Favorite activities form intersecting circles that allows one to branch out into some strange directions and indeed makes for some strange and seemingly unrelated bedfellows. Allow me to explain how my obsession with live fire cooking can spawn circles of friends, bound together by unrelated yet tangential hobbies and some fantastic experiences.
Obsession with live fire cooking tends to be a peripheral activity to a big sphere of influences, namely that which is referred to as the “Great Outdoors”. To me these things include – but are not limited to – Fishing, Hunting, Camping, Hiking, Backpacking and Gardening. The group of people I’ve connected with over the years hunting and fishing have all been wonderful live fire cooks themselves, a testament to my theory.
Obsession with cooking is peripheral to other creative outlets, such as music. I frequently combine the two playing loud live music and cooking for the rest of the musicians I happen to be playing with. Of course this dovetails directly into live fire cooking, which invariably means BBQ – and that can lead to a weekend of playing some serious blues and slinging some serious smoked meats.
Last year, I found myself on a hunt in a Colorado quietly sitting in a quaking aspen forest listening to the rustle of the aspens and the eerie trumpeting calls of a bull elk keeping his harem in line. A small herd of elk cows was below me in an open meadow. It was beginning to snow a little and I could see my breath in the cold air. There was a particularly large bull in the tree line, just above the cows. I could hear him but hadn’t seen him yet. I could tell he was magnificent. After what seemed like an hour but was probably about 10 minutes he stepped out of the cover of the aspen. His long arching horns were so big they almost reached his tail end when he lifted his head to roar a high pitched bugle that echoed off the canyon walls. I was in total awe.
I am a hunter, a gatherer, a lover of wild things and protector of their habitats. The natural world holds a special wonder for me, it’s part of my DNA. I respect everything in the wild and careful preparation of a naturally harvested meat must do the animal justice.
The tenderloin, back strap and inner strap of any animal is always the most tender and prized. Last weekend I got the elk tenderloin out of the freezer and relived the thrill of seeing him for the first time in my mind.
I first rubbed this down with some olive oil and added a spice rub fragrant with cumin and New Mexico chile. I trimmed it up and tied it off so it would cook evenly. This would end up smoke roasted over the indirect heat of an oak fire with plenty of good California oak smoke. Wild animals are naturally lean. They were not whisked away in a cattle truck and feed enormous amounts of high energy feed to promote an unhealthy and expedited weight gain. They stay fit and trim on natural grasses and natural activities. In order to kick such a perfect and lean cut up a notch, I added a particularly unnatural processed item on top of it… Bacon. Yes, the world is full of double standards and inconsistencies. Who am I to judge? What’s good is good, and bacon is good. I cooked the tenderloin to 145 degrees for about an hour on the smoke. The thick bacon was crispy, salty and delicious. I whipped up a salsa criolla (see recipes) for an acidic component to balance out the richness of the meat. Some steamed asparagus and a little mayo and lemon juice was all that was needed to make a perfect meal that reminded me of the great outdoors, beautiful wild things and an obsession for live fire cooking that binds music, hunting, fishing and everything else I find myself involved in. Salute!