Remember this gent? My beloved spousal unit? Who in 2010 drew, along with a buddy, one of the top spots in the universe to hunt elk and after five days came back empty handed? That's okay. Elk hunting with a bow and arrow is difficult under the best circumstances. Doubly so when you're dealing with New Mexico elk. Hunters who are successful have been doing it for years, decades even. They know all the secrets. Because New Mexico elk are as wily as an animal can get. They know their heads, hides, and meat are in high demand and they pass along evasion skills through their DNA. That call you spent all weekend working on until the dogs dug themselves a permanent hole in a far corner of the property isn't fooling anyone, least of all an elk. These are not stupid animals.
Fortunately, we did not go empty handed this year thanks to a most generous Christmas gift from a friend. Four whole elk tenderloins sent to us courtesy Allen Brothers Meats. You can bet I was on the internet in a flash, looking for a recipe and finally settling on this one.
Prepared the marinade about 9:00 that morning, coated the tenderloins (there are two here, stuck together, which we didn't realize until after they were finished cooking—d'oh!), and placed in the fridge.
About an hour before I wanted to serve, I took the elk out of the fridge to come up to room temperature. Twenty minutes later, pre-heated the oven and started the sauce. Popped elk in oven. At the 35-minute mark, checked it with my thermometer, which read a perfect 138 degrees F, pulled it from the oven, covered it, and set it aside to rest for 8-10 minutes while I made the rest of the meal: couscous with garlic and parsley, and collard greens and Swiss chard braised in bacon grease with bits of bacon and toasted almond slices.
Here's the final plating. And, yes, elk should be cooked to rare. Anything more is uncivilized.
I was right about the rosemary. Too over-powering. As was the orange. But once we scraped the marinade off the tenderloin, we could enjoy the most melt-in-your-mouth tender and delicious meat I've ever tasted in my life. Hands down, elk's got it head and shoulder above pork and beef in my book.
So, S.B., start practicing your calls . . .