Sunday, 4 March 2012

Elk Tenderloin in Ancho Chili sauce

Dried Ancho chiles

I cooked the last of the elk tenderloin in the freezer over the weekend.  I improvised a chili based marinade and subsequently, an earthy sauce, on the fly that P, Nori  and I thought was outrageously delicious - if I do say so myself.  Of course it's hard to mess up an elk tenderloin. I will mention that Nori is a vegan who happens to love wild meat and she's not the first one I've known; and now it's practically a movement.

For some time now I've been improvising variations on Bourdain's  recipe Salade D'onglet from his les Halles Cookbook.  If you know his recipe, this one is clearly based on it as well.

(Serves 3 or 4)
1 Elk Tenderloin - sliced into medallions about 1 1/2" thick. One tenderloin should yield about 7 or 8 medallions.

For the Marinade

2 Ancho peppers (dried poblanos)
1 smaller dried California chili (about 3" long)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 cloves garlic finely chopped.
4 tablespoons olive oil

For the Sauce

a splash of Cognac or Armagnac
2 cups of white wine
2 cups of beef stock 
leftover  chili marinade
2 tablespoons of blackberry jam
a pinch of thyme

To make the marinade dry roast the chilies and make a chili sauce.  I first learned how to make a chili sauce from Rick Bayless's Authentic Mexican cookbook.  Carefully, split the peppers and remove the seeds. I try to get the largest flat pieces I can. Anchos are dried poblano chilies and although not hot, they add an earthy smoky flavor. The California peppers add a bit of a bite. Dry roast the chilies in the hot pan and press them down with a spatula until the skins bubble up a bit.  Once roasted, put them in a small bowl with about 2 cups of water and heat, not quite to boiling.  I used the microwave for about 30 seconds.  Blend the chili and water on high speed for a minute and then pour this mixture over the elk which has been drizzled with olive oil, a tablespoon or so of soy sauce and cracked pepper.  You can strain the sauce if you like -- I used to  -- but now I don't worry about the small chunks of pepper they add texture.  Marinate the meat for a few hours or more.

Once you are ready to cook the meat - put a plate in the over set at about 220F.  Slice the tenderloin into medallions about 1 1/2" thick.  You could go thicker if you like - I don't like them too thick because I find it's harder to get them a perfect medium rare if they are too thick.  Melt a couple of tablespoons of butter in a skillet on high heat and brown both sides of the medallions well.  Once browned - put them on the warm plate in the oven.  De-glaze the pan (carefully avoiding a fire) with about 1/4 cup of cognac (I used Armagnac) and then add white wine.  I think the amount of wine (and later stock) you add somewhat depends on the size of the pan you are using.  I filled the 14" cast iron pan I was using until the liquid is about 1/4" to 1/2" deep. A stainless steel pan might be better - but I don't have one that large. Reduce the liquid on high heat until it starts to thicken. This takes a few minutes.  Once reduced, pour in any of the chili marinade that might be left and mash in a tablespoon or two of blackberry jam (fig preserves are good too) and then refill the pan to 1/4" or 1/2" or so with stock. I used ordinary beef stock this time though I often use trotter gear and a real veal demi-glace would be even better I'm sure.  Reduce this sauce on high heat again until it starts to thicken - stirring as needed to prevent the sauce from burning on the edges of the pan. It may take four or five minutes.  Do not loose heart if you think you've added to much liquid, patience and stirring will yield a thick sauce. Once the sauce has thickened back up, lower the heat and add the medallions back into the sauce and check one for doneness, they can simmer in the sauce for a minute if they are not yet cooked enough.  I would have made frites but we didn't have the oil to make them.  We served it with a salad and a robust red wine.  We drank an inexpensive Jumilla Monastell called Wrongo Dongo which I can recommend.

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