We know it’s not easy to save a backstrap until summer, but this recipe from award-winning chef and hunter Tim Love ought to inspire you to try. Obviously, the elk is the star of the dish, but Love elevates the venison to another level with a salsify purée, fried mushrooms and Swiss chard, and candied grapes.
20-oz. elk backstrap (loin)
1 bunch Swiss chard, stemmed and leaves cut into 3×2-inch pieces
8 oz. hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, stemmed and roughly chopped
Chef Tim Love Game Rub (recipe follows)
For the salsify puree
1 lb. salsify root*, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 cup heavy cream
*Salsify is available in specialty food markets. If you can’t find it, substitute parsnips.
For the candied grapes
1 egg white
2 cups sugar
1 Tbsp. chili
20 seedless grapes
For the game rub
1⁄4 cup kosher salt
1⁄4 cup freshly ground black pepper
1⁄4 cup chili powder
2 Tbsp. ground
2 Tbsp. fresh
2 Tbsp. fresh rosemary
1. Make the candied grapes: Beat the egg white with a whisk until frothy. In a separate bowl, combine sugar and chili powder. Brush the egg white onto the grapes, just enough to coat them. Toss the grapes into the sugar mixture; allow to dry in the mixture for 2 hours.
2. Make the salsify purée: Add the salsify to a pot and cover with cream. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the salsify is tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Turn off the heat, and set aside some of the cream from the pot. Purée the salsify-and-cream mixture in a blender until smooth, adding reserved cream as needed to get the consistency of gravy. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Make the game rub: Mix all ingredients in a jar. Store in your refrigerator.
4. Preheat your grill on high for 20 to 30 minutes. If you’re using charcoal, make sure coals are white hot and spread evenly on the bottom. Oil the grilling surface before you sear the elk meat. Meanwhile, heat the peanut oil in a deep fryer or Dutch oven to 350 degrees. Fry the chard until the pieces stop bubbling. Remove the chard with a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper towel–lined plate. Fry the mushrooms in the same oil until crispy and golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
5. Season the elk meat with the game rub. Place the elk on the grill, and cook about 11⁄2 minutes per side, until the temperature reaches 115 to 120 degrees. Remove the elk from the grill and let rest for 3 minutes.
6. Divide the salsify purée among four plates, and arrange the grapes to one side. Slice the elk into steaks, and set on top of the purée. Top each with the fried chard and mushrooms. Serves 4
_Chef Tim Love owns several restaurants, and in May, he opened Lonesome Dove Western Bistro and Love Shack in Knoxville, Tennessee. _
Be sure to check out our full summer-grilling feature, **Get Fired Up. **
Photograph by Christopher Testani. Food styled by Roscoe Betsill