Weekly Menu Spotlight: Grilled Loin of Elk

by . on March 25, 2011

The Gourmet:

Our menu this week is a random collection of things I thought sounded yummy together. Ahh, the science of cooking!

Writer Hank Shaw recently wrote a lament in The Atlantic regarding the impossibility of recreating the incredible and sublime recipes from NOMA: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine. For those not familiar with the book, it is an impossible and infuriatingly beautiful example of modern, hyper local cuisine. And from Denmark no less.

Shaw, while trying his hand at similar recipes writes of the importance of flavors, textures and colors: “To me, all great dishes must have a variety of colors, textures, temperatures, and flavors. Crispy with smooth, sweet with savory, base colors brightened with the vibrant greens and yellows and lavenders that speak spring to us.”

A lovely sentiment. While Shaw admits that recreating NOMA’s gourmet masterpieces is an impossibility, perhaps even at the restaurant itself, he tries his hand at his own creations with local ingredients, a perfectionists eye, and some serious creativity.

Now, I am not claiming that the dishes below are NOMA worthy, nor am I comparing myself to Shaw or NOMA Chef Rene Redzepi, what I am doing is trying to use flavors, textures and colors in my own cooking and to impart the general concept to anyone reading through simple, easy, and pleasing recipes that each one of us can make at home.

Smoked Trout Pâté

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1 lb Smoked Trout
2 cups Heavy Cream
1 Lemon
2 tbsp Raw Horseradish

Shred the trout in a large bowl until only the smallest pieces remain. Add the juice of one lemon to the trout and mix. In a separate bowl whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Stir in the horseradish until it is fully combined. Fold the trout and lemon into the cream mixture. Salt and pepper to taste and spoon into a mold or bowl. Put aside to set. Serve with crackers.

Beet & Goat Cheese Bruschetta

8-10 Medium Beets
1/4 cup Diced Chives
8 oz Goat Cheese
1 cup Unsalted Walnuts
Balsamic Vinaigrette
1 Baguette
2 Cloves Garlic
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Place the beats in a pot and just cover with water. Bring water to a boil and let the beets cook for 30 minutes. When soft, run the beets under cold water while rubbing off the outer layer of skin and set aside. When all beets have been skinned, chop and set aside.

Meanwhile, preheat your oven to broil on high. Slice the baguette diagonally so as to make longer pieces. Rub olive oil on the top of each slice and then place the slices on a cookie tray and broil for approx 60-90 seconds. Be sure to watch the oven so as to avoid burning the bread. Remove the bread from oven and rub halved garlic cloves over each piece, careful not to burn your fingers.

When you are ready to serve your bruschetta, crumble the goat cheese and walnuts over the beets, mixing lightly. Add a touch of balsamic vinaigrette for tartness. Top beets, cheese and walnuts on your bread and finish with chives, salt and pepper.

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Green Bean & Scallions with Sherry Vinegar

2 lbs Green Beans
4 Medium Shallots
1/4 cup Slivered Chives
4 tbsp Sherry Vinegar
1/4 Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Thinly slice your shallots so as to form circles. Add the vinegar and set aside at least 1 hour to pickle. Bring a large, salted pot of water to boil. Add the green beans and cook 3-4 minutes, depending on how crunchy you like your beans. Set aside and let dry. When you are ready to eat, add the shallot and vinegar mixture, chives, 1/4 cup olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.

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Grilled Loin of Elk

3 lbs Elk Loin
A few sprigs of rosemary
6 Garlic Cloves
Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar
Salt and Pepper

Marinate elk loin in olive oil, rosemary, chopped garlic, salt and pepper, and a splash of balsamic vinegar for at least 24 hours. Remove from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature. Remove the rosemary and garlic. Grill at high heat for 3-4 minutes per side, depending on preference and grill heat. Let stand for 10 minutes and then slice into medallions.

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Definitely not a NOMA worthy meal, but a delicious one nevertheless. The three main dishes are a lovely combination of sweet, tart, rich, soft, crunchy and smooth. Some items are hot (the elk), some cold (the beats). The toasts are crunchy, while the cheese is creamy. You get the point. It makes food and the experience of cooking and compiling dishes a little bit more interesting and satisfying when you begin to look at the different components that go into making a meal. Especially in terms of flavors, textures, colors and temperatures and how they play off of one another. Maybe Rene Redzepi is onto something! And, while I can surely never recreate his bizarre culinary masterpieces, I can certainly play with the fundamentals as much as I please.

So, when you sit down to create a meal, think about it your food a little bit differently. Don’t just feel you need a protein, a starch and a vegetable. That’s boring, and simply not the case. Look at the components, think about their tastes, flavors and textures. Do they work well together? Do they compliment one another? Do they make a pleasing dish? Dinner will suddenly get a lot brighter, tastier and more interesting.

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