Author Archives: matt & alisa

Cook & Tell: Five Spice Elk Loin

Five Spice Elk LoinThis week’s theme was cooking from the pantry, which I’m sure for most people means cooking with staples. For me, it was an opportunity to use something that’s been sitting in our freezer for months: elk.

We don’t cook a lot of game, but occasionally we get a few pieces of whatever my Dad brings home from his hunting trips. I’d never had elk and wasn’t completely sure what to do with it, which was a big part of why it spent so long in the freezer. I thought of the fabulous deer chops at Lonesome Dove, and Dale’s incredible looking elk loin from the Top Chef 3 finale and figured I’d try something similar—spice rubbed and pan fried with a simple sauce.

I did a little research and the USDA assured me that properly frozen food remains safe indefinitely, and storage time is really only a question of taste. I moved the loin to the fridge to defrost and checked for freezerburn, discoloration, or strange odors the next day. Everything looked good!

We didn’t have any star anise on hand, but we did have some Five Spice Blend (another ingredient I’ve been meaning to use), which includes star anise, cinnamon, clove, fennel, and white pepper. To play up the Asian flavors in the rub I added some ground coriander, and a bit of chili powder to give it some of that Western cowboy flavor.

I served the elk with a side of Great Northern beans pureed with a bit of rosemary and olive oil. It all looked good, but having never cooked it before I was fully prepared for the elk to be awful. Thankfully everything turned out well – the elk was a nice medium rare, had a bit of that gamey flavor, and went well with the sauce. The rosemary was a nice addition to the beans, although I was initially worried I had used a bit too much.

Without the challenge this week I’m sure I would have declared “we don’t have anything for dinner” and we would have headed out to the store—and who knows how long it would have been before we ever tried the elk. So take a look in your freezer—you might be surprised what you can make!

Five Spice Elk Loin

  • 4 pieces sliced elk loin
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • For the rub:
    • Five Spice
    • Ground coriander
    • Chili powder
    • Salt + pepper
  • For the sauce:
    • 1 cup red wine
    • 1/2 cup Madeira
    • 1 sprig fresh tyme
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 2 tablespoons butter

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Rub the elk with the spice blend and sear on all sides. Remove elk and allow it to rest while you make the sauce. Deglaze the pan with the red wine and Maderia and add the herbs. Allow the mixture to reduce by half, then remove from the heat and swirl in the butter. Strain the sauce.

Rosemary white bean puree

  • 1 can Great Northern beans
  • Leaves from 1/4 sprig rosemary
  • Drizzle extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt to taste

Heat the beans and rosemary together and blend, drizzling in a little olive oil. Add salt as needed.


Weekend Cook and Tell: Roast Eye of Round

Roast BeefI always love to cook something interesting on the weekend, so I was excited to see Serious Eats’ new Weekend Cook and Tell project. Each week they’ll select an article or recipe to use as inspiration for a weekend cooking project. I think having a selected theme will help me branch out and try some things I might not have otherwise, and I hope it will help get me in the habit of writing regularly.

This week’s theme is “Off cuts,” taken from the NY Times article “It May Be Cheap, but It’s Also Tasty.” I think “off cuts,” which suggests things that you might spot Bourdain (or for the truly “off,” Zimmern) advocating on the Travel channel, isn’t quite the right term—the article is really about inexpensive, overlooked cuts of meat. While these pieces are usually tougher than more expensive cuts, I think they’re often more flavorful (a skirt steak is never going to be as tender as a fillet, but the fillet doesn’t have the flavor to make a good fajita either). Learning about these cheap, overlooked cuts is a great way to help the growing number of people who are looking to cut their grocery budget — some of the best dishes in the world came from poor people trying to make the most of the only meat they could afford.

In the article, Carlo Mirarchi, chef/owner of Roberta’s pizza in Brooklyn, suggested

searing the $3.99-a-pound supermarket eye round and marinating it overnight in red wine, rosemary, sage and black pepper. Then it can be roasted rare and sliced, cold, as thin as possible for sandwiches.

It sounded great to me, and the thought of having lunch for most the week taken care of sealed the deal. It turns out eye of round is only $2.99 per pound here, making this even more economical.

Marinated eye of round roast with red wine reduction

  • Eye of round roast (mine was 2 lbs – just $6!)
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • Handful fresh sage
  • Red wine to cover (amount depends on size of roast – do what we do and just get a box of cheap red wine for cooking and don’t worry about the precise amount)
  • Salt, pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil

Heat oil over medium-high heat, then season the roast with salt and pepper and sear on all sides. Allow the roast to cool slightly then place into a plastic bag with the herbs and enough red wine to cover the meat. Refrigerate overnight.

The next day, preheat your oven to 350°. Put the roast and the marinade in a roasting pan or oven-proof skillet and roast until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the roast measures 140°. Burn your finger really bad on the thermometer. Remove the roast and allow it to rest before slicing. Heat the marinading liquid and roasting juices over high heat and reduce by half. Remove the pan from the heat and swirl in a tablespoon of butter. Strain to remove any chunks.

Slice the roast thinly and drizzle with the reduction – makes great sandwiches, or serve over arugula and top with Parmesan for a nice salad.

Food on Sticks: Thai Meatballs

Thai Meatballs

Thai Meatballs

We wonder if there is any food that can not be improved by putting the word “Thai” in its name?  Thai Basil Chicken, Thai Curry, Thai noodles, Thai hoe cakes (for a future post!) Perhaps it’s the combination that Thai food presents in each dish – a perfect balance of sweet, salty, spicy and sour.  Maybe there is something magical about peanut oil – whatever it is, we love it and these Thai meatballs are no exception.  Plus, we’ll make any sauce that calls for Sriracha.

This recipe says to cook on a grill but seeing as though it’s mighty cold outside, you can use a cast iron grill on the stove like ours.  Or, if you’re not even that fancy, we suppose you could just pan fry.  And if you think they might be too spicy for your delicate palate, our friend, Trevor, self proclaimed sissy pants when it comes to heat, went back for seconds.

An alternative sauce that is equal in deliciousness is sweet soy (kind of like an Asian molasses) and can be found in most Asian food markets.

Thai Beef Rolls with Sweet Chili Sauce
– serves 6 –
Adapted from Weber’s Charcoal Grilling: The Art of Cooking With Live Fire by Jamie Purviance and Tim Turner.


For the sauce:
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon thinly sliced green onions
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 teaspoons Sriracha

For the filling:
1 pound ground chuck (80% lean)
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon finely chopped Thai chilies
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 bunch of Thai basil
12 wooden skewers, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes

1. Mix all the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl until the sugar has dissolved.

2. In a large bowl, gently combine the ground chuck with the rest of the filling ingredients.

3. Shape a tablespoon of the filling into a small log. Wrap 1 basil leaf around the beef and thread onto a skewer. Repeat until all of the filling is gone.

4. Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread coals out evenly over the charcoal grate.

5. Clean and oil the cooking grate. Grill the rolls until the filling is fully cooked and slightly firm, about 6 to 8 minutes, turning once during cooking. Serve immediately with the dipping sauce.

As seen on Serious Eats.