with a large animal there is always scrap and trim to be used and itâ€™s not always obvious to know the best way to utilize those parts. For instance: shank meat. Shank meat is ungodly tough, right? Yes, itâ€™s a tough piece of meat but it is easy to make shine. Think of all those fancy restaurants serving lamb shanks like hotcakes and charging upwards of $35 a plate. Connective tissue, the same thing that makes the shank tough, is what makes it delicious. That tissue, if cooked long enough, melts into a buttery, luscious sauce. The naturally occurring gelatin breaks down and incorporates into the cooking liquid. But only if you give it time. Shanks are slow food. Mmmm, tasty slow food. Anyway, enough science, how about a recipe?
1 elk hind shank, deboned, bone reserved
1â„2 cup flour
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 white onion, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
10 cloves garlic
10 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 cups red wine
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
Preheat oven to 300Â°F or turn on a slow cooker to â€œlowâ€ setting.
Roll the deboned shank meat in the flour. Heat butter in a large cast iron Dutch oven over medium heat. Brown the shank meat on all sides. When browned add the onions and any remaining flour to the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Stir onions around to avoid flour clumps from forming.
Add the carrots, garlic and half of the rosemary. Let cook for 1 minute and then add the red wine to â€œdeglazeâ€ the pan (deglaze means to remove the brown bits from the bottom of the pan â€“ those are good things). When at a boil add enough water to just cover the meat, approximately 2 quarts depending on the size of the pan. Cover tightly and move to the oven.
Cook 4-6 hours or until the shank is fork tender. Remove from the oven. You will now be faced with a dilemma â€“ serve the shank hot or cool and serve the next day. Braised meat, as a rule, is always better the next day â€“ itâ€™s had time to settle and absorb flavors. Either way, whenever you decide to eat the shank remove the meat and reduce the sauce over medium-high heat. Add the remaining rosemary and the thyme as it thickens. This will brighten up the whole dish. Serve over Hattieâ€™s mashers or polenta for a great, rib-sticking meal.