BBQ Chili Rubbed Elk Loins
with Cilantro Slurry / Smoky Black Bean
by Chef John McGannon
Making the Most of Your Harvest
Good hunters are usually people who want to know the whys behind what they see and hear in the field. It’s the same with good cooks. If you’ve ever wondered why your prize meat is gamey or tough, why your meat appears burned and haggard after a few months in the deep freeze, or why specific cuts of meat are best suited for different cooking techniques, you’re not alone. As someone who craves the autumn ritual of heading into the hills in search of nature’s bounty—and has an equal passion for the culinary result of all that great hard work—I’ve made it my business to learn the answers to those whys.
A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. The first and perhaps most critical link from field to table is killing with one good shot.
The ultimate goal in any slaughterhouse that prides itself on high-quality meat is dispatching the animal without subjecting it to stress. The muscles in spooked or stressed animals swell and change in chemical composition to the point they can be almost impossible to tenderize. So animals are kept calm and basically knocked unconscious without ever knowing what is about to happen. Under these conditions the adrenaline and endorphins from stress or trauma never enter the muscle structure. The meat from an animal that is free of stress will be tender and delicate in both texture and flavor.
Your goal is to recreate those conditions in the field. Choose shots on animals that are at ease—shots that you can make with certainty for a quick, clean kill—and you’re a long ways toward a bounty of delicious meat.
Once that shot has landed, there’s no going back. Make it a good one.
BBQ Chili Rubbed Elk Loins with Cilantro Slurry
3 lbs. elk loin, trimmed of all silver skin
3 tbsp Southwest Spice Blend (see recipe below)
Kosher Salt to taste
Brush the oil on the elk loins and rub the spice blend into meat. For the best results place in a zip-lock bag in the refrigerator overnight. Season the loins with the salt just before cooking. Lean, tender cuts of game meat like elk should be cooked very quickly over high heat. Cook until rare and rest for a couple of minutes before cutting. Serve with cilantro slurry, lime and warm tortillas.
Southwest Spice Blend
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp oregano
½ tsp ground chipotle (dried smoked jalapeno)
1 tbsp ground ancho chili
1 tbsp granulated garlic
1 tbsp granulated onion
1½ cups virgin olive oil
2 cloves fresh garlic
1 bunch cilantro, rinsed
½ bunch scallions, green tops only
salt to taste
Place all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. This slurry will keep for one month in the refrigerator. It should keep its bright green color and will add a refreshing flavor to all your summer feasts.
Smoky Black Bean
2 cups dried black beans
6 cups water
1 large onion, cut into small dice
1 Jalapeno chili or Chipotle (smoked dried Jalapeno) cut in half
1 tsp. garlic
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. dried oregano or 1/2 cup Wildeats Controlled Burn Chili blend
1/4 cup diced bacon cut into small pieces
1 Bay leaf
Rinse the beans, and cover with cold water. Allow the beans to sit over night. This will release the gases that are too often related to dried legumes. Drain and rinse the beans. Place all the ingredients into an appropriate pot with enough fresh water to cover by 2 times. Bring the water to a boil, clean the residue that forms on top and turn the heat to low. Simmer for approximately 30 to 45 minutes or until just tender. Remove from the heat and allow to cool in the cooking liquid. Do not season with salt before the beans are completely cooked, as salt will make the skins tough!
** One word of caution. The heat factor of any chili resides in the seeds and veins. Therefore, you can adjust the degree of heat by eliminating the seeds altogether.
John McGannon is chef/founder of Wildeats Enterprises, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, a life member of the Elk Foundation, host of popular wild game cooking seminars at our annual Elk Camp and a passionate hunter.