Fr. Z’s Kitchen: THINK FAST!! Impromptu surprise sudden what can you do with this supper

My company from Sunday showed up tonight, surprise, with "Hey Father! What can you do with this?"



What to do?

I dragged up a bottle of Bonarda and got it breathing.

Onions and a little celery in the pan with butter and walnuts.  I had walnuts because of the chocolate chip cookies I made on Sunday.

Let them caramelize and deglaze with sherry.

Start some water for to steam broccoli, which I was going to eat tonight with, yes, ramen.

Meanwhile the veg is getting nice.

Start a Marsala reduction FAST.  NOW!  DO IT!

I added some honey.  I was anticipating that the flavors would be too savory without some contrast.  In retrospect this was a great choice.

Make Bearnaise sauce FAST … happily, I have tarragon growing in abundance and had fresh eggs. HURRY!

No photos of that, sorry.  I was moving with speed.

Get a big pan going with an oil that takes a high flash point: walnut oil (which is why I added walnuts to the veg).

The elk spent less than two minutes, just over a minute probably, in the pan.   REALLY HOT.   You have to be daring.  Light salt and pepper.

Ta da!

This is what you do with stuff on hand.

Meat such as elk is hard to work with, unless you are confident.

You must be willing to make very rare elk.

Then, let the meat rest a moment.  It is good hot.  It is better when it relaxes and cools a moment.

Lean meat is like this.  Venison is like this.

Remember what elk eat and build around those flavors.

I started with a penny sized piece in the pan to get a sense of the heat of the oil and speed of the cooking.

I spooned the Marsala reduction over the meat and veg.

I say about … 15 minutes, beginning to end, but I was moving pretty fast.

It was really good.

For dessert, which I wasn’t planning for tonight, cheese and pears with a sweet wine.

Where I failed was the involvement of the …


I was brought a rutabaga.

I begged off making the rutabaga tonight.

Next time… perhaps with the upcoming Coq au vin?

In the meantime…

We had a very interesting conversation, including the Holy Father on his trip to Fatima, the "third secret" and the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the world economic melt-down, and how young people do not understand what troops went through in WWI, WWII and Korea, compared to how wars are today.

Then came my digression on what I would do if I were Pope.

I will write more about my contribution … probably tomorrow.

And here I thought it was a ramen night.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. MargaretC says:

    Father, I am dazzled by your speed and ingenuity. I’d need more than 15 minutes to assemble the ingredients.

    Seriously, I’ve never cooked game, so I was very interested in your choice of flavors.

    And please, please post what you do with that rutabaga. I see them in the market, but I have no clue how to use them — unless as a door stop.

  2. Tom Ryan says:

    Pronghorn is better than Whitetail but most will tell you elk is the best.

  3. Margaret: I didn’t make the rutabaga because I lacked time. It takes a while to cook down.

    I contemplated slicing some super thin with a potato peeler or with a grater and then flash frying it, but I would have want to soak it a bit in salt water. Just too much work – a little too nouveau for me – and I already had the broccoli out for my supper anyway.

  4. mikew says:

    As my sister says in a very simple way when we all of a sudden take note that a special time is being had… she will call it, “one of those times.” I hope this meal and conversation for you was indeed, “one of those times.” Thanks for sharing your dinner. It certainly looks great!

  5. Joseph says:


    It looks delicious and . . . sturdy (I’m searching for the right adjective.)

    Margret, I’ve roasted rutabagas (along with potatoes and turnips)cubed into chunks, lightly drizzled with olive oil, and sprinkled with salt and freshly ground pepper. Simple, but they turned out quite well!

  6. teechrlady says:

    Fr. Z., you need your own Food Network show!

  7. Agnes says:

    Bleuch. I’ll take the Ramen!

  8. Agnes: Great! More elk for us!

  9. teechrlady: And what would this show show? Reading the office… suddenly… DING DONG… someone shows up at the door with the surprise ingredient and a timer…

  10. Patikins says:

    I’ve never had any game before but I’d be willing to try it. I like — no love! — lamb and I am told it is somewhat “gamey.”. I would have to have the elk without the walnuts and walnut oil though. Those would send me to the Emergency room. :(

  11. lucy says:

    Thank God you didn’t have to eat ramen again…….

  12. Norah says:

    I Googled to find out what ramen was. Premuming I have ‘caught’ my ramen what do I do with it now?

  13. Lucy: I don’t mind ramen. You can see that I am able to cook. I choose often to eat ramen for my budget and for its speed.

  14. Joseph says:

    Father: I rarely buy any meat. More than 90% of it is deer and moose, with the rest being lamb. When I do any game in a frying pan, I only use butter. With a meat hammer I pound the meat thin and fry it quickly, so it remains very tender. Roast I do with a regular roaster with 1/2 an inch of water in the bottom until the meat falls off the bone. As spices i use salt, pepper and crushed Juniper berries in all of the above.

  15. Charivari Rob says:

    Fr. Z. – “…what would this show show? Reading the office… suddenly… DING DONG… someone shows up at the door with the surprise ingredient and a timer…”

    I had a sudden mental image of using some variation of the set from the old Dean Martin program – excepting that the liquor cabinet behind the secret panel would be replaced (or perhaps add a complementary) spice rack or pantry.

    You could use a fake bookcase to front the secret panel, with fake book spines – perhaps the published works of Father McBrien, and the indexes for the NCR?

  16. ckdexterhaven says:

    Fr. Z, I wish my brother-in-law was Catholic so he could read your blog and read that the elk meat should be RARE. He always has a freezer full of elk, but insists on cooking it in a roast, always well done +. Could be why I don’t like elk….

  17. Joan M says:

    Fr. Z said: I choose often to eat ramen for my budget and for its speed.

    I usually have some ramen in my kithcen cupboard, also, for the budget and for its speed. I’ve not sampled the brand you show in your picture. Living in Trinidad, West Indies, the variety of imported foods are limited. Most of the ramen available is very blah. Occasionally, very occasionally, I have been able to find a really good one that comes from Korea (I can’t remember the name). It sells for about 5 times the price of the usually available ones, but it is worth it. Haven’t had it for more than a year.

    I really must make a trip to the only shopping mall that it might be available – about 30 kilometers from home (I seldom go to that mall as the highway there is very busy and I dislike the mall because of it’s size [probably the largest in Trinidad] and the distance between restrooms!).

  18. Tradster says:

    I’m waiting for the book “What Does the Receipe Really Say?”

  19. chironomo says:

    I keep expecting Iron Chef to jump out and say…”The Secret Ingredient is…. RUTABAGA!!!”

    What to make with Raman Noodles and a Rutabaga…. Hmmm??

    The Raman Noodle thing works if you get a good brand… some of them are truly wretched…

  20. KarenLH says:


    “What Does the Recipe Really Say?” Me too … that would be great!

  21. Grabski says:

    Tradster “What does the Recipe Really Say” gets one more vote.

  22. Joseph says:


    We like Ramen around here too. My young son, especially. Do you ever worry about the sodium content though? Lately I’ve only been using a small portion of the “flavoring packet” in order to cut out some sodium.

  23. Tradster says:

    KarenLH and Grabski: Thanks for the spelling correction.

  24. William of the Old says:

    What Chateau and vintage was the Sauternes, Father? Can’t make the label out, but sure it was not a d’Yquem. Just curious.

  25. yatzer says:

    What is a Marsala reduction?

  26. Mmmmmm. Sounds very good.

    Yatzer —

    Wikipedia says: “In cooking, reduction is the process of thickening or intensifying the flavor of a liquid mixture such as a soup, sauce, wine, or juice by boiling.” says: “A sauce made with the juices released from oven roasted or stove top cooked foods, such as meat, poultry or vegetables.”

    So it’s cooked down Marsala wine, I guess, probably with other yummies in it to make a good sauce. A lot of people seem to do this with whatever’s left at the bottom of the pan after you cook stuff; but I guess Father was just doing it fresh?

  27. GregH says:

    If I give you a donation will you use it for food?

  28. wanda says:

    Continuing on the theme for the cooking show..Fr. Z. names the ingredients in Latin as he adds them. Instead of shouting ‘Blam’, shout it’s Latin equivalent. Chant playing in the background. Show opens with pastoral shots of Farm, barn and birds at the feeders, chirping in the background. I could go on, but probably shouldn’t.

    Thank you Father, for the tales of your day and of meals you prepare. This one looks good, have never had Elk, but you make it look very appealing.

  29. GregH: If I give you a donation will you use it for food?


  30. Frank H says:

    ckdexterhaven: “I wish my brother-in-law was Catholic so he could read your blog…”

    I don’t believe that Catholicism is a pre-requisite for reading this blog! :-)

    (But I think reading it might lead one toward the Faith!)

  31. Agnes of Prague says:

    What a great anecdotal post, Father. Thanks!

  32. Geoffrey says:

    Wow! A priest really is ‘alter Christus’! Christ Himself turned water into wine at Cana. Fr. Z can take a hodge-podge of ingredients and turn them into a fantastic meal at the Sabine! ;-)

  33. Julie says:

    My husband ordered elk at a French Restaurant. They served it rare with a chocolate sauce. He loved it!!

    I like to make rutabagas like mashed potatoes, boiled, drained, mashed with butter and cream with a pinch or two of salt. Sometimes mixing with potatoes, sometimes not.

    What a real “happy meal”.

  34. yatzer says:

    Fr.Z, I tried ramen as you described it: cilantro, warmed peanut butter,a dash of soy sauce for lunch today. It was very tasty. I put the flavoring packed in the noodles and then pour the water off when the noodles are softened. That takes a good bit of the sodium off. I think the flavoring is too strong anyhow.

    Suburbanbanshee, thanks for the explanation .

  35. I’ve never had Elk, but that sure looks good.

  36. susanna says:

    Ramen also good with oriental veggies. Rutabaga-very nutritious-good in vegetable soup, good comfort food mashed.
    (Father, don’t you have a cook/housekeeper?)

  37. The-Monk says:

    Love elk. It’s hard to come by unless you know someone whose going on a hunting trip to Montana or Wyoming. You’re absolutely correct to make it rare. Overall rating ***** (five stars: creativity, ingenuity, product)

  38. The Monk: This came from Colorado. And thanks for the rating!

  39. TKS says:

    Ah, I’ll go with the “FAST FAST” :)

  40. Jayna says:

    Do people often show up with random ingredients and ask you to whip up a meal, Father?

  41. Ed the Roman says:

    Fortunately, rutabaga is patient.

  42. irishgirl says:

    At first, when I saw the platter of meat I thought it was LIVER! But then, I’m not much of a cook, so what do I know….? : )

    I like Tradster’s idea of a cooking show with Father Z! And I love the title, too!

    You must have broken the world’s record for the fastest meal prep, Padre!

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