I could hear the screaming of bull elk so loud in my ear it almost hurt.
I crept in slowly, with the wind in my face and my bow at my side. I could smell the elk before I could see them. The bedding area was thick juniper and had many rubs on the small trees. I was in someone’s home–bedroom really–and I was doing my damnedest not to get caught.
A small ridge was all that separated me from the herd. I was so close that it was disturbing. The screaming bulls covered much of my noise. As I approached the ridgeline, I picked a bush for cover. Then I belly-crawled to the top for a look. A large 5×6 and a medium sized 4×4 were in a pissing match. One would yell and circle the other, and then the other bull would yell. The cows watched with little interest.
I watched them for a solid five minutes. Then a shift in the wind came, blowing my stink all over the herd. At first the elk seemed nervous, then all hell broke loose as the herd vacated the county. I never even nocked an arrow. Hell, I didn’t even have a elk tag for the unit; I was grouse hunting. It was still the best elk “hunt” I have ever been on.
* * *
The French classic Peppercorn Steak has been updated with a western flare in this recipe. The apples and apple juice add sweetness, which calms down the pepper, but still allows the flavors to have a nice bite. Use firm apples, such as Fuji or Granny Smith, and buy from local farmers whenever possible.
Pepper Crusted Venison Steaks
- 6-8 4oz. elk steaks, sirloin is a great cut choice
- 3 tablespoons cracked black pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 apples peeled, cored and sliced into ¼ inch wedges (Fuji and/or Granny Smith)
- 1 tablespoon flour
- ¼ cup apple juice (Brandy or bourbon works well here, too!)
- ½ cup milk
- 1 sprig rosemary (optional)
Turn the oven on to “warm” and place a plate inside. Heat a large, heavy-bottomed pan on medium heat. Pour the cracked peppercorns onto a small plate and firmly press one side of each elk steak into the cracked peppercorns. Lightly season both sides with salt.
Pour oil into the pan. When it is on the verge of smoking hot, place the steaks into the pan, with the peppercorn side down, and let them brown for two to three minutes. The steaks should be a nice golden brown before flipping.
Flip and cook the steaks for an additional two to three minutes. Remove them from the heat promptly if blood starts to show on the top of the pepper-crusted section. This will cook them to about medium doneness. Move the steaks to the plate in the oven to keep them warm.
The pan should have a bunch of brown goodies stuck to the bottom (this is a good thing). Add the apples and flour. The juice from the apples should allow the flour to be absorbed and not clump. When the apples start to brown, add the apple juice and cook about one more minute. Use a wooden spoon to scrape all the brown bits off the bottom of the pan. The flour should thicken the apple juice mix quickly. Add the milk, stir, and let it simmer until it reduces and thickens to a thin “gravy” consistency.
Remove the steaks from the oven. Pour off any blood from the platter, and serve with the gravy, roasted potatoes and sautéed kale. Garnish with rosemary if desired.
* * *
For more recipes and wild game related stories please visit www.chefrandyking.com