Sunday, 28 November 2010

E is for... Elk with a St Emilion reduction, roasted eddo and an endive salad



I have already declared the delights of The Bison Centre on Alphabet Soup, and I'm more than happy to do so again as their service and their elk were both truly wonderful. I cleared them out of all their elk at the end of the week, which amounted to a small fillet - enough to feed 3 - 4 people and 4 fillet steaks. I cooked the fillet by seasoning it and browning it in a pan with a little butter and then finishing it off in the oven for about 7 minutes (I like my red meat rare, you can cook it for longer if you want to kill it all over again). I cooked the steaks for a couple of minutes each side in the same pan I browned the fillet in, while the fillet was in the oven. I didn't want to serve some people steak and some people a piece of fillet, so after resting the cooked meat, I cut both the fillet and the steaks into roughly 1 inch discs so there was enough to serve everyone 3 pieces.

St Emillion reduction

For the sauce, simply place a pint of beef stock (preferably home-made) in a saucepan with 2 or 3 finely chopped shallots, a couple of bay leaves and a sprig of thyme. Simmer until the stock has reduced by half.  In a separate pan, reduce a bottle of St Emilion by half and pour into the reduced stock. Reduce by a 1/3, season to taste, stir in a knob of butter and strain into a jug. Serve immediately.

Endive salad

For the salad, I simply washed Escarole and Frisee (curly endive) - two types of endive that are more like lettuce leaves than Belgian endives (or chicory) but still have a slightly bitter flavour. I seasoned the salad and dressed it with balsamic and extra virgin olive oil. 

Roasted eddo

What can I say about eddo? It's a bland looking root vegetable about the size of a large new potato with a slightly hairy, faintly lined and brown skin.  I'd never cooked it before and had never even heard of it, until one fateful afternoon when I was flicking through 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die, and there it was, bold as brass. "Hello E night", I thought. 

I like almost all root vegetables, from potatoes and parsnips to carrots and black salsify. Roots are comforting and add a pleasing hit of tasty starch to any meal so I couldn't foresee that eddo would be an exception. Besides, 1001 Foods describes it as having a texture "similar to that of a white potato, but it has a nuttier and more earthy taste". Sounds good, I thought naively. I'd already decided to give it a go before reading Larousse's damning claim that "The taste is insipid". As E proved not to be a bountiful letter for food stuffs, I ignored Larousse.

First things first, let's talk about the alarming side effect of preparing eddo. Richard was given the task of washing and peeling when, after about 30 seconds, his hands became red, sore and itchy.  Apparently there is a poison just under the skin of the eddo, which can, in an unlucky few, produce an allergic reaction. Oh good! I'm so pleased the packet came with a warning (it didn't) and so relieved that 1001 Foods and Larousse both mentioned eddo's possible effects (they didn't). Poor, unlucky Richard. The toxins are completely eliminated by boiling, but I became immediately suspicious of this strange, hairy root and hoped, aloud, the taste would be worth his suffering (it wasn't).

I'd read somewhere on the internet that eddo is particularly delicious roasted and that you should treat it exactly as you would a potato. So that's exactly what I did. The results were far from spectacular and produced hard little lumps of flavourless matter that no amount of salt or butter could possibly rescue. They were so bland, in fact, that bothering to chew was a chore in itself.  Perhaps I overcooked them. Perhaps they would have been better suited to mashing or sautéing. Or perhaps I should have listened to Larousse in the first place, who, I feel certain, didn't warn us of the toxicity of eddo's raw flesh because he didn't think anyone would be stupid enough to bother with this unedifying root after reading his damning but insightful critique. Well, lesson learned, Larousse! Never again shall eddo disgrace my dinner table. 

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