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za'atar-crusted elk steak & lion's mane mushrooms

Updated: Jun 14, 2023

Recipe by our friend, Jeff Benda.

Elk steak seared and crusted in spices.
Za'atar Spice is not just any ordinary blend of dried herbs and spices, it's a tantalizing fusion of savory oregano, marjoram or thyme, and toasted cumin and coriander that tantalize your taste buds with a rich earthy aroma. What makes it truly exceptional is the addition of sesame seeds, salt, and the star of the show - sumac. This special ingredient is the key to unlocking the tangy, zesty flavor that sets the best za'atar apart from the rest.

I'm always experimenting with different ways to cook venison steaks. Za'atar is a Middle Eastern blend of herbs and sesame seeds. I added dried oregano and thyme to boost its herbal flavor for this dish. I used an Elk steak from a North Dakota Elk Hunt and some Lion's Mane mushrooms I got from the local farmer's market. Cooking the steak in a cast iron skillet gives it a beautiful sear and locks in the flavors, making for a delicious and impressive meal. Whether you're a seasoned pro at cooking venison or a newcomer to the game meat world, this recipe will impress your taste buds and guests alike.


 

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 6-ounce Elk Steaks (2-inch thick)

  • 2 cups Lion's Mane mushrooms, cleaned & sliced

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

  • 1 Tablespoon sumac

  • 1 Tablespoon cumin

  • 1 Tablespoon black sesame seeds

  • 1 Tablespoon white sesame seeds

  • 1 Tablespoon dried oregano

  • 1 Tablespoon dried thyme

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil

  • 2 Tablespoons butter

  • sprig of fresh thyme

  • sprig of fresh oregano


Jeff holds a pair of Elk backstraps after a successful hunt in the snow.
The result of Jeff's successful Elk Hunt!

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Place the steaks on a cutting board and tenderize them with a Jaccard meat tenderizer.

  • Use a paper towel and pat the steaks dry on both sides. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and black pepper on each side of each steak and press gently to ensure it sticks. Refrigerate the steaks on an uncovered plate for 1 hour.

  • Meanwhile, in a small bowl make the Za'atar by combining the sumac, cumin, sesame seeds, dried oregano, and dried thyme.

  • Before you cook, sprinkle each steak with 1 Tablespoon of the Za'atar, then let the steak sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.

  • Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. Set a large cast iron skillet over high heat until it's blazing hot, then add the olive oil.

  • Lay the steaks in the skillet side by side, and immediately decrease the heat to medium. Leave them alone for 2 minutes. You should see a deep-brown crust climbing about 1/4 inch from the bottom. Flip and cook the other side for another 2 minutes, until the other side is deeply browned as well.

  • Place the cast iron skillet with steak in the preheated oven and cook for about 6-7 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 130 degrees F.

  • Remove from the oven, then transfer the steaks to a cutting board to rest for 5 to 10 minutes while you prepare the mushrooms.

  • Return the same cast iron skillet to the stovetop. Over medium-high heat, add the 2 Tablespoons of butter and the Lion's Mane mushrooms and sauté for 3 minutes, stirring often.

  • Add the last Tablespoon of Za'atar seasoning to the mushrooms and sauté for another 1 minute.

  • Divide mushrooms between two plates, top with a steak, and serve immediately.


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