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As the Executive Chef at The Resort at Paws Up in Montana, Ben Jones is using elk medallion with yams, Brussels sprouts, and a huckleberry demi-glacé to both define the Montana experience and leave his mark as a chef.
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- Elk is the meat of Montana. Using elk has consistently made me more and more eager to push that boundary of what can I do with one animal. It's become this obsession of about how can I make my mark as a chef in Montana. My name is Ben Jones, executive chef at The Resort at Paws Up. It's a unique Montana experience. We do adventure, we do food in a experiential way, kind of hands on approach. That's been kind of the whole process of this dish for me is learning how to use elk in its entirety, and out of respect of harvesting my first elk three years ago. That's why this elk chop with huckleberry demi-glace is so important to me because I know where it comes from, and I know I wanna share that with guests. Elk is such a special ingredient that you only get a little bit. You don't get 12 ounce of elk, you get six or four. You're gonna need four ounces, basically a medallion, if you will. And you're gonna take that, season it somewhat liberally with kosher salt, fresh ground pepper. Once you've seasoned it, you're gonna sear it in a really hot pan. Your oil is just about to start to smoke, or a little bit of smoke's coming out of your oil. And you're gonna sear it for about 45 seconds on each side. And each side, when you cut a medallion of elk, you're gonna get one, two, three, four, five, six sides. You want that golden brown look around the entire medallion. When you do that, then you let it rest for a few minutes, and so that way it keeps all the moisture inside, and that meat stays as flavorful and moist as possible. The yams are more speaking to kind of like a down home style, rustic. Kind of like, you know, your mom made this. Wash the yam off before you throw it in the oven. 350 degrees for about an hour. I don't like all the sugar to come out of the yam while you're roasting it, so I want that skin intact. Pull it out of the oven, you're gonna let it cool down until you can actually handle it. And once it is cool enough, you're gonna cut it into about one and a half or two inch kind of medallions itself. Skin on. And then you're gonna put those cut side down into some turbinado sugar, or Sugar in the Raw. And then in a super hot cast iron pan, as soon as you put that sugar side down inside that pan it's gonna start smoking and caramelizing that sugar right away. It should only take about 30 seconds. You can pull it right out of the pan, and then set it right down. It took me until I was well into my adulthood to appreciate a Brussels sprout, but now they're my favorite thing in the world. In order to pan roast the Brussels sprouts, we're going to add a little grape seed oil in the bottom of a cast iron skillet. Then your gonna add your Brussels sprouts. And you're gonna let that kinda start sizzling, and getting nice and hot. And then you're gonna add a little bit of garlic and shallots to that. Once those start to toast a little bit, you'll add some salt and pepper, and a little bit of butter. Once that butter starts to melt, you'll de-glaze the pan with a little bit of water, three or four tablespoons of water, just to kinda help steam the Brussels sprouts so you can get a nice solid roast on the leaves themselves, and get a really solid golden brown pan roast on the Brussels sprouts, if you will. People who don't know what huckleberries are, and they come to Montana, and they try out huckleberries for the first time, they're hooked. The flavor is sweet but tart. It's uniquely huckleberry. Stainless steel, heavy gauge pot, you wanna have your port and your huckleberries in the pan, medium high heat. Let that come up to a boil, and you're gonna turn it down to a simmer. Once that's reduced now, together, you're gonna add your demi-glace to that. Demi-glace is not an easy ingredient to come by because you have to make veal stock to make demi-glace. Once you add your demi-glace to that, you're pretty much completed that sauce. You're able to use that as an instant sauce now on the elk dish. You have the elk short loin, huckleberry demi-glace, candied yam, and pan roasted Brussels sprouts. We're gonna place the yams on the center of the plate, candied side up. You're gonna slice the elk against the grain, three or four times, depending on the length of the elk. And you're gonna place those cut side up on top of the yams in the center of the plate. Kind of shingle it nicely across the top of the yam so it covers the entire portion of the yams. Dance the Brussels sprouts around the plate, whether it's in the front around it to the back. And then your huckleberry demi-glace gets dressed over the top of a portion of the elk. You don't wanna cover up the entire elk, but just over from one corner to the next, across the plate. And then you're gonna place your beets in between those danced Brussels sprouts. And this is the pan roasted elk short loin with huckleberry demi-glace, candied yams, pan roasted Brussels sprouts, and shaved beets. This is my definition of Montana, or my Montana experience. The crispiness on the Brussels sprouts and the richness of the red meat of the elk, they all come together for a reason on the plate. The huckleberry finishes it. And you get the tart, sweet, acid playing off of everything. This is a big deal for me, in being able to sit down and eat this, and say wow, I'm sharing a little bit of my whole life in a few simple steps on a plate. This dish is what represents, to me, living in Montana and raising my family here, and how I can share my love of food with my guests.