On my first caribou hunt, an Alaskan do-it-yourself affair with some buddies back in 2005, we weren’t able to bring any meat home, or more directly, couldn’t afford to. (Bill Heavey wrote about the hunt in “Caribou Heaven, Caribou Hell.” Buy me a round and I’ll tell you the real version.) We ate caribou (and hot dogs) in camp, skewered on green willows and roasted over an open fire. The caribou we didn’t eat, we gave to the natives of Kotzebue where the people live a subsistence existence. But those warm-fuzzies didn’t really make up for coming home with just a set of inedible antlers and incredible memories. I hunt for meat.
So, on my recent caribou hunt in Quebec, I was determined to bring some meat home, Delta’s extra baggage fees be damned. Luckily, our outfitter Sammy Cantafio made this a seamless process. His recommended butcher picked up my meat at the Montreal airport and had it cut and in a cooler before my flight early the next morning. All I had to do was pick up the two boxes of vacuum-sealed meat and check them on my flight to the tune of $325 for two extra pieces of luggage. Add that to the $100 charged by Himbeault Family butchers along with the associated hunt costs and the price of caribou meat rivals Wagyu beef, or whatever the trendy steak places are serving Yuppies now.
The charge on my Visa account, and the general experience of the hunt, required I honor this animal with my first meal at home. It was supposed to be a lazy Sunday and I was thinking something that required little effort, like a chili or stew – was in order. But when I pulled the package out of the freezer, such a simple recipe didn’t seem worthy of meat labeled cubes bourguignon or, translated into English bourguignon cubes. So, with the voice of Julia Child (or was it the Swedish chef) in my head, I attempted my first bourguignon, which, much to my surprise, was pretty damn good. – David Draper
1 lb. caribou stew meat
3 strips salt pork, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 medium onion, sliced
1 small onion, quartered
½ lb. sliced mushrooms
3 cloves garlic, minced
Splash of brandy
4 cups red wine, broth or water
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 350°. Heat olive oil in Dutch oven over med, med-high heat. Add salt pork, saute until fat renders and remove, reserving. Dry meat with papers towels. Brown meat in small batches, removing to drain on paper towels. Cook sliced onion, celery and carrots in drippings until soft, 7-10 minutes. Add minced garlic. Deglaze pan with brandy. Flambe to burn off alcohol. Lightly dust caribou with flour and return to pot. Return reserved salt pork to the pot. Add salt, pepper and spice. (Remember, the sauce will reduce, so don’t go overboard on the salt.) Add enough wine and/or stock (or water) to come to the level of the meat. Cover and place in oven. Turn oven down to 300° and simmer bourguignon for two hours. Near the end of the two hours, melt 2 tbsp. butter in pan and saute quartered onion. Add to the stew. Saute mushrooms in 2 tbsp. of butter. Add to pot. Stir paste of 2 tbsp. melted butter and 2 tbsp. of cornstarch into bourguignon. Cook 10 more minutes and serve.