Admit it. As an Alaskan, you probably have at least one moose photo in a drawer somewhere or on your computer. We all have them. We take photos of moose in our yards munching apples or tree buds. We take pictures of moose calves and file them away with photos of our kids. We put them on our Christmas cards, to the delight of our out-of-state friends and relatives.
I was driving down Lake Otis Parkway in Anchorage a few days ago and there was a young male moose gliding down the centerline of the road, just like he belonged there. Traffic was respectful and several people had stopped to get a shot of the moose with their cameras on their phones — another moose photo added to the collection.
From the viewpoint of an outsider looking in, it might seem we’re obsessive about moose in Alaska. We have moose key chains and wind chimes. We have moose T-shirts and notepads. We have ice cream stores, bed and breakfasts, bars and doormats all emblazoned with moose imagery. And of course, we have moose in our freezers.
My friend Chris came over yesterday and brought a gift of moose roast meat and some ground meat as well. I’m in an enviable position to often receive gifts of meat from friends. Ptarmigan, buffalo, caribou, sheep, reindeer, ducks, moose, bear, Spruce grouse, and goat have all graced my table as offerings to my kitchen. We aren’t a hunting family anymore now that our children are grown so having friends who hunt for food and share their bounty works out nicely.
Oddly, moments before Chris came over, there was a moose in my yard looking for a few straggling apples lingering on high branches. I grabbed my camera and took a few images, of course. And even though we are talking about cooking here, I am including my gratuitous moose photo.
Irony noted: for the roast meat Chris gave me, I decided to make moose with apples. I made moose ravioli with caramelized onion, sage and apple cider. I knew I had some great Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese from Italy in the fridge and I have some nice wide bowls that ravioli look beautiful in, so I was all set.
The most common way I cook moose meat that isn’t ground is to braise it slowly in liquid to tenderize the meat. I seared off the meat in a hot pan with a little oil. First, I trimmed the meat carefully of any fat or silver skin (that tough band of sinew that follows along some muscle groups). I think this helps with flavor and some of that characteristic gaminess in moose can be found in the fat. I washed the meat and patted it completely dry with a kitchen towel. I salted and peppered the moose pretty well. I seared the meat in the hot pan on both sides, removed the meat, and set it aside.
I added carrots, celery and onion into the pan (my pan is deep with high sides that can accommodate a lot of liquid) and I cooked these down a little bit. I put the meat back into the pan and I covered the whole lot with a liquid mixture of two-thirds beef stock and one-third apple cider. I covered the pan with a lid, turned it down to a low simmer, and cooked it for several hours until the meat was tender. Exactly how long this process takes may depend on the toughness of your moose meat, but it is usually a couple of hours.
Next, I removed the meat and shredded it into a medium bowl. I added in a handful of cheese, some sautéed mushrooms, an egg yolk, some slow-simmered onions, a few garlic, and chives from my garden (the only thing remaining in the garden at this point).
I made some homemade pasta (the same recipe I used in a blog on June 18 of this year). For this particular batch, I chopped up a little sage and added it to the dough. I rolled it out paper-thin, dropped about a teaspoon of moose filling onto one sheet of thin dough in two-inch intervals, and laid the other sheet of dough on top. I trimmed and pressed the dough into medium-sized ravioli. I dropped my ravioli into just barely simmering water and cooked them ever so briefly. I laid them into my nice wide bowls and drizzled over a little brown butter and sage. The moose filling, however, could be used just as successfully with store-bought sheets of wide pasta as a sauce rather than a filling.
I always work hard to honor and respect the food I receive from the wild, to never waste anything, or take it for granted. I feel in some way it’s the least I can do.
- 1 pound moose meat
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- Olive oil
- 1 onion, peeled, quartered and sliced
- 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
- 1 celery rib, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 2 cups beef stock
- 1 cup apple cider
- Olive oil
- 1 onion, peeled and sliced
- Braised moose meat (recipe above), shredded
- ½ cup mushrooms, trimmed, sliced and sautéed
- ½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shredded
- 2 tablespoons minced chives
- 1 egg yolk
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Trim the moose meat of any fat or sinew. Wash the meat and pat dry. Salt and pepper the moose.
- Heat the oil in a high-sided pan or stockpot. Sear the meat on both sides in the hot oil. Remove the meat and set aside.
- Add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic to the pan. Sauté the vegetables over medium heat for about five minutes.
- Add the moose to the vegetable mixture. Cover the mixture with the beef stock and apple cider. (If the liquid doesn’t completely cover the vegetables and meat, add more stock, cider or water). Cover the pan with a lid and simmer over low heat for 2-3 hours or until the moose is tender. Remove the moose meat and discard the liquid.
- Place about one tablespoon of olive oil in a sauté pan. Add in the onion and sauté over low heat for about 20 minutes or until the onions are lightly browned and completely softened.
- In a medium bowl, add the shredded meat, mushrooms, cheese, chives and egg yolk. Stir in the cooled caramelized onions. Salt and pepper to taste.
- Fill the pasta dough (see the recipe from June 18) with filling or use the filling with storebought wide pasta. Cook the pasta accordingly. In the ravioli I made, I added a simple sauce of browned butter and sage.