Elk Backstrap Sous Vide with Creamy Horseradish Sauce
It's hard to beat a good elk backstrap steak. Or backstrap steak of any kind. And yet, while you can grill, smoke, roast, or pan-sear them until done, all of those methods tend to result in overdone exteriors and a narrow band of perfectly medium-rare center. Or a medium-rare exterior and nearly raw center. Both are still good, just not perfect.
There is another cooking method out there that gives you perfect, edge-to-edge doneness. Sous vide, (under vacuum in French) is a cooking method in which food is sealed in a watertight bag, then submerged in water heated by a sous vide cooking unit set to a precise temperature. The great thing about this method is that the food inside the bag will never go above the programmed temperature, no mater how long you leave it in. We've even cooked venison sirloin tips, a notoriously tough cut, for a full 24 hours and ended up with a fork-tender, perfectly medium-rare roast.
For this recipe, we seasoned elk backstrap steaks with salt and freshly ground black pepper, topped each with a pat of butter and a sprig of fresh rosemary, then sealed them up with our MEAT Brand chamber vacuum sealer before cooking for 2 hours at 125 degrees Fahrenheit. The beauty of sous vide cooking is that you can set the desired finished temperature to your exact preference. Like your backstrap rare? Set it at 125 degrees; medium-rare is 130 to 135; and medium is 135 to 140. The meat will be cooked to that exact temperature, all the way through.
By this point, the meat is fully cooked, but the lack of high heat on the surface leaves it a bit unappealing to the eye. We remedy this with a few seconds per side in a hot cast-iron skillet. It's not enough to really add to the doneness of the steak, just enough for a nice crust.
We like to serve the steaks with a creamy horseradish sauce (recipe below).
2 pounds elk or venison backstrap steaks, about 1 inch thick
1/2 stick butter, sliced into pats
Several sprigs of fresh rosemary
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon peanut oil
and Chive Sauce
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1/2 cup prepared horseradish
2 tablespoons fresh chives, finely diced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper (finely ground)
Season the steaks well with salt and pepper. Top each steak with a pat of butter and a sprig of fresh rosemary.
Seal the steaks in a vacuum bag or a 1-gallon zip style bag with the air squeezed out.
Set the sous vide controller for 125 degrees, or your desired doneness. Submerge the bag in the water and cook for 2 hours. While the steaks cook, mix the sauce ingredients and refrigerate.
Remove the steaks from the bag, and pat dry with paper towels.
Heat a cast-iron skillet over high heat. Add 1 teaspoon of peanut or other cooking oil with a high smoke point. Swirl the oil around the bottom of the skillet. When you start to see tiny wisps of smoke rise from the skillet, add the steaks. Sear for 20 seconds per side.
Serve the steaks topped with the horseradish and chive sauce.