It’s a foggy, gray and misty day here in the Hudson Valley, but rather than be depressed about it, I find it quite soothing on a lazy Sunday. This is when I devote time to myself, to rest up and prepare for the coming week. I take the dogs for a long hike in the woods in the morning, and spend the afternoon reading, writing and catching up with friends and family on the phone. When planning what to have for dinner, I wanted something that was going to be easy to make, but packed with flavor and satisfying to my soul. May sound like a cliche, but on those dark, cold January nights there’s nothing more perfect to me than an aromatic, satisying stew. What most of my readers don’t know about me yet, is that I am an amateur figure competitor at body building shows, and need to watch my diet through periods of the year while preparing for an upcoming show. Yes, extremely hard to combine with my profession in food and wine, but as I like to say, I enjoy a challenge! My diet is usually fairly high in lean proteins, and since you can only eat so much chicken, fish and egg whites, I went searching for other alternatives. What I found was that most game dishes like bison, venison (or in Norway; reindeer), and elk – are super lean but with a high protein content, not to mention extremely flavorful! Hence, I’ve started adding these into my diet with great success.
Hunting for elk is a widespread and popular tradition in Norway – the season runs usually from end of September into October. While growing up, my parents and I would spend weekends at our cabin in the mountains, and I recall my father going out with his friends hunting for elk, and we always looked forward to him coming back with hopefully what would be future dinners. Most people will freeze a lot of the game they’ve caught and eat throughout the winter. From elk, Norwegians often make stew, sauteed filet of elk, and elk meat patties among other dishes. History shows that elk hunting took place even in the Stone Ages. Here’s a figurine of the rock carvings in Alta (in northern Norway), which has been deciphered as either elk hunting or a spiritual man speaking with the animal:
Elk is available from many online stores in the U.S., if you can’t find it at your local store. I got the below recipe from my favorite Norwegian food magazine, Aperitif.
ELGEGRYTE (Elk Stew)
1 lb elk meat/ stew meat, cut up in cubes
2 oz bacon, diced
1 bag pearl onions
4 oz mushrooms (mix of button, shiitakes, chanterelles)
2 tbsp butter for sauteing
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 cup hearty red wine
1 cup beef stock
1/2 bunch fresh oregano with 1/2 bunch fresh thyme, tied up w/butcher twine
Start with sauteing the bacon in a large, heavy bottomed pan (like Le Creuset), until crispy, remove from pan and set aside. In a bowl mix the flour with the salt and pepper, add the elk cubes in and coat with flour mixture. Add the butter into the pan (along with the rendered bacon fat), over medium-high heat, and saute the cubes until they get a nice brown crispy exterior on all sides. Add the pearl onions, mushrooms, the bacon, herbs, red wine and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 45 minutes, until elk is tender.
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