After EDGE YK editor Laurie Sarkadi saved a dead bear from being brought to the dump, our team decided to use as much of the animal as possible. To make this happen, I agreed to lend my culinary talents to prepare a meal with the meat.
Presented with 15 kilos of bear meat – a haunch, neatly detached from the main body, and three slabs of backstrap – I ravaged my memory bank for possible treatments and landed on a couple of old favourites – a spicy, salty marinade intended for lamb and a classic slow roast/braise used for beef short ribs.
The first task was to trim fat and tissue from the backstrap and separate the meat from the leg bone. The backstrap resembled flank steak, so it was scored deeply in a cross-hatch pattern to keep it from retracting into a ball when it hit the blazing-hot grill. Half the leg meat, a bit less than five kilos, was reserved for spicy bear-pork sausage, the rest was cubed for long, slow braising in a large, covered roasting pan.
The meat was placed on a bed of sliced onion and several branches of fresh rosemary (thyme would do, as well) doused with a litre of beef stock and a cup of white wine (never red), then seasoned with coarse salt and fresh ground pepper. A few parsnip and carrot tips were tossed in to sweeten the broth, and everything went into a 325 degree oven. At three hours, the meat was still springy, so the heat was pushed to 350. At four hours, it was fork tender.
The marinade was a half-cup each of minced fresh ginger, minced onion, and soy sauce, one-quarter cup each of minced fresh thyme, olive oil and crushed black pepper corns. The backstrap was left in the marinade for 24 hours, then hit the 500 degree grill with a sizzle and cloud of aromatic smoke. After six minutes a side, it was nicely charred on the outside. It would have benefited from a 10-minute rest, but it was cut open to reveal a blood-rare centre and then sliced thin.
Jay Bulckaert took this photo, tasted the meat, and had this to say:
On the Side
The sides were carrots and parsnips dusted with nutmeg and grated ginger and roasted separately from the bear meat; garden salad dressed with olive oil and fresh lemon with garnishes of olives and goat cheese; a vast pot of polenta; a ragu of wild mushrooms – some dried. These included birch boletes harvested from the Jackfish Lake trail, morels found and processed by Craig Scott and some fresh shaggy manes and meadow mushrooms found in the shade of Twin Pine Hill.
The meal was an informal tasting for a dozen friends and colleagues who happily demolished everything on offer and washed it down with beer and wine. A more formal dinner would have been rounded out with gravalax prepared from Great Slave Lake trout as a savoury starter with toasts of iced vodka/mescal, a Tuscan minestrone of northern garden vegetables and a wild fruit/rhubarb cobbler for dessert.