Game Time

From September to December, fresh wild game tends to dominate Bozeman-area dinner tables. Here’s a great recipe to spice up that bull elk your buddy brought out of the mountains. (If you helped him haul the animal out, hand this recipe over and rest your aching back while he does the cooking.) The dish is called “Peppercorn-Seared Rocky Mountain Elk Tenderloin served with Chanterelle Mushroom Marsala Sauce and Buttermilk Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes.” And yes, it’s as good as it sounds.

Peppercorn Crust:
4 tbsp whole peppercorns
1 tbsp sea salt
Place into a pie plate for easy dredging

I like to use whole peppercorns and blend them myself in a coffee-bean grinder, adding a pinch of sea salt. Start with one whole elk tenderloin, silver skin removed, portioned into 6-ounce medallions. Tenderloins are large—typically 5-6 pounds—so you can cut the tenderloin in half and use the other half later. Place oil in a large, preheated skillet. Press all tenderloin medallions into the peppercorn mixture, coating both sides. Place into skillet—it will sear and be very hot so be careful. Cook 2-3 minutes per side and flip with a metal spatula so that peppercorn crust sticks to the meat. Set aside to let meat rest approximately 2-3 minutes. Never cook elk more than medium rare, as it will become dry and tough if over-cooked.

Chanterelle Mushroom Sauce:
4 cups sliced mushrooms
2 shallots, peeled and sliced thin
½ cup Marsala wine
1 tbsp room-temperature whole butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 pinch of salt
1 tsp fresh thyme

Sauté mushrooms alone for 3-4 minutes in olive oil, salt, and shallots. Add Marsala and simmer for one minute. Finish with butter and thyme. Chanterelle mushrooms are a trumpet-shaped wild mushroom with a wonderful nutty flavor; I like to use them because they grow wild in the Pacific Northwest. Shallots are a sweet small onion. Marsala is an Italian fortified wine and has a rich smoky flavor.

Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes:
5 Yukon Gold potatoes, partially peeled and quartered
1/3 cup room-temperature whole butter
1 cup buttermilk
Salt and pepper to taste

Place potatoes in cold water, bring to a boil, and cook for approximately 30-45 minutes or until tender. Strain through a colander and drain well. Place into large mixing bowl and mash slowly. Add butter, a pinch of salt and pepper, and buttermilk.

On a platter or individual plate, overlap your mashed potatoes with the elk medallions and top with the chanterelle mushroom sauce. Serve immediately. This recipe will feed approximately six people. Enjoy!

Kevin Caracciolo, proprietor of the Cateye Café, has lived in Bozeman for 25 years and has cooked for some of the finest restaurants in town. He has owned and operated the Cateye for seven years.