So what comes to mind, when you think of a “Wild Game Kitchen Sensation?” I don’t know about you, but I am certainly not the first person that would pop into my own mind, so I had to laugh when I saw the promotion for my cooking demonstrations at Red’s Rendevous last weekend. No only am I apparently a wild game kitchen sensation, but my demonstrations were being done under the stage name of “Nanci”.
Wild Game Cooking Demonstrations
11:00 am & 2:00 pm – Pheasant and Elk Recipes with wild game specialist Chef Nanci Giacolone
Learn to cook delicious recipes of both elk and pheasant from wild game kitchen sensation Nanci Giacolone. This event will be sponsored by the Yakima Valley Pheasants Forever group, and is always popular!
All joking aside, I was more than flattered when I was invited back to put on the demonstrations since the first time I was there, it was simply to cover for a chef that backed out at the very last minute. So this time I had a bit more time to prepare and think about what would work well in this type of environment. I knew that since I had three hours to work with, I wanted to demo three different types of proteins. Pheasant was a no-brainer, since Pheasants Forever as a sponsor, salmon as fly fishing was the main focus of the event and elk to round things out for the big game hunters in the crowd.
Many of the game recipes you commonly find are heavy, somewhat old-fashioned with the emphasis on covering up the taste of the game rather than highlighting it. I wanted to show recipes that would highlight the wonderful flavor of the meat or fish and would be easy to make at home. I always stress the importance of a few key tips in preparing game:
- Clean, clean, and clean again! Make sure your game is extremely clean. Remove any shot, tendons and “stressed areas”. You should working with just clean, beautiful meat.
- Work with pieces of even size or thickness.
- Use a light hand and don’t overcook your game. If you are cooking a steak, take it off at medium-rare, it will continue to cook as it rests.
- If cooking any type of steak that will be sliced before serving, allow to rest at least 5 minutes before slicing! This takes patience and discipline, but it is a step that cannot be skipped.
It is always fun to see people start coming out of the wood work as soon as samples start to be given out. The first demonstration was for Pheasant Stew with Whole Wheat Biscuits, a HUGE hit with all of the men. We then moved onto Orange Glazed Blackened Salmon that is so easy and versatile to make and closed the day out with Elk Sirloin Tacos.
Elk is such a beautiful meat to work with and when I knew that I was going to be given sirloin steaks, I wanted to prepare it in a way that might not be as common. Grilled with a nice rub and then served with a fresh, kicked up salsa seemed like the perfect option. Judging by the fact that we ran out of samples long before we ran out of prospective “samplers”, I would say that it was a smashing success.
Note: The photos are taken using beef sirloin steak as I was testing the recipe at home prior to having the elk available. Also, being unhappy with the original condiments, I developed the Avocado Mango Salsa, shown in a separate photo at the end.
P.S. Time was short and light was poor, so I apologize for the quality of the pictures! Trust me, the recipes are delicious.
Elk Sirloin Tacos with Avocado Mango Salsa
- 2 elk sirloin steaks – about 1/2” thick each – trimmed of any excess fat
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ tsp. chipotle chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 can refried beans
- Shredded lettuce or cabbage (optional)
- Small corn tortillas – warmed
- Avocado Mango Salsa – recipe below
- In a small bowl, add all spices and blend together. Place sirloin steaks on a cutting board or platter and rub on both sides with spice mixture. Let sit at room temperature to marinate a bit before cooking – 30 minutes is good, but even 5 minutes will make a difference if that is all the time you have.
- While the meat is marinating, shred your cabbage (if using), crumble cheese and set aside. Warm tortillas and beans.
- Heat a grill pan or barbeque to medium high heat. Drizzle a bit of olive oil onto meat and rub oil and spices into both sides of meat and then transfer to grill. Let cook 3 – 4 minutes, then turn meat 90 degrees on SAME side and cook for another 3-4 minutes before flipping to other side and repeating procedure. This will give you nice grill marks.
- Let meat rest for about 5 minutes to allow juices to settle before slicing into thin strips AGAINST the grain. This will prevent the meat from being tough and chewy in the taco.
- Serve by spreading a bit of beans in the bottom of a warm tortilla, topping with 2 slices of steak, shredded cabbage, avocado mango salsa and a sprinkling of cotija cheese.
Avocado Mango Salsa
In a medium bowl, combine the following:
- 1 large avocado diced into ¼ inch pieces
- 1 large ripe mango diced into ¼ inch pieces
- 3 – 4 tomatillos – husks removed and diced into ¼ inch pieces
- 1 small shallot – finely diced
- ¼ cup cilantro – roughly chopped
- Juice of one fresh lime
- Habenero Pepper Sauce – to taste (be careful – this adds heat quickly, taste as you go)
- Kosher Salt
Gently “mash” all ingredients together and let marinate at least 15 minutes before serving.