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Elk Backstrap Recipe

Elk Backstrap


Pan Seared Elk Backstrap recipe

Serves 4


2 lb of elk backstrap (venison would work here too I guess) cut into 1″ thick medallions
2 glasses of a robust red wine
2 cups of beef stock
6 juniper berries, crushed
5 black peppercorns
1 small shallot, diced
4 sprigs to thyme
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons lard (or olive oil) for roasting
6 turnips, cut into 3″ pieces
6 small parsnips, cut into 3″ pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Grapeseed or olive oil for cooking the elk.


Preheat oven to 400F. Put a roasting pan in the oven whilst the oven is warming to preheat that too. When the pan is hot, and the oven up to temperature, take out the pan, and toss in the lard. Put this pan over a burner on your stove to keep it piping hot. When the lard has melted toss in the turnips and parsnips. Gently toss to coat the veg in the fat, and bung it back in the oven. These will take about 45 minutes to roast. About half way through, turn the heat down to about 370F – especially if the veg is looking reasonably brown.

In a small saucepan combine the shallot, juniper berries, peppercorns, thyme and red wine. Get this boiling, and reduce down to 1/4 its original volume. Add the beef stock to this. Let this reduce down to about half its original volume. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, and return to the pan, keep to one side.

About 15 minutes before the veg is ready, start cooking the elk. Take a really heavy frying pan, cast iron is great – and get it hot. Really hot. Season the medallions with some salt and pepper. Add a little splash of oil to the pan, and get that smoking. Put in the elk, using tongs because it could well flame up. Blow out any flames that may arise. Cook for a couple of minutes each side, until you get a nice sear over the meat. Now, either turn the heat down, and cook through to your liking – or put them into the oven to cook further.

Whilst the veg and elk is finishing, get some heat back under the sauce.When it is hot, whisk in the butter, and keep the sauce warm.

Let the elk meat rest for a couple of minutes before serving. Plate with some of the roasted veg, and the sauce on the side.

Note from Rasa Malaysia:

If you wonder what elk is, here is the picture of elk (photo from


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14 COMMENTS... read them below or add one

  1. I love Matt’s style of cooking – simple, elegant, and always featuring an interesting ingredient or two, with great photography and story-telling to boot. This one ticks all the right boxes once again, and I love Danika’s mum’s response to her meal!

  2. Jay

    Referring to June Ong’s comment …

    If I had “san che yok” (wild boar), I would be cooking curry instead. A bit heaty, but haven’t eaten “san che yok kah lei” since my secondary school years, and that’s like 20+ years already.

    Neighbor used to hunt them and give us a few pieces. Good old days.

  3. NYMY

    Never tried elk before, but great recipe and an interesting story. That’s what always happen, don’t tell and won’t know. My friend once ordered snake soup (yes, snake soup) for me in China, and I didn’t know. After tasting it, my friend told me it was snake, but of course, I thought it was just very tender chicken.

  4. Love the story and the recipe, but then I always enjoy everything Matt creates. I didn’t know that about crushing the juniper berries — will have to try that next time to amp up the flavor. You also remind me that I need to get grapeseed oil. I remember reading Charlie Trotter’s cookbook at dozen years ago and that’s what he used for really high heat.

  5. Heya everyone – thanks for the wonderful comments on my guest post here! To answer a few questions:
    The taste of elk depends on a few things – what the elk has been eating (since it is wild, it has quite a choice), how old it is, how long it has been hung, and I am sure a few more. Elk tastes somewhat similar to venison, and a little beefy too. Apparently this one was shot in a grass field, so it tasted more like a grass fed beef – there was very little gamey taste to it.. I don’t have any idea how long it was hung.

    The older the elk gets, the more prone it could be to toughness. This wasn’t a young spritely elk apparently, the meat wasn’t amazingly tender, but it was very flavorful.

    I think I am going to try Danika’s mum with a rolled pork head next… Stay tuned!

  6. Anonymous

    I never know that elk is edible, well I guess any kind of meat is edible in a way. I know that in the Black Hills area, they serve buffalo burgers.

  7. Matt, you do amazing things things with meat! The addition of lard is truly decadent and I can only imagine the flavors. I’m also digging the use of juniper berries in game meat, an ingredient that we have in our pantry but don’t use enough of. Thanks for the wonderful recipe.

  8. I love game meat. The red wine sauce is awesome- I did something similar (sans juniper) a few years ago with ostrich. I’ve never had elk before, but I will keep an eye out for it.

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