Saturday, August 11, 2012

Grilled Elk and Potato Flat Bread

The other day, on a whim, I decided to pick up a couple of small elk steaks from the Meat Locker in the market. I've dealt with venison before, but elk was new to me. A busy day led me to an early evening for which I had a couple of elk steaks and not much else. I had no idea what to do with them. I had a ball of leftover bakery pizza dough in the freezer and the wife had just returned from her mother's house with sizeable wedge of fruliano cheese along with a basket of Ontario white potatoes. The wheels in my head turned towards a sort of white pizza. I don't really want to call it a pizza because it doesn't really feel like a pizza, it's more of a flat bread. I made this one up as I went along but I had a vision in my head that I was following. A long time ago I had a beautiful white pizza in some restaurant in Forrest Hill (for which I can't recall the name). It was flavoured with cream, potatoes, onions and a strong herb; either rosemary or sage. I loved the combination because if reminded me of potatoes dauphinoise ...except on a pizza. It was a really comforting dish with a slightly monochromatic, yet rich flavour profile accentuated by the occasional pop of those strong piny herbs or a crunch of black pepper. To pair that neutrality with the gamy and coppery tang of elk and a bit of peppery herbage such as arugula seemed like a winner. I was mostly right. After enjoying this meal, I feel that the elk was a tiny bit heavy and it would have worked better with some kind of cured game like duck ham (which would also crisp up nicely, adding a tertiary texture). Regardless, a good meal all around. Here's what I did:

Slice up a whole onion into thinish strips and start sauteeing gently in a bit of oil. Season with salt and pepper. Once the onions have softened and started to take on a little colour, drop in two cloves of garlic finely sliced. Let the garlic take on the barest colour and then deglaze the works with a bit of white wine. Let the white wine reduce till it's nothing but a viscous slick at the bottom of the pan and then set it aside to cool. While this is happening take one whole white thin-skinned potato and slice it very thinly--think scalloped potatoes. Get the potato slices into a steamer or a few inches of simmering water and par cook them until they are 80% cooked. Strain them and let them steam and dry on a plate. While you're waiting for the onions and potatoes to cool, grate about three-quarters of a cup of fruliano cheese (or similarly slightly tangy meltable white cheese). Now assemble. The pizza dough is store-bought, just roll it out so that it takes on a slightly rectangular form. Drizzle a few tablespoons of cream on top of the dough and spread it around with a brush. Scatter your herbs atop this (I didn't have rosemary or sage but I had fresh oregano from the garden which worked pretty well). Then scatter with onion and garlic mixture followed by the cheese. Gently lay the thinly sliced potatoes atop the pizza. Bake in a 425 degree oven for about ten to twelve minutes. While the pizza was cooking, I seasoned the elk steaks and grilled them in a very hot pan till medium rare. Let the steaks rest for about five or ten minutes then slice thinly. When the pizza comes out of the oven, let it cool briefly and then scatter the elk atop if (or in a jaunty little pile as seen in the photo). Serve it with a strong and peppery salad like arugula or other bitter-ish greens.

The gamy taste of the elk, paired with the strongly flavoured greens and super creamy and comforting pizza was a great treat on an otherwise typical day.

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