Last week, I stopped by the local spirit-selling store to pick up a beer to drink with the Heart Stew. Anyone reading that post the entire way through will know that I chose Stone's Arrogant Bastard. Well, as I browsing the craft beer section, I found my self suddenly distracted by bottles of artisan hard ciders. On a total whim I bought a 22 oz. bottle of each of the two varieties. And decided I would cook a meal with which to drink each of them.
Crispin ® Natural hard apple cider : Honey Crisp was this evening's beverage of choice. (I have not in fact, received or been promised anything by Cripsin. I just really liked the cider, and the meal I made, so I'm writing about it.) The side of the bottle reads "Naturally fermented using a premium blend of unpasteurized fresh-pressed apple juice, not from concentrate, with no added malt, spirit or grape alcohols. Experience an earthy, fruity bouquet with an authentic cidery aroma and hints of honey. A yeasty, full-bodied flavor, creamy mouth-feel with a crisp finish and unusual complexity. Honey Crisp Artisanal Reserve, unfiltered cloudy hard cider, uses racked apple-wine smoothed with pure organic honey, with no added sugar, colorants, sorbate or benzoate preservatives." You can see why I was intrigued.
As I was turning over in my mind what meal would do this cider justice, I happened to be talking about food with my sister. This is a common subject of conversation between the two of us. She suggested Honey-glazed caribou. And my eyes went wide with the brilliance of the thought. She amazes me from time to time, this sister of mine. She is a devout vegetarian, but has worked in –and run – commercial kitchens where she not only cooked but also developed recipes for meat dishes. She comes up with brilliant concepts like the proscuitto wrapped medjool dates of Thanksgiving fame, and makes them. But she doesn't eat them. And still the brilliance of what she does with flavors that she only smells constantly amazes me.
And so dinner tonight was Honey-glazed Caribou with Honey Crisp Hard Cider. And oh my word. I'm not entirely sure how long it would have taken me to come up with the idea of cooking caribou with honey, but let me tell you, it would have been far too long. I didn’t use any other spices or flavorings on the caribou, just cooked it with honey from my mother's bees this summer past (or perhaps the one before?). And it was beyond words, mellow and savory, sweet and wholesome. Eaten in the same bite with baked potato in salt and pepper and butter; the sweetness and the salt and the pepper bloomed on the tongue. That delicious gaminess of the caribou was tempered by the flavor of the honey, and kept if from feeling like dessert. I served it with cabbage sautéed in butter and baked potatoes. It would have been an entirely Alaskan food meal if not for the sweet potatoes I also cooked to add color to our plates and diets. The cider was lovely, dry and crisp. The honey flavors picked up on each other and made glory on the tastebuds, but I think the caribou would have appreciated something a little deeper flavored, and perhaps not quite as dry. The Darlin'Man says we ought to try it with mead next time. I am sure there will be a next time.
Take one frozen caribou roast. It is frozen because you mistakenly thawed ground caribou earlier in the day. You are determined to use a roast, however, so set aside the ground meat for use in a day or two.
In a cast iron skillet on low heat, whisk together about 2 tablespoons of really good honey, with a generous splash of olive oil and enough water to about 1/3 fill the skillet.
Set the frozen roast in the skillet and let it begin to thaw as the oven below bakes potaoes.
Turn on the heat under the skillet far before the roast is fully thawed. Put a large lid over roast. Ocassionally check it with a fork and flip it over until it is thawed through, cooked on the outside and bleeds when you stick it. Remove roast to a cutting board. Pour pan drippings into dog bowl to mix with kibble.
Silce roast in an attempt at crossgrain into maybe ½ inch slices? Pour some olive oil into the bottom of the same skillet and lay the caribou slices in the oil. Put a small dollop of really good honey on the upper face of each slice of roast. I don't know how much I used, perhaps ½ teaspoon each? Perhaps a teaspoon.
Turn on the heat to sear the bottoms of the slices as the honey begins to melt. Turn the slices over. In a moment or two, the honey and oil will have become a delicious goo mixing with the caribou juices in the bottom of the pan. Turn the slices over a few times, shaking the skillet as though you are a chef on a cooking show to coat them in the glaze.
Remove slices to plates, and replace skillet with glaze over high heat, to reduce. Pour glaze over meat and serve with honey cider, potatoes, and greens.