Cafe Diva co-owner and executive chef Kate Rench has been cooking one of the restaurant's top sellers, elk loin, since she arrived at the Steamboat Springs restaurant in 2001. The graduate of the The French Culinary Institute in New York City is known for bringing a high-end style to down-home staples. Here, she shares her tricks — as well as a recipe — for how you can do the same with your game:
“Elk loin has been a staple on Cafe Diva’s menu since before my time there. I think the best way to prepare elk is to keep it simple. Elk has a lot of flavor that you don’t want to mask. At Cafe Diva, we serve it with Yukon Gold mashed potatoes, Haricot Verts with roasted almonds, and a Veal demi glace.
You always want to start off with a very hot stainless steel pan. We use clarified butter to sear off the meat; it has a higher smoking degree so you can sear at hotter temperatures. We cut our loin into three-ounce pieces because elk is so lean you want to sear it off quickly and finish it in a hot oven. We recommend cooking it rare to medium-rare because the longer you cook elk, the tougher it can get. Here is our recipe for Veal Demi Glace.
■ 1 diced carrot
■ ½ bunch diced celery
■ 1 diced onion
■ ½ cup chopped shallots
■ 3 cloves chopped garlic
■ ½ lb. butter
■ 2 tbsp. brown sugar
■ Kosher salt
■ 3 tbsp. black peppercorns
Place in stock pot and caramelize until golden brown.
Deglaze pot with:
■ ½ cup brandy
■ 1 bottle (750ml) of Cabernet
■ 1 cup port
■ 2 tbsp tomato paste
■ Thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf
■ 4 ounces More Than Gourmet Veal Glace (available at Gourmet Food Stores)
■ 4 cups water
Bring to a boil
Add corn starch slurry
(2 tbsp. corn starch and 2 tbsp. water mixed together)
Simmer and reduce till a nice sauce consistency (when you can run your finger through the back of a wooden spoon and the line stays).
Strain through a fine mesh strainer.
Check your seasoning and serve.