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Author Notes: Elk is a very lean meat. Depending on whether you get it from the wild or a farm, its flavor will vary pretty dramatically. Farmed elk tends to be closer to grass-fed beef, where as wild elk can have a more gamey flavor. For this recipe I treated the elk like pastrami. This is an involved recipe, but it's fun and puts a nice spin on the pastrami sandwich.
First, get a couple pound cut of the shoulder or neck or whatever part you may have, but preferably on the bone. Place it in a gallon of brine for at least 3 days, though you can leave it in there for much longer as the brine will help preserve the meat. The meat is fully saturated with salt by the end of three days, so it can’t really get any saltier.
I served the pastrami with beets, balsamic, sheep’s milk yogurt and mustard seeds – but it would be awesome in any number of combinations, including the sandwich… try yogurt and pickled onions. —The Perennial Plate
Serves 8-10 as a sandwich
For the brine:
- 1 gallon water
- 1/5 cup Kosher salt
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 8 teaspoons pink salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- 1 teaspoon clove
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup honey
- 2 sprigs rosemary
For the pastrami:
- A couple pounds elk meat, shoulder, neck or other cut, preferably bone-in
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon coriander
- 1 tablespoon fennel seed
- For the brine, bring all those ingredients to a boil and then chill completely. After it is cold, strain out the spices and immerse the elk in the liquid. Continue to brine in the fridge or a cool environment.
- After 3 days, remove the shoulder. Crush the black pepper, coriander and fennel seed and rub the spices into the elk, covering it completely.
- Smoke the shoulder (I used mesquite, but there are any number of possibilities) at 150-180 degrees until the internal temperature of the elk reaches 145. I give you the variation because I am not BBQ master enough to keep the temperature solid. This can take as little as an hour on the side of your grill, or 8 hours using colder smoke. The longer you do it, the more tender it will be - and the smokier.
- Next, set your oven to 280. Cover the bottom of a deep pan with an inch of water, place a bowl or a rack in the bottom of the pan so your elk can sit above the liquid. Set the elk on its rack or pedestal, cover the pan tightly with tin foil and put in the oven for 3 hours, or until the elk is falling off the bone.
- You can serve the pastrami right away, or let cool and then re-steam to serve the next day.