Savory Elk Sopapillas
Courtesy of Chef John McGannon, wildeats.com
Cooks have been loading up flour-based culinary vessels since the beginning of time—toasted bread, puff pastry, phyllo, lavash, and so on. Every nationality has its own versions. Head to Central America and you’ll find Masa Harina (corn flour treated with lime) that can easily be made into dough. Turn that dough into ¼-inch thick patties and sear them in a dry hot skillet and you’re on the road to great sopapillas. Pinch a slight border around the edges and you can easily shape the patties into circles, triangles or squares. Once cool, heat a pan with cooking oil and fry sopapillas until golden brown. Then they are ready to be filled with elk. This dish has a number of steps, but like my Mom always said, “It’s not the effort that counts; it’s the results.” Thanks Mom, you were right.
3 cups masa harina (available in specialty markets or online)
1⁄2 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground toasted cumin seeds
21⁄2 cups water
1⁄4 cup olive oil
Mix all the ingredients well, wrap in plastic wrap and rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour. The dough should be the consistency of Play-Doh. Prepare the sopapilla as described above.
Slow Cooked Elk Piccadillo (filling)
3 lbs diced elk, bottom round, shank, shoulder or neck
1⁄2 cup pure olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
In small batches, brown the seasoned meat in a hot sauté pan, then place into a crock-pot. Add:
2 cups good quality Zinfandel, Cabernet or Syrah
1 12 oz can V8 juice
2 tsp ground, toasted fennel seeds
Stir, cover and cook on low for about four hours.
3 medium onions, diced
1 bunch celery, diced
3 tbsp minced fresh garlic
1 bouquet garni—a couple of bay leaves, stalks of rosemary, sage and parsley, tied with a string
After four hours, add the veggie garnish to the crock-pot. Stir and continue to cook for another two hours or until the meat is tender. At first it may seem like you need more liquid, but the fresh diced veggies will supply that as they cook down.
Adjust the seasoning of the piccadillo and hold until ready to serve. A dish like this actually tastes better the second day. If you have time, try to prepare this a day or two before you actually want to serve it. In doing so you allow all the complex flavors to mature together.
To accompany this dish I recommend a fire-charred corn salsa and WildEats garden pesto.
John McGannon is a RMEF life member, host of wild game cooking seminars at Elk Camp and owner of WildEats Enterprises.