When I was home for Christmas I acquired five pounds of frozen moose meat. It’s a long story, how this happened—moose meat cannot be sold, so the only way to get some is to shoot it or know someone who did. I am told that shooting a moose is not terribly difficult (once you encounter one, it tends to move slowly if at all). The real luck comes in winning a permit in Maine’s annual moose lottery. Well, let’s just say I know a guy who knows a guy, and this guy got lucky.
My connection—I’ll call him Big Fred—took his moose permit and went hunting with one of his buddies, also named Fred. Lo and behold, Big Fred spots a big bull. Killed it with one shot. When the Freds got the thing out of the woods, into the truck and down to the tagging station, they learned it was the biggest moose ever tagged in their town.
To say Big Fred was proud of his trophy would be a gross understatement. He has an album of photos and will tell anyone who asks how he got this 900-pound behemoth with a single shot. If you show interest, he may even offer you some meat. He had the moose butchered and got over 450 pounds frozen. I got three pounds of ground moose meat and a pack containing two steaks.
Since this was my first time cooking and eating moose, I thought I would start by making burgers: something simple that would allow the taste to come through. The raw meat is noticeably darker than beef, a deep bluish-red. The hamburg (mooseburg?) was ground fine, and since there is virtually no fat on a moose I was afraid the burgers might fall apart without a binding agent. I added one egg to a package of thawed meat, and a little salt and pepper, but no other seasonings.
I made six small burgers, handling them as lightly as possible, using that trick with the indentation in the top in case it really does make a difference. To compensate for the leanness of the meat I rubbed my grill pan with a healthy amount of oil then heated it to medium-high and cooked the burgers quickly, a few minutes per side. I like burgers from any animal to be medium-rare verging on rare, but some of my dining companions were squeamish, so I let a few of the burgers continue on toward medium.
It tasted better than any other meat I have ever eaten. I had my burger plain, no bun, and I’m glad I did. I only cared about the meat. It tasted dark, strong, not gamey—almost sweet. Rich, but not greasy or heavy. I am accustomed to associating rich-tasting meat with a greasy mouthfeel, so it took a moment to wrap my brain around the absence of fat. I could have eaten all the burgers at once, by myself, but I didn’t want to be a pig (moosepig?).
The following week I made chili. I didn’t plan well and was hampered by a) a lack of tomato paste and b) the fact that I ran out of chili powder one teaspoon in, after I had a giant pot of moose, onions, tomatoes and peppers simmering. In the end it was more like picadillo than chili (minus the olives and raisins), but it tasted pretty good with extra hot sauce and some hot cornbread from the cast iron skillet. Scratch that, better than pretty good. Pretty great.
Now I have one package of ground moose and the two steaks left, and I want to do them justice. Any suggestions?