American Elk Goulash Soup
Courtesy of Chef John McGannon, wildeats.com
We live in a world that has taken on a nutritional awareness. And perhaps there is no greater application of nutrition than a homemade soup made with fresh ingredients. Every culture has its own version of a restorative dish, for example, Mexican menudo or Vietnamese pho. In fact, back in the 1700s when stagecoach travelers were driven from place to place, as tired horses were exchanged for fresh, the keeper’s wife gave cups of broth to weary travelers to revitalize them. The word restaurant derives from the French word for restorative.
Here is our high-country version of a restorative dish that is chock-full of protein, vitamins, minerals and flavor. The first step to making any soup (or sauce) is a flavorful stock. For this soup, we’re going to use a tomato vegetable stock. Making a good stock is much easier than most people think. And when it comes to flavor and nutrition, those little salt bouillon nuggets just don’t compare.
Tomato Vegetable Stock
2 medium onions, diced
1⁄2 bunch celery, diced
4 large, fresh ripe tomatoes, chopped
20 whole, peeled cloves of garlic
4 bay leaves
1 tsp dried or 6-8 branches of fresh thyme
6 branches of fresh parsley
1 tsp cracked black peppercorns
2 sprigs fresh rosemary (marjoram, sage or oregano)
1 gallon cold water
Place all ingredients in a large stockpot. Bring to a boil. Clean the scum that forms on top. Cleaning the bi-product off of any simmering liquid will yield a crisp, clean, non-greasy flavor. Turn down to a simmer and continue to cook for 40 minutes. Strain the stock and hold for use in the soup. This also can be cooled and stored in ziplock bags in the freezer for later use. Yields approximately 1 gallon of stock.
American Elk Goulash Soup
2 lbs. elk meat (small dice or chili ground)
2-3 oz. olive oil to brown the meat
Salt and pepper to taste
2 medium onions diced
1⁄2 bunch celery diced
3 oz. tomato paste
2 tbsp smoked paprika
2 tsp caraway seeds
1 gallon strained tomato vegetable stock
splash Worcestershire sauce
2 large potatoes, peel, dice small, hold in cold water
fresh herbs, such as parsley, chives, sage, marjoram, oregano or thyme
lemon zest (grated on the soup just before serving)
Heat a large sauté pan with some of the olive oil. Season the meat with salt and pepper. Brown the meat in small batches, then add to a large stock pot. Continue until all the meat is browned. To this, add the remaining ingredients except the potatoes. Bring to a simmer and again clean the scum that forms on top. Simmer for about an hour or until the meat becomes tender, then add the potatoes (drained from the water). Continue to cook until the potatoes are just tender. Do not overcook them.
When ready to serve, adjust the salt and pepper to taste, add the chopped fresh herbs and zest of lemon. (The lemon zest adds a very refreshing quality to the soup and balances its high‑protein content.) Heat the noodles in butter and use as garnish. Make this soup in large batches and freeze it for use down the road. Whether you’re serving weary travelers, hunters in the frozen backcountry or as an after-school snack, take comfort in knowing you’re doing your part to keep your loved ones healthy.
John McGannon is a RMEF life member, host of wild game cooking seminars at Elk Camp and owner of WildEats Enterprises.