There is something about bourbon that just fits with the outdoor lifestyle. Maybe it's the fact that it was born along the American frontier, where immigrants from Ireland and Scotland adapted their age-old whiskey-making ability to what they could find in their new homeland. Maybe it’s a time thing, bourbon must be aged inside its white oak barrel a minimum of two years, but gains in flavor and character with each following year it remains in the warehouse. As with hunting, patience is rewarded.
That close relationship carries over to the wild game kitchen as well. You see bourbon pop up in several of my recipes here. The sweetness of the corn and the caramel and citrus flavors imparted by the wood barrels add a unique flavor to sauces that pairs well with the rich earthiness of wild game.
It makes a pretty good marinade too. For this recipe, we paired it with fresh lime juice, a bit of brown sugar, garlic and the excellent in-house brewed soy sauce from Bourbon Barrel Foods. The elk came from Colorado, a nice 6x5 taken by a very generous buddy who knows my penchant for elk steak.
The steaks get cooked on a dual-zoned grill, one side searing hot, the other cool with a water pan under the rack to prevent drying. Hickory chips provide a nice smoke to baste the steaks with flavor before they finish with a quick sear over the coals.
2-3 pounds elk steaks, backstrap or sirloin, about an inch or so thick
1/3 cup bourbon
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
Juice of one lime
Teaspoon of chopped garlic
Trim any connective tissue from the elk steaks and either place them into a zip-style bag or a Pyrex or ceramic dish. Mix the marinade ingredients together and pour over the steaks. Marinate for a minimum of four and up to eight hours.
Prepare your charcoal grill by placing a water pan on one side and hot coals on the other so that there are two heat zones, one hot and one cool. The same can be accomplished with a gas grill by turning one burner on high and leaving the other off. Place a handful or two of hickory chips onto the hot coals (wrap them in aluminum foil, piece a couple of holes for the smoke to escape and place it on the hot side for gas grills). Open the vent over the cool side of the grill and place the steaks over the water pan to smoke for 30 minutes without truly cooking.
Once the steaks have smoked a bit, move them over to the hot coals and sear the steaks for four to five minutes per side for medium rare. Pull the steaks and rest for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
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