Smoked Elk Cassoulette
Courtesy of Chef John McGannon, wildeats.com
Cassoulette is a hearty French country stew, perfectly suited for those chilly fall nights at home or in camp. Traditionally created with duck confit, sausage and beans, a cassoulette also can be made to great effect with smoked elk shoulders. Combine this with cannellini beans, herbs and spices, and you have a complete nutritious package with rib‑sticking goodness.
The beauty of using smoked elk is you get that seductive smoky flavor without the use of smoked sausages. Team it with hearty beans, herbs and the spices of southern France, and this will become a go-to comfort food.
This and any other braised dish (pot roast, sauerbraten, stew, ragout, chili, etc.) are better the next day. It’s a maturing process that allows all those different flavors to blend. They also store really well in the freezer for use down the road.
3-4 lbs elk shoulder
Smoke the elk shoulder at 140°F for two hours over hickory wood chips. When you’re ready to cook the cassoulette, rub the smoked elk shoulder with 3 tbsp sea or kosher salt and your favorite dry rub. Wrap in plastic wrap and allow to sit overnight.
Place the following in a large braising pot (or crockpot) along with the smoked elk shoulder:
1⁄2 bottle cabernet sauvignon
2 large onions, diced
1⁄2 bunch celery
2 tbsp fresh garlic, minced
2-3 bay leaves
2 cups diced tomato
4 qts water or stock
Bring to a slow simmer, cover and cook for two hours (four hours if you use a crockpot). The meat will be about half-way done. At this point add the following to the braised meat.
2 qts dried cannellini beans that have been soaked in water overnight, drained
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 sprig fresh thyme
Continue to cook uncovered for about another hour or until the beans and meat are tender.
As with any bean dish, you want to wait to add any salt until the end of the cooking process. Adding salt in the beginning of bean dishes toughens the beans’ skins.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
For a refreshing acidic blast, add the zest of an orange just before serving.
Kielbasa, garlic sausage, andouille, hot links or your favorite sausage, fresh parsley, crusty bread
John McGannon is a RMEF life member, host of wild game cooking seminars at Elk Camp and owner of WildEats Enterprises.