Friday Classic: Pan-Fired Elk Steak
I can no more explain why I hunt than I can explain why I read. I have reasons – because others must die for me to live, and I’m resolved to do my own killing; because it’s the most sensually vibrant and emotionally complex way I know of to experience the natural world; because it is a test of the most fundamental measure; because I need wildness – but reasoning and explanation are not the same thing. So when pressed, I offer simply that I am a meat hunter, which is true enough.
Elk season is 11 days away and the freezer is nearly bare. We’ve emptied it slowly, week-by-week, making casseroles, stews, roasts, stir-fries, risottos, soups, pastas, salads, loaves, sauces, curries, hashes, kabobs, satays and polentas. Venison, seasoned in accordance with the world’s myriad culinary traditions, and prepared every which way, has fueled and built our bodies for one more year. Now, with the need to go get more nearly upon us, it’s time to cut to the chase and get back to basics with simple, satisfying, unapologetic, unobscured meat. It’s time for steak.
Elk Steak – I used a ¾ # “round steak”. When I butcher and package, if it’s big and tender enough to be steak, but isn’t backstrap, tenderloin or sirloin, it’s ‘”round steak” in my book. I believe this particular round steak came from high on a hind quarter.
Salt, large grained
Mixed Peppercorns, freshly ground
Step 1: Rinse steak in cold water and pat dry. Examine closely and trim any fascia or connective tissue that slipped through in the rush to get everything in the freezer. Set the steak aside, allowing it to air-dry thoroughly and come to room temperature. Take note of the direction that the muscle fibers or “grain” runs. It may be harder to tell after cooking and you’ll need to know come carving time.
Step 2 : Over a high burner, heat enough oil to cover the bottom of your cast-iron skillet until shimmering, but not quite smoking. The smoke is coming, so go ahead and fire-up your exhaust fan too.
Step 4 : Using tongs, gently place steak in the center of the pan. Don’t move it. Let it sizzle in place until juices begin to bead and run from the top and a thick, dark brown crust has formed on the bottom. Then flip it. Once again, resist the urge to move it around. The second side should only take about 2/3 as long as the first. When juices once again bead and run from the top, and the steak, prodded from the top with a finger, has the consistency of the relaxed flesh between your thumb and forefinger, pull it from the pan. Rest it on a cutting board (it’ll still be juicy so you’ll want something with a lip) for 5 minutes. It’s still cooking, so don’t rush it.
Step 6 : Serve with potatoes, salad, corn on the cob, rice, wilted spinach, peas, roasted squash, collard greens, succotash, quinoa, fries, Brussels sprouts, macaroni and cheese, popovers, green beans, backed beans, black beans, spoon-bread, lentils or whatever the heck you please. It’s steak after all. Whatever shares the plate is doomed to sidekick status.
If your kids want to hide some in a broccoli forest and “hunt elk” with their forks, that’s great. If they want to “catch antelope” with their teeth before supper gets away, let em have at it. If you’re asked “did you kill it?” answer with pride, and don’t confuse matters with euphemisms like “harvest”.
STS Bar & Grill: Pan-Fired Elk Steak
1. Clean, trim and dry steak.
2. Heat oil in cast iron skillet.
3. Massage salt and pepper onto meat.
4. Pan fry steak to medium rare turning once.
5. Slice thin, across the grain and on a bias.