When the weather turns cold but you can’t bear to put your grill in the garage, try this simple dish and invite the neighbors over for a treat. You‘ll win accolades when you inform your guests that a seven-ounce portion of elk loin contains only 300 calories compared to 420 for beef and 380 for chicken with the skin removed. Although relatively similar to beef and chicken in terms of protein and cholesterol content, the real difference in elk is the lack of fat, with only 4 grams compared to 18.6 grams for beef and 14.8 grams for chicken.
Ironically the beauty of many types of wild game—their low fat content—is often the very thing that leads many people to think they don’t like it. Because it doesn't contain additional moisture, a succulent elk steak that spends a few extra minutes on the grill becomes inedible in a hurry. For this reason, it is very important to avoid overcooking the meat. So get everything else ready, then cook the medallions at the last minute; if you only like meat well-done, give medium a try.
Sun-Dried Cherry Sauce:
1/2 cup sun-dried cherries
1/2 cup cranberry juice
1/2 cup apple juice
1 1/2 tablespoons plum wine or red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
Sachet: 1/2 bay leaf, 1 thyme sprig, 1/2 garlic clove, 1 whole clove, 1 black peppercorn, tied in cheesecloth
Combine all the ingredients in a stainless saucepan, then bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the sachet and puree the mixture in a blender for 45 seconds until very smooth. Strain the puree and hold in a small bowl or double boiler over gently simmering water to keep warm.
Elk Loin and Pan-Roasted Apples, Peas, Onions, and Orange:
8 elk loin medallions, 3.5 ounces each
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
16 apple wedges, peeled and cored
1 cup sugar snap peas, strings removed
6 tablespoons caramelized cippoline onions
1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves
1/2 cup veal jus, (stock)
12 orange segments, membrane removed
1/2 cup sun-dried cherry sauce, recipe above
Preheat grill. Season elk medallions with salt and pepper, brush with vegetable oil, and cook on grill for three minutes on each side, keeping the meat medium rare. Add 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil in medium saute pan, add apples, and saute over high heat until apples begin to color slightly. Then add sugar peas, cippoline onions, and the chopped thyme. Season lightly with salt and pepper, then add the veal jus. Cook until reduced completely, then add the orange segments. Toss the mixture and remove from heat. Place an equal amount of the mixture in the center of four service plates, then place two elk medallions on top of each. Spoon one to two ounces of the sun-dried cherry sauce around perimeter of each plate and serve.
Steve Kuntz is a local chef and the co-owner of Feast Bistro at Kagy & S. 3rd.