Thursday, January 14, 2010

Daring Cooks January: Elk and Tofu Satay

... and suddenly it was time for the January Daring Cooks Challenge.

We pushed this one so close to the deadline that we quite nearly thought we wouldn't get it done.  Fortunately for us, satay doesn't require tons of active cooking time, so we were able to pull this one right out of our magic hat.

We love satay, but we wanted to give ourselves a bit of a challenge. The first thing we did was identify the protein sources we'd be using.  Originally, I thought we might go completely vegetarian (and local).  After all, we can get locally produced tofu from our friends at The Simple Soyman, and root veggies are still coming to us pretty strong from the Milwaukee Winter Market.  But, then we remembered that we can get local elk from Golden Bear Monarchs Elk Farm. Since neither of us had ever actually eaten elk (that we could recall),  we decided to please the vegetarians and meat eaters alike -- and make it a local tofu and elk affair (AKA "turf and earf").

We went all-out and picked up a pound of elk tenderloin. Although it wasn't the cheapest cut of meat, it was so gorgeous and tender that we knew it wouldn't need an all-day marinade -- which would come in handy, since we were in a bit of a time crunch.  We sliced the elk into 1 inch-wide strips.

We also picked up a pound of extra firm nigari tofu -- which we drained well by wrapping it in a towel and putting it beneath the weight of about 3 ceramic plates. After about 1/2 hour, we removed the tofu and sliced it into 1 inch-wide lengths.

Although the marinade departed from the usual Thai ingredients we were used to seeing for satay, we were intrigued. We doubled the recipe, since we were doing two pounds of protein. And, since we're chile-heads, we added four Thai bird chiles (dehydrated from last summer's backyard garden harvest) to the mix, as well as a dash of fish sauce.

And we whipped the recipe together in no time by throwing everything in the blender.

Then we threw the marinade in two gallon-sized plastic bags and tossed it with our elk and tofu.  Everything sat around in the fridge for about 5 hours.

While we were waiting for the marinade to work its magic, we threw together two sauces -- peanut sauce, because we like it, and tamarind sauce, because it just seemed like the right thing to do.  And you've gotta have at least two dipping sauces, right?  Both came together fairly easily (and were downright tasty).

Of course, then there was another matter -- the weather. We got quite a bit of snow over the holidays, so our yard was a virtual snow drift. The temps were hovering in the low teens (with a nasty wind chill).  And yet, we really wanted to grill our satay.  So, we brushed off our trusty Weber and dragged out the charcoal.

While the grill was heating up, we laced the goods on well soaked bamboo skewers and put on our mittens.

After grabbing a couple of beers out of our fancy-dancy "Canadian fridge," we were ready to start grilling!

Darkness was falling quickly, and we were getting worried about the photographic aspect of our project.  Fortunately, one of the great things about satay is that it doesn't take long to cook.  We wanted to keep our elk nice and tender, so we grilled it up medium rare (about 3 minutes/side). And we grilled the tofu just long enough to give it a nice sear.  The shot we got out there in the dark isn't great -- but you get the idea.

Just as we thought our fingers would freeze off, the tofu was ready.  So, we piled everything into a pan and headed indoors to eat.

The perfectly grilled elk was pink in the center, and perfectly tender.  The tofu was well seasoned with a nice crisp crust on the edges.  The flavors of coriander and cumin seemed strange at first, but the seasonings really played well with the dipping sauces, and we loved the zip that the Thai bird chiles brought to the table. The tangy tamarind was particularly good with the tofu (as well as the sweet potato fries we had on the side), and the peanut sauce made everything finger licking good.
The verdict? Simple. Fast. And delicious. 
Why not dig your grill out of that snow drift and try it out yourself?

Cuppy's Recipe: Satay Marinade and Two Sauces

Be sure to check out all the other Daring Cooks posts... lots of variation in the recipes this time around!

The January 2010 DC challenge was hosted by Cuppy of Cuppylicious and she chose a delicious Thai-inspired recipe for Pork Satay from the book 1000 Recipes by Martha Day.

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  1. i love the beers in the snow. they look so cozy and delicious! the elk idea is interesting. we've never done elk, but we may need to pick some up!

  2. ohhhh...i so look forward (after baby is born of course) to popping open a sierra nevada...

  3. I love satay & what you've done with it. You are braver than us out doing it in the snow & cold

  4. Oh I would so love to taste this right now... Amazing photos! And you all are so "daring" to grill in the snow.

  5. Elk! Who would have thought? I would really love to try it sometime. Kevin and I are planning to take a trip out west this spring (if he can get his act together). Hopefully there will be some places to try it.

    What amazing endurance you have cooking out in the snow like that. You are a die-hard grill master.

    Your beer cooler is brilliant.

  6. Wow I would love to try that elk. I ahve a whole herd of elk living on our property.

  7. I love that most of your comments so far are focusing on the snow beers (not that I don't love a fridgid Sierra Nevada Pale Ale - my favorite non-Wisconsin brewski)... But I love that you are able to continue on your Asian theme! I've never had elk either, but it looks tasty- though I must confess that after the recent state of my stomach, the tofu looks more appetizing. Doesn't having a challenge over feel the best?! I did mine really early this month, but posting isn't until the 27th.

  8. AKA "turf and earf" LOL LOL LOL love your posting and the pictures of the beer in the snow is so strange to me (I'm in Australia) and it's 40C over 100F and that picture of the BBQ is so funny. I did kangaroo which looks so much like your elk I think they would taste very alike. WOnderful post and delicious looking tofu. Well done on this challenge. Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

  9. Your satay versions are very special and unique, both the elk and the tofu sound just excellent!

  10. The dipping sauces look amazing.

  11. I love your grill setup! Awesome! And I'm very impressed that you shoveled it out to use for this challenge. :)

    What a great post. :) I'm very glad you liked the challenge!

  12. Cuppy -
    We love to grill all year long. So this was a great reason to have it cleared out. Thanks for the challenge!

  13. Look at that snowwwwww!! I haven't seen that in a long long time. You always get creative when it comes to meat. Looks great!

  14. Cool! What does elk taste like? Beef, pork, chicken (ha-ha)? I'm not really a fan of meat.

  15. Ingrid - the elk is probably most along the lines of beef. However, it's super lean and very tender. Possibly a bit more "clean" tasting, if that's possible. I think I prefer it to beef, actually; but, I'll have to try it in other contexts to be sure.

  16. Love that beer. I need to get my hands on some elk and make the satay again!

  17. Great idea with the satay! Thanks for a meat eating and veg option :)

  18. I love winter time grilling. Did a bunch of it this weekend, including a full turkey on the grill, on Saturday!

  19. Wow! What an amazingly eclectic meal with such wonderful ingredients! I have yet to try Elk - a colleague of mine loves it.

  20. I am so looking forward this weekend because we are going to have something like this!

  21. What a creative way to make a satay using elk-my hat is off to you. Impressive.
    Since, I am from Florida, I got a real chuckle out of the use of the term "Canadian Freezer"...Loved it.

  22. I have to say, after viewing all the Daring Cooks posts about satay, this is probably the most unique and memorable. Most of them went traditional with chicken; I didn't even notice a lot of tofu/vegetarian options. I love the beer cooling method. I dig Sierra Nevada!

  23. omg, look at all that snow!!!
    one of my best friends is from Wisconsin :)
    I've never had elk in my life. Your challenge looks great.


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