The Best Thing I Ever Ate: Elk Backstrap & Scotch

I don't typically watching cooking shows, but I had to stop on something called The Best Thing I Ever Ate where celebrity cooks recount their favorite meals. I can't narrow down just one thing that was the best, but there have been some memorable eats in my life. From time to time, I'll recount a few of them for you here.

When we found her the next morning, the elk was piled up in a rock slide just a short distance from where I'd lost her trail in the dark. She was in a tough spot, wedged between the rocks and a fallen tree, and it took Mark and I the better part of the morning to get her in pieces. When we finished, Mark went to chase a bugle while Jeff brought Pedro up the mountain.

It was after noon by the time we got Pedro loaded. We made our way down the through the jackstraw timber in the yellow light of the afternoon, somehow staying out of any pickles as Pedro showed his experience in this sort of thing. By the time we made it back, Jeff had just enough time to hunt the twilight.

With camp to myself, I lit a celebratory cigar and went to work unloading the mule. Each quarter, along with the straps, loins, and a game bag of scrap were placed on an impromptu timber rack to cool. A chill had seeped into Long Valley, shadows pushing the sun over the Medicine Bow range and I sacrificed the cigar for the warmth of the cook tent, but not before cutting a Tolstoyian-sized chunk off the backstrap.

Jeff's family sells a signature seasoning back home, but somehow he had forgotten to pack a jar of it, so I coated the roast with a liberal dose of salt and black pepper and added it to the black skillet, where it sputtered in the bacon fat. By now, the hunters had returned and Mark opened the expensive scotch his brother had sent along while Jeff fetched three cool cans of Pabst from the spring creek.

As we toasted my luck and recounted the miraculous shot for the umpteenth time, I kept a close eye on the meat, turning it until every side was crusted. Jeff tended to the boiling pot of Lipton noodles while Mark tended to the scotch, ensuring our tin cups never fell below half. I sliced the steak right there in the pan, blood sizzling in the fat to create a rich sauce that we poured over everything on our plates. The tent fell silent then, as we tucked into a well-earned meal and honored the elk that were there bugling in the darkness. - David Draper