Kosher elk makes for game night

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Game night in the Hirsch household involves a dinner with some sort of exotic meat – at least what we consider exotic – and a wine to match. This is a periodic event when we can get our kids in town and is really a catchphrase for anything beyond beef, lamb and chicken. Earlier meals were bison and duck. We are still looking for what I call the kosher Holy Grail -- a kosher goose.

So, when my wife, Jennifer, spotted certified kosher elk at the Doheny Kosher Meat Market on Pico Boulevard the other day, she couldn’t resist.

The challenge, of course, was how do you cook elk and what wine do you serve with it? And our meal was complicated by the fact that everything including the wine had to be kosher, because Rebecca, the 24-year-old who lives and works in New York, is quite observant and strictly follows Jewish dietary laws.

Elk, it turns out, is not the easiest to cook with. The butcher suggested we start with a stew, because ‘elk makes bison look fatty.’ It’s also not in our modest collection of kosher cookbooks. We asked Mr. Google and used a variation of a recipe found at


Essentially, it was two pounds of elk stew meat with two cups of baby Portabello mushrooms, half a bell pepper, four carrots, three sticks of celery, a couple of cloves of garlic, two potatoes and a quart of beef broth. (For our purposes, the kosher Tabatchnick sold at Ralphs.)

We braised the meat in olive oil in a Dutch oven on the cooktop. We removed the meat and then used the Dutch oven to kind of pan saute everything else before mixing it all together with the broth and cooking for three hours.

The results? Interesting ... in a good way. Elk has a musky flavor, not unlike venison and with just a hint of the grass you get in bison. Think of it as a gamy brisket. And it is very lean. The meat had a touch of the palate-drying sensation you get from a tannic red wine.
Would we do it again? Maybe, but we would probably go for something besides stew – maybe thin cut slices in a thick burgundy sauce to help provide moisture.

And the wine? We went with a Syrah, but I’d be curious what you would have with game such as elk or venison. We considered a Rioja and a Zinfandel but decided on a 2004 Herzog ‘Special Reserve’ Syrah from Edna Valley. It was perfect with lots of blueberry, a hint of pepper and very smooth, almost no tannins.

-- Jerry Hirsch