Elk are members of the deer family and are one of the largest mammals in North America. This beautiful animal once could be found across much of the United States, but today the elk's range is mostly limited to the Western states. Although elk meat has traditionally come from animals that have been killed by hunters, cooks today also have the option of purchasing farm-raised elk chops.
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Preparing the Elk Chops
If you are using chops that were taken from a wild, older animal, some preparation may be necessary so that the meat will not be tough or have a strong, gamy taste. Carefully trim away any muscle tissue or fascia and excess fat from the meat. Soak the chops in buttermilk for a couple of hours or overnight. The buttermilk will tenderize the chop and will also take some of the gamy flavor out of the meat.
If you are using a chop from a young wild animal or a farm-raised elk, you can lightly season the cut of meat with salt and pepper. Heat up either butter, a little oil, or a combination of the two in a pan and then add the chops. Cook until browned, approximately seven to eight minutes, and then turn over, using tongs. Brown the other side and remove from the pan. An elk chop is low in fat, so it should be cooked quickly and only to medium, never well done, as the meat will get tough. Let the chop rest for a minute after cooking before serving. If the meat was from an older wild animal, you may want to let it sit in a favorite marinade for a few hours before frying.
Elk chops are tasty grilled as well. Again, marinade the meat if it is from an older, wild animal to tenderize it, or if it is a chop that you know will be tender, simply season with salt and pepper to flavor. Place the meat on a medium-high grill. Chops need to be cooked quickly, as the lean meat will be tough if overcooked. If you have a marinade, baste the meat occasionally during the grilling. Use only tongs to turn over the meat, so that you do not pierce it and cause it to lose any juices.
Served With Various Sauces
Elk chops can be cooked on the grill or pan-fried and then served with a number of different sauces. For instance, the St. Francis Winery and Vineyards in Santa Rosa, California, serves a Seared Elk Chop Au Poivre, which combines the meat with a brandy and cream reduction sauce. The Food Network recommends serving an elk chop with a blackberry port sauce. Another sauce that goes well with an elk chop is a mushroom sauce (see Resources).