A new year brought in a new experience. My Alaska dwelling bother came in for the holidays with some tasty, wild game treats, and we wasted no time taking advantage of it.
Although my brother has not yet waded into the wild meat procurement game, his awesome neighbor is a seasoned veteran. Wild fish and game fill his freezer, and he was kind enough to gift my brother some meat to share with his inexperienced brother in the lower 48. Halibut, rock fish, moose, deer and jerky from elk, moose and deer. All frozen, and stuffed into a suitcase bound for San Diego, narrowly missing the epic holiday flight derailments of 2022.
First, let me start by saying two things. One…I have never experienced venison that I enjoyed. The gaminess was always at the flavor forefront, which made appreciation a struggle. Second…I always wanted, but never had an opportunity to eat moose steak. Sure I’ve had it in sausage, but that was always mixed with pork and spices. Personally and as a chef, experiencing new foods is in my top 3 pleasures as a human on this planet. My brain goes wild with new palatable experiences, especially when they’re delicious. Combine that with added surprises or revelations about the ingredient, and I’m on anther plane.
This black tail deer and moose were so unbelievably good. Eliciting moans of pleasure and excitement I have not had with a new ingredient in quite some time. Both were as good or better than any steak I’ve had, and equal to my previous favorite game meat experience 15 years ago. Which was elk from New Mexico. It was fun because my brother and the gentleman that produced the meat were curious as to what I would do with said meat. Not even “are you gonna marinate it,” but rather, “what are you gonna marinate it in?”
How to cook meat has been a consistent question from many a dude throughout my career. Yes, dudes ask me about meat cookery 95% more than women. It has to be some kind of primal thing about cooking flesh over fire. Most guys over think and over prepare food as the “more is better” aesthetic is pervasive with men in the kitchen. My answers on meat preparation are usually met with disappointment and doubt. As if there’s a secret way to grill meat only chefs are privy to. The lack of complexity and preparation for steak is to many home cooks; counterintuitive for a glorious experience.
The deer and moose were cooked exactly how I would cook any prized meat that wasn’t being braised. Heavily salt the meat 2+ hours ahead, crack over some fresh pepper and grill over mesquite or oak coals. A little olive oil rubbed on the meat is good if the cut is lean. Brown each side until caramelized and delicious looking. Continue to cook as needed until desired doneness is reached using indirect heat if necessary. Let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serve with some tasty sides. Lean meats cook to medium rare and fatty cuts toward the medium side of medium rare.