Spring Elk Stew

If you’re lucky enough to have friends who share their hunting bounty, you’re lucky enough.  Our good pals Pam and Lee…

below: Dave with Lee doing one of those things they do so well   

above:   pretty Pam

…are so generous with duck, rabbit, dove, goose, and yes, even elk…that we frequently either have just had something exotic and scrumptious with them at their house or there’s a packet from them in our freezer waiting to be cooked and devoured. If I looked, I think I’d find some duck breasts out there. Manna from heaven I’ll use for pizza on the grill…soon.  You might remember Pam from another post or two.

So Lee hunts; Pam cooks. It’s a marriage made in heaven. Lee says on cue, “I eat like a king every night. Every night.”

And he does. Because Pam can cook. Anything. One of my very favorites from Pam’s kitchen are lettuce wraps. Lest you be thinking chicken or pork, move over, honey. That’s not it. Each plateful is different, but my favorite is something we call, “Duck, Duck, Goose,” because that’s what it is. Sometimes she stirs up a spicy sauce with an Asian flair and other times she just dreams something up. What ever she does, I’m glad she does it. Did I say she serves these with champagne? Right. You know now. I’m a happy bubbly drinker no matter the weather, but give me “Duck, Duck, Goose,” and I’m nigh on to thrilled.

Last weekend, our wine group met at Pam and Lee’s for dinner. We often do this at one house or another and it’s a regular thing. Occasionally our schedules don’t mesh for weeks or even months on end and we don’t get to cook, drink, sing, and dance together. It’s too sad. But we always know we’ll be together again.

Above:  Lee and Don keeping us entertained one night after dinner

Anyway, each person or couple brings a course with a paired wine for these get-togethers. If you read the blog, you’ll have seen stories about our meals and maybe even our travels to wineries–something else we do together and with a few other folks– to taste and buy, then cook, play cards, and…

sing, dance, and…drink wine, of course. If you’re a Sara Teasdale fan, you’d say,

Life has loveliness to sell.

In case you’re wondering what I brought on Saturday, you could just look here at my Napa Carrot Soup. 

Our group often shares out the leftovers, but I was quite surprised to find over a pound of medium-rare elk steak in my take-out container when I arrived at home Saturday night.  (Note to readers: Of course it’s not elk season in Colorado until fall, so Lee had stored these steaks in his freezer for several months since last October.)  The following day we were celebrating family birthdays in Denver, so I had no chance to think about what I’d do with that gold mine of meat.

below:  granddaughter Piper posing for grandma yesterday at the party

Today, it was time to figure that out. There were several solutions, the first being just wolf it all down cold off the bone and out of hand. There was, however, a bit too much meat for eating all of it that way. We did snarf down one steak between us for lunch. But then what?

A springy bunch of asparagus and some fresh tiny spinach leaves were stalling (stalking?) in the fridge and while I hadn’t snatched up any of the fresh English peas at Trader Joe’s, I did have my trusty little stash in the kitchen freezer. A limp leek joined the ensemble and it came together as it went. Don’t imagine a thick, wintery stew to stick to your innards, but rather dream of a light, bright brothy mix featuring a bit of the shocking green we love so well this time of year and an Asian accent just for grins and giggles. Think old Joni Mitchell lyrics from the oh-so-bittersweet spring song, “Little Green,”:

Just a little green
Like the color when the spring is born
There’ll be crocuses to bring to school tomorrow
Just a little green
Like the nights when the Northern lights perform
There’ll be icicles and birthday clothes and sometimes
There’ll be sorrow.

And try this:


6 servings

If you’ve no elk lying around, this would work perfectly well with some pork tenderloin from last night.  You can swap out fresh sliced button mushrooms for the dried; sauté them in a separate pot or skillet and stir them in at the end. Want a thicker stew? Whisk 1/4 cup white flour into the 2 cups of water and add that with the chicken broth.

  • 1 cup dried assorted wild or other mushrooms
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil, such as canola or avocado
  • Small onion, diced
  • Leek — white and light green parts only — well, washed and thinly sliced*
  • 2 each:  sliced, peeled carrot, sliced stalks of celery, chopped cloves of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon each: dry thyme and dry dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • Small handful chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 4 cups (32 ounces) low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 pound (8 ounces) fresh asparagus, trimmed well and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 3/4 pound (12 ounces) or so elk steak, grilled or sautéed medium-rare, trimmed, sliced thinly and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Handful fresh baby spinach leaves
  • Fish sauce
  • Soy Sauce

WARM BOWLS: Preheat oven to 200. Place bowls in oven to warm while you make stew.

REHYDRATE DRY MUSHROOMS: Add dry mushrooms and water to a bowl; set aside.

SAUTE VEGETABLES/ADD WINE: In a 6-quart pot, heat oil until hot over medium-high heat and add vegetables (onion, leek, carrot, celery), dry herbs and spices (thyme, dill, salt, pepper). Let cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes or until softening. Add garlic and cook for a minute. Stir in parsley, tomato paste, and white wine; cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring.

POUR IN BROTH/ADD VEGETABLES AND ELK:  Pour in broth and water. Cover and bring to a boil. Tip in asparagus and peas.  Lower heat to simmer and cook 3-4 minutes until nearly tender. Stir in the hydrated mushrooms with their broth right along with the elk and spinach. Let simmer a minute or two until spinach is just barely wilted and elk is heated through.

SEASON/SERVE HOT: Season with about a teaspoon of fish sauce and a half-teaspoon soy sauce or to taste. Add more salt or pepper as needed. Serve hot in warm bowls.

*EASY LEEK PREP: Leeks are dirty. This is an easy fix. Cut off the dark green, dark thick leaves at one end and the root end at the other. Make a very shallow cut lengthwise down the leek and peel off one outer layer.  Slice the white and light green parts very thinly and put them into a colander. Hold colander under running water with one hand tossing leek slices with the other hand to make sure all surfaces and rings are clean. Pat dry a bit with towel.

{printable recipe}

above: Spring in Colorado brought a freezing fog Saturday. Here, our backyard herb garden, still dormant, and beyond off the mesa at 6,500 feet.


Elk steak is a very lean, low cholesterol meat, high in protein and the minerals iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc. While appropriate for grilling, proper preparation and attention to timing is essential to enhance flavor and keep elk steak from becoming dry. For best results, the Minnesota Elk Breeders Association recommends first marinating elk steaks in an oil-based marinade and then grilling to no more than a medium well level of doneness.

–COURTESY LiveStrong.com

Looking for more elk recipes?  Try here.

Cook an elk steak.

North America Elk Breeder’s Association


Asparagus for Lunch and Asparagus for Dinner

What I’m reading:

I really enjoyed this Sunday New York Times’ Magazine food articles. You might, too.  No access?  Check your local public library:

  • “Beef and Broccoli–No Delivery Required” by Sam Sifton
  • “One Bite, Two Worlds”  France meets Syria in a layered sweet from a new Parisian patisserie  by Dorie Greenspan, one of my best and favorite cooking heroines. She has a new fun book coming out in the fall, called EVERY DAY DORIECheck it out here.   Or here.  (No, I don’t work for Dorie. More’s the pity!)

At my chair are a number of things, but over the weekend when I needed to get off my cooking feet, I picked this up. I’ve had it a while and never had time to really read it.  No time or cash to get to Berkeley, CA to Chez Panisse?  Buy one of their books and armchair travel.  Cook a recipe or two and armchair dine!  This one’s full of great stories and even better recipes, food lore, ingredient sourcing info, foraging thoughts, and wondrous sighs.  Cook through it for a home-based cooking school.

Sing a new song; cook a new stew. Share what you have with others,


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