It’s all in the game

Terry Sewell, a force behind the city’s annual Wine and Fine Food Festival, invited me to pitch in at this year’s Rotary Wine and Fine…

Terry Sewell, a force behind the city’s annual Wine and Fine Food Festival, invited me to pitch in at this year’s Rotary Wine and Fine Food Festival in October. I immediately signed on.

In addition to attending the festival, I was able to tack on a couple of days to visit a friend who lived outside of town. It proved my good fortune — she had a roast of musk ox on hand.

Retailing and writing about vino and vittles are my stock in trade in Vancouver.

Kirstie fished the football shaped roast from the deep freeze.

“Would you know how to cook this? Because, I don’t.” She said with a grin. “And what should we drink with it?”

“I do”, I said, adding, “a gutsy shiraz.”

I love cooking game.

My brother-in-law, a cracker-jack hunter, provides us with a cache from his annual hunting trip.

And the wine I serve with it? Almost always quality syrah/shiraz, from France’s Rhone Valley, where it is blended with a fruity grape called Grenache, or bottled straight up from Australia — bold, earthy wines — perfect for game meats.

Kirstie headed for the hills with sidekick Bodi, her handsome Alsation, entrusting me to the kitchen.

I set to work, not totally worry free.

What if my methods fail? After all it’s not as though I can call for pizza back-up. Soon, my uneasiness dissipates.

I also concoct a moose daube. Earlier that morning I spied thick red meat clinging to moose bones (dinner for Bodie). I asked Kirstie if she could hack off a few strips for this French stew where game (or beef) slow-simmers with root vegetables in red wine, chopped ripe tomatoes, juniper berries, bay leaves, garlic, orange peel and thyme. After a few hours all collapse into a rich wine-laden sauce.

Throughout the day snow swirled softly around window panes. CBC kept me company with local programming and Yukon and NWT weather reports (unique to me).

Off and on I read as wine-rich scent fills the charming wood and wood-stove heated house, in the bush, North of 60. I couldn’t be cooking more local, organic, or seasonal. Or be happier.

That evening, four gals gathered at the table for a feast of roast, the stew, roasted root vegetables — and wine — a sturdy, silky Margaret River Estate Premium Shiraz (a wine festival hit), and a peppery Jaboulet Cotes de Ventoux.

Midst sip and savour, I am obliged to recite a recipe for roasting game.

More or less, here’s the spiel…

Like most game, musk ox is very lean. To tenderize the meat requires a long red wine/soy sauce bath (eight to 48 hours), with a couple of bay leaves, minced garlic and sprigs of thyme tossed in. I take the meat out of the marinade, pat it dry, then sear in the roasting pan on high heat in bacon fat (the crisped “lardoons” are great for scattering over a green salad, or just to munch on).

I cover the roast with more bacon rashers, then fire the meat into a pre-heated 325-degree giving it about 20-25 minutes a pound. If all goes well the roast emerges medium-rare, sweet and tender. A higher roasting temperature may result in cutting your teeth on shoe leather. But ovens vary. It’s wise to watch.

For rich gravy I bring the marinade to a merry boil for three minutes, remove from the heat, and twirled in a knob of butter.

Fueled by good food, good wine and lively conversation the evening winds down. So does my brief stay in the Yukon. Whitehorse is a special place with special folks. I left the next morning already hoping to return. Meanwhile I look forward to staying connected through my new food/wine column with the Yukon News.

An authentic daube recipe can be found online at http://www.leitesculinaria.com/recipes/cookbook/daube.html

A few words on shiraz/syrah

Syrah traditionally finds its home in the France’s Rhone Valley, where in the south it is blended with other grapes, most commonly Grenache.

In the Northern Rhone the wines are predominantly Syrah. Australia adopted the grape going for “shiraz.” The country produces “jug” style shiraz to sophisticated, bold wines for long-term cellaring. French shiraz tends toward earthy and peppery. Australian go for a more fruit-driven style

Suggested wines: Available at The Whitehorse Liquor Store or through special order.

Australia

68528Wolf Blass Eaglehawk Shiraz $15.35

360511 Jim Jim Shiraz  $22.95

491175 St. Hallett Faith Shiraz $27.60

6291136 Sandalford Margaret River Shiraz $32.00 (estimated price) from 33 year-old vines (available in six packs. Ask about special ordering)

N/A Two Hands Angels Share Shiraz $39.55 (special order)

France

37737 Jaboulet Cotes du Ventoux $17.35

563122 Fat Bastard Shiraz $18.20

Julie Pegg is a Vancouver-based

food and wine writer.

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