I HEART BACON
Friday, September 23rd, 2005

Food Fight #4 – Matt’s “Melonhead’s Venison Salad”

Here is my entry for the latest Food Fight hosted by The Pragmatic Chef. This was a fun one because everyone submitted a favorite recipe and then the recipes were randomly assigned to the participants. With the luck of the draw, I was to make Matt’s “Melonhead’s Venison Salad”.

Here is the recipe I was given:

“Slice Venison tenderloins into 1/4 thick medallions. Rub with olive oyl then sear. Add whatever variety of hot sauce or peppers suits your fancy. I prefer roasted jalapeno for the flavor. simmer a little then stir in a pinch of garlic, sesame seed and a couple huge spoons of peanut butter. When meat is done, serve over lettuce and garnish with mandarin oranges.”

Here is what really happened:

First off, I didn’t have any venison, but I did happen to have some elk that I picked up from Exotic Meats. Never having eaten elk before, I was surprised by how dark the meat was and by the thick striations. It resembled flank steak, so already I was thinking this might be one very tough cut of meat. I didn’t slice the fillets as directed because I wanted to treat them like steak and have a little color in the middle. I rubbed them down with salt and then olive oil and seared both sides over med-high heat. I didn’t have any fresh peppers so I threw in a dried hot chili and then two cloves of minced garlic. Next came about a half cup of chunky peanut butter.

I plopped the peanut butter into the pan and quickly realized that this wouldn’t work. Things were starting to burn and the peanut butter remained in a ball no matter how hard I stirred. I was picturing a creamy sauce, so I added almost a cup of water to get the consistency I wanted. It tasted like something was missing so I added a tablespoon of roasted red chili paste. The sauce was now perfect, but it was difficult making the sauce with the meat still in the pan; next time I’ll remove the meat after it’s seared and then make the sauce.

I let the elk rest while I prepared a simple salad of butter leaf lettuce and orange slices. I topped the salad with a little of the warm peanut sauce and thick slices of elk meat. I had forgotten to add the sesame seeds to the sauce, so I settled for a sprinkling on top.

My first bite of elk had me in disbelief over how tender it was; it was like eating an exceptionally good filet mignon, but with so much more flavor. The meat was rich, but not gamey and almost had a sweetness to it. The elk was assertive enough to stand up to the strong sauce and paired wonderfully with the spicy/salty/sweetness of the peanuts.

Delicious and unusual… thanks Matt, I will be making this one again!

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20 Responses to “Food Fight #4 – Matt’s “Melonhead’s Venison Salad””

  1. Wow Meg, nice job!

    [drool, drool…]

  2. kitchenmage says:

    Elk that turns out tender? How unusual—I’ll have to try it this season since there’s a herd living across the street.

  3. joey says:

    Looks and sounds yummy! I think I had elk when I visited Estonia…I think it was like elk jerky though, so not tender but definitely flavorful. Wish I could get some of those “exotic meats” here…

    Speaking of exotic, just read your post below about balut. I have eaten it…and here I am living to tell the tale :) I’m always looking for ways to push the gastronomic envelope :)

  4. megwoo says:

    Kitchenmage,
    So that’s interesting… I’ve never tried elk before, so it usually IS tough then? That was what I was expecting, so I was shocked by the tenderness. I wonder if what I ate was a special cut or breed—I didn’t pay enough attention to the packaging to remember.

    That’s very cool that you have them living across the street!!

  5. megwoo says:

    Thanks Rachel!
    Your Roasted Chicken Masala looks incredible.

  6. megwoo says:

    Thanks Joey! Welcome back!
    You have to tell me more about balut… did you enjoy it?

  7. joey says:

    Yup! I love it :) I try to get one with a very young chick. The soup you get from balut is amazing. A human chef cannot create soup like that, all coddled inside the egg and touched by mother nature’s hand. After a night of hard drinking, we have some before heading home…makes me feel like I’m being risen from the dead! :)

  8. megwoo says:

    Hmmmm. Sounds interesting. I think I’d try the broth part—not entirely sure about the bird part though… but mostly because of the bone issue.

  9. Rachael says:

    I would never have thought peanut butter and elk could be good…Im so happy to hear it was!

  10. joey says:

    Haha! The chicky isn’t for everyone ;) There is actually a restaurant here that serves something called Balut Surprise which you can order without the chick. They thicken and season the soup a bit (making it heartier and a bit spicy) and cook it in a bowl with a flaky pastry crust on top.

  11. megwoo says:

    Rachel,
    Yes, at first it sounded so odd, but the finished product ended up a lot like a fantastic satay with peanut dipping sauce.

    Oh, and fourteen orders of miso-glazed eggplant??! You go girl.

  12. megwoo says:

    Joey,
    Balut Surprise sounds really, really delicious. Do you happen to have a recipe?

  13. joey says:

    Unfortunately I don’t :( I can try to charm the waiters to give me clues maybe :) But you have actually planted the possibility in my head that perhaps I could try recreating it! Hmmm…

  14. megwoo says:

    Joey,
    I hope you do try recreating the dish—and then share the recipe with me!

  15. kitchenmage says:

    chewy, yep that’s the word for the stuff… everyone around here describes it as chewy… :-)

  16. megwoo says:

    Kitchenmage,
    I found out that the cut I had was the equivalent of a fillet mignon—so it was exceptionally tender, yet still VERY flavorful. I can’t wait to try it again.

  17. Annette Molina says:

    Look up http://www.Imbetterwithfood.com for recipe on Balut.

  18. Annette Molina says:

    look up also asiacuisine.com for item on Balut. Good Luck, I’ve tasted this dish recently, it’s different.

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