Wild Game 101
Courtesy of Chef John McGannon, wildeats.com
There’s nothing funny about having friends or family over for a fine juicy, tender steak, only to discover it’s dry and tough. Your guests gamely struggle through. Out of respect for your culinary skills, they blame its toughness on the poor animal. I’m sure this scenario has played out for just about everyone who has a freezer full of wild game. Mishandled meat plays a big roll in creating negative opinions of wild game. But misidentified or unidentified meat can be almost as bad.
The lean bottom round you mistakenly served your guests is much better suited for a slow-cooked roast or pot of chili. Knowing the muscle groups of a game animal will eliminate such pitfalls. Most people know the backstraps and tenderloins are best for steaks, and the front shoulders for roasts, stew meat or burger. But when it comes to the rear quarters, things get a bit more complicated.
The key rule for cooking wild game is tender cuts hot and fast, tough cuts slow and moist. Knowing your way around the anatomy of a big game animal gives you the confidence to correctly identify which is which. Then you can play to the strength of each particular cut.
The hindquarters of big game are made up of seven muscles. See the chart at right for guidelines. Go here for an excellent “meat map” identifying every cut on an elk.
“ASIAN ” Elk Tartare (Sushi)
Yields about 30 hors d’oeuvres
1 lbs elk sirloin butt or top sirloin
(completely cleaned of tendon and silverskin, chopped or ground fine)
½ bunch finely chopped scallions (whites) reserve the greens for garnish
1 tbsp pickled ginger, minced
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp red chili oil
1 tsp minced fresh garlic
1 tbsp toasted white sesame seeds
¼ cup chopped wakami (Japanese seaweed) optional
Salt and pepper to taste
For the true adventurer add ½ tsp of wasabi to the mix
Approximately 30 croustini, crackers, or for authentic Asian fare try frying won ton skins cut into triangles for won ton crisps
Place the meat and all the seasonings into a mixing bowl. Blend well and allow to sit in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Place a small dollop on your cracker or won ton crisp. Top that with slivers of scallion greens and serve.
John McGannon is chef/founder of Wildeats Enterprises, a life member of the Elk Foundation, host of popular wild game cooking seminars at the foundation’s Elk Camp and a passionate hunter.