Chef Josh Drage shares rustic yet refined recipes perfect for your next “glamping” trip.
Five-star accommodations at The Ranch at Rock Creek, a unique luxury ranch in western Montana, deserve five-star dining, and executive chef Josh Drage inventively delivers. Along with fly-fishing in the Blue Ribbon trout stream that gives the ranch its name, horseback riding on 6,600 acres (and then some) of valley and mountain, and “glamping” the good life, an extraordinary culinary adventure awaits. Here, Drage shares a few recipes from his ranch cuisine repertoire.
Braised Elk Chuck Roast With Puttanesca Sauce
Serves 4 – 6
I first made this on the North Fork of the Flathead River with venison steaks seared over an open flame in a cast-iron pan. I have since cooked a variation of such on rivers between there and the San Juan River in southern Utah. I adapted the recipe for the ranch to use a shoulder or chuck roast of an elk. I served this at the Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival in 2011. —Executive chef John Drage
Roast Tomato Base
12 whole Roma tomatoes
1 head garlic
½ cup olive oil
Pinch red chile flakes
Toss all the ingredients in a bowl, leaving the tomatoes whole. Add to a baking dish and roast at 400 degrees for about 30 – 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. Then run through a food mill, removing the skins.
3 tablespoons oil
3 – 6 garlic cloves
1 medium onion
6 Roma tomatoes
1 cup pinot grigio (the Italian version of pinot gris)
2 cups roast tomato base (see recipe above)
1 cup Kalamata olives
2 tablespoons capers
2 roasted red peppers
1 teaspoon chile flakes
½ cup fresh Italian parsley leaves
6 fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon fresh marjoram
Put the olive oil in a broad sauce pot and add the chopped shallots, garlic, and onion. Cook over high heat to soften the flesh but not brown. Add the anchovies, stirring in and allowing them to melt (about 2 minutes). Add the tomatoes to the pan and continue cooking for about a minute. Deglaze with white wine and reduce by half. Add the tomato base, olives, capers, roasted red peppers, and chile flakes. Simmer over a low heat for 30 minutes. Turn off the heat. Chop and mix in the fresh herbs.
Braised Elk Shoulder
5 pounds elk shoulder or chuck roast
½ bottle preferred red wine
2 medium onions
6 garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
6 fresh thyme twigs
Veal stock (amount variable, see cooking instructions)
Red wine for deglazing
Over high heat, brown the sides of the roast in a Dutch oven. Remove and deglaze with red wine. Add the roast back to the pot along with everything else except the stock. Fill the Dutch oven with stock until the level of liquid reaches two thirds of the way up. Cover and cook for about 6 hours in the oven at 250 degrees. Roll the roast every so often, and check the level of liquid, readjusting the level if necessary so the pot does not dry out. Uncover and cook for another hour rolling the roast in the pot. When the meat easily pulls apart, it is done, even if that happens before 6 hours.
2 cups milk
1 cup flour
4 cups panko breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper
Make an egg mixture by whisking the eggs and milk together. Standard breading procedure is to take the item being breaded first into flour then into the egg-milk mixture and then into the breadcrumbs. In this case, do so with slices of the eggplant about ½-inch thick. Once you have all of your eggplant breaded, brown the outside in a pan over medium heat with a fair bit of olive oil in the bottom. (Cooking over medium heat will make the brown richer and will also cook the eggplant all the way through.) Season with salt and pepper.
Remove the elk from the cooking liquid and cool. Tear the meat apart into about 3- to 4-ounce pieces, removing any unwanted parts. Reduce the cooking liquid until it becomes thick and rich. Add a portion of this to the puttanesca sauce, melding the flavors. In a large straight-sided sauté pan, lay the elk portions in the puttanesca and bring to temperature. Once all is hot and the eggplant is done, layer on a plate, starting with the eggplant and the puttanesca sauce and topping it with the elk. Shred a bit of Parmesan reggiano and add more fresh parsley, marjoram, or basil.
Chef’s tips: Use good anchovies and lots if you like — the elk can handle it. Both the elk and the puttanesca sauce can be done ahead of time and held in the refrigerator a day or two before serving.
The Sapphire Range Frittata
1 pound bacon
1 bunch scallions
1 cup cubed Gouda (Flathead Lake Cheese Company Gouda, preferred)
2 ounces olive oil
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
Juice of 1 lemon
1 bunch parsley
Pinch of chile flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
1 ounce olive oil
Prepare your morning campfire. It is important to produce coals for effective Dutch oven cooking. Once the firewood has mostly reduced to coals, use a shovel to push the flaming wood to one side of the fire ring. On the other side of the ring, away from the flame, create a flat cooking surface covered with a small layer of coals (equal to 10 small pieces of charcoal). Place your Dutch oven (lid on) atop the coal-covered cooking surface. Shovel an equal amount of coals onto the top of the oven. Allow the dry (no oil or ingredients within) Dutch oven to preheat for 10 minutes prior to cooking.
Cut bacon into 1-inch pieces. Sauté until crisp in another pan on your fire. Remove the bacon with a spoon and set it aside in a bowl for later.
Prepare the garnish. Halve the cherry tomatoes and chop the parsley. Halve and pit the avocado. Cut into small pieces and place the tomatoes, parsley, and avocado in a bowl. Add lemon juice, salt, chile flakes, and olive oil. Toss and set the bowl aside.
Cube the gouda and set it aside.
Whip the eggs thoroughly in a bowl until they begin to lighten. Add the scallion and whip together. Remove the lid on the Dutch oven using thick oven mitts, placing it on the rocks of your fire ring. Keep some coals on top to retain even cooking temperature while it rests. Add olive oil to the Dutch oven and pour in the eggs. Scrape across the bottom with a spatula to fold in the cooking eggs as they bubble. Repeat the folding process until the eggs are about one-third cooked. Season with salt and pepper. Add the bacon and Gouda; fold into the eggs quickly. Replace the lid of the Dutch oven. Cook for 15 – 20 minutes without peeking.
Check the frittata after the allotted time. Remove the Dutch oven from the coals. If the eggs aren't fully cooked, fold through one more time before serving. Garnish the top of the finished frittata with your tomato and avocado mixture. Adjust your garnish to include whatever is in season in your area. Serve around the campfire.
Read our feature on The Ranch at Rock Creek in the October 2015 issue.