I’m a firm believer in the theory that the best spice you can add to any dish is the flavor of a campfire and fresh air. All food tastes better when you are camping. That goes double for deer camp. When good friends David and Christina gifted us an elk shoulder after a successful DIY Idaho hunt that saw both fill their tags, I knew one of the roasts would have to come to camp with us for this dish.
The flavors are simple and classic: meat, potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, salt, and pepper. We used a Hooter Brown full-bodied ale from Oyster City Brewing for the liquid portion of the recipe, but venison or beef stock will work as well if you’d rather.
Like any slow-cooked meat, you can add an extra layer of flavor by browning the protein before reducing the heat and letting it go until everything is fall-apart tender. Since we like to cook the dish at camp, where time can be short, we cut the elk roast into 4 to 5 smaller pieces and use small potatoes and carrots so they have plenty of time to cook fully. If you aren’t pressed for time, feel free to leave everything in larger portions. It will still come out tender.
I prefer a tripod like this one from Lodge for dishes like this. I can easily adjust the Dutch oven higher or lower to control the cooking temperature over the open fire. Start with the pot closer to the flame for extra heat for browning the meat, then raise the pot for a slow simmer. As the fire burns down, it’s easy enough to drop the pot a link or two on the chain to keep it at a constant temperature.
3- to 3 1/2-pound elk roast
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound baby carrots
1 pound new red potatoes, halved
2 yellow onions, quartered
1 head of garlic with the top removed to expose the cloves
1 full-bodied medium or dark beer or 1 1/2 cups stock
Start by cutting the elk roast into roughly 12-ounce chunks for quicker cooking. Salt and pepper well.
Heat the oil in the bottom of a Dutch oven over fairly high heat. Brown the elk on all sides. Do this in batches so that you get a good brown on the meat for extra flavor. Move the meat to a plate and set aside.
Halve the baby potatoes. Quarter the onions and remove the skin. Slice the top off the head of garlic, exposing the cloves.
Add the carrots, potatoes, onions, and head of garlic. Season heavily with salt and pepper. Nestle the meat down into the vegetables. Pour in the beer or stock.
Place the lid on the pot and raise it high enough above the fire so that it cooks at a simmer. Check on the roast from time to time to make sure that it’s still simmering. A bit of steam should escape when you lift the lid.
Let the roast cook for 4 to 5 hours or until the elk shreds easily with a fork. Stir the meat into the cooked vegetables and serve warm.
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