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Musk Ox for Dinner

Why do many people enjoy eating exotic wild game? In today’s world of mass-produced food, where many domestic meats have little flavor but contain a variety of chemicals and hormones, wild game offers a culinary sensation that is impossible to duplicate with anything purchased at a grocery store. If you are planning a cookout, game makes an excellent choice for the grill. One of the best features of wild meat is that the flavor stands alone.

Some people are afraid that serving exotic wild game at a party will be a disaster. The fact is, wild game is just as easy to cook as any cut that you can purchase locally. Since wild game cuts come with a rich flavor, you can prepare the meat more simply. Many people find that a light basting of oil and a sprinkling of spices is all that is needed to bring out the best flavors in wild meat, whatever it is they decide to cook. Some people enjoy the opportunity to try something that is new to their taste buds, and individuals that would not normally prepare game meat for themselves will eagerly sample what you’ve cooked up, including musk ox.

Musk ox accompanied the woolly mammoth across the Bering land bridge straight into Pleistocene North America, but unlike their massive traveling companions, the heavy-coated musk ox are still around. One might wonder how any prehistoric animal could survive for so long.

Part of the answer lies in the musk ox’s adaptation to live where relatively few competitors or predators dare—where temperatures can dip to minus 100 degreesFahrenheit. Surviving such cold can be tricky. For the musk ox, called oomingmak or “bearded one” by Native Alaskans, it’s all about an undercoat called qiviut (pronounced KIH-vee-ute).

Hunting musk ox under a permit system is conducted on Nunivak Island, Nelson Island and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Musk ox meat is an excellent source of protein and iron; it also provides many essential B vitamins. The fat content of musk ox meat is very low (1 to 2 percent) and it makes a terrific burger. Speaking of which, for something to really tantalize your taste buds, try Stuffed Musk Ox Italian-style Hamburgers. A perfect food for the grill, with sun-dried tomatoes, capers and mozzarella cheese to accent the musk ox, giving these hamburgers special pizzazz.

For the recipe, you need:
1 ½-pound ground musk ox
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup drained tiny capers
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 diced plum tomatoes
2 egg yolks
8 tomato halves,coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper and
5 tablespoons grated mozzarella cheese.

With all this in hand:
*Prepare hot charcoals for grilling.
*Combine all the ingredients, except for the cheese, in a bowl.
*Divide the mixture in half and make 4 musk ox patties out of each half.
*Then make a small indentation in the center of the patties and place grated mozzarella in each. Use the remaining meat to finish the patties.
*Grill over hot coals for 3 minutes on each side for rare, or longer to taste. Serves 4.

Delicious Musk Ox Barley Soup calls for:
2 pounds musk ox meat
2 chopped onions
2 chopped celery stalks
1 garlic clove
¼ cup sherry
basil, rosemary and bay leaf to taste
3 peppercorns
2 small diced potatoes, and a 1/2-cup barley.

Cut the meat into two-inch cubes and brown with onions and garlic clove in butter or cooking oil. After meat is browned, fill a pot with water and add seasonings. Simmer for an hour or until meat is tender. Add barley and simmer. Just before the barley is done, add potatoes and cook until potatoes are tender.

To prepare a Musk Ox and Wild Berry Casserole you need
1 musk ox shoulder, cubed
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 diced onions
3 roughly chopped parsnips
3 chopped carrots
12 small shallots, peeled and left whole
1 bottle of red wine, such as Pinot Noir
500 milliliters reduced veal stock
3 tablespoons wild or cultivated berries
salt and ground pepper

Season the meat well with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a high-sided frying pan or casserole over medium heat. Add meat and quickly sear on both sides. Remove the meat from the pan using a perforated spoon.

Add the onions and fry until they start to show color. Then return the meat to the pan and fry until browned. Add the parsnips, carrots and shallots and fry for 2 minutes. Pour in the wine, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for about 45 minutes, until super-tender. Stir in the berries just before serving.

For Stuffed Musk Ox Tenderloin with Cranberry you need:
1/2 pound musk ox tenderloin, butterflied
2 ounces thinly sliced Swiss cheese
1 sliced mushroom
4 broccoli florets
4 tablespoons cranberries
3 teaspoons orange juice
1 pound of butter
1/2 a garlic clove, finely minced
assorted fresh veggies
1 medium-size boiled potato
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon soy sauce and one teaspoon Tabasco sauce.

Simmer the cranberries in the orange juice until they just start to burst. Then set aside and keep warm.

Stuff the musk ox with the cheese, mushroom and broccoli, then roll it up and tie with a string. Bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees F. Untie the musk ox and top with the cranberry.

Serve with fresh vegetables sautéed in garlic butter and sprinkled with lemon juice and a boiled potato marinated in soy sauce and Tabasco.

Musk Ox Breakfast Spread is a welcome change from topping toast, English muffin or bagels with jam. The spread is ideal at room temperature, or from the refrigerator; it can be ready after 15 seconds in the microwave.

For the spread you need:
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 finely chopped shallots
1 minced garlic clove
1 pound ground musk ox
1/2 a teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 a teaspoon ground thyme
1/4 teaspoon ground sage
1/4 teaspoon ground savory; 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 cup water
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
diced tomatoes for garnish and freshly chopped parsley, also for garnish.

Sauté shallots in olive oil over medium heat until nearly transparent but not browned. Add garlic, cook and stir for about one minute, then add musk ox. Continue to cook, stirring, until the meat has lost its red color. Lower the heat to avoid browning pan contents. Add salt, pepper, thyme, sage, savory, dry mustard and water. Continue cooking and stirring until the moisture in the pan is nearly gone. Remove pan from heat. Transfer meat to a mixing bowl. Allow meat to cool to room temperature. Blend in butter to turn meat mixture into a spread.  Refrigerate in sealed containers and use within 4 days.

For Musk Ox Jerky, cut 3 pounds of musk ox into 3-inch strips. You also need 2 teaspoons salt.

5 tablespoons sugar
a small amount of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Allspice
2 tablespoons soy sauce and 2 tablespoons red wine. Combine all ingredients and marinate for 24 hours. Then bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes, or until brown, turning once.

Nutritionists suggest that for good health, we should imitate the eating habits of our cavemen ancestors. Forget Dr. Atkins, abandon other food fads and try a Stone Age diet. It may be over a million years old, but a regime of cooked wild game, accompanied by fresh leaves, nuts and fruits, washed down with wine or water, is perfect for the human body.

A diet that was consumed by pre-agricultural-era humans is ideal because the human body evolved around it. Many of today’s chronic health problems could largely be the consequence of dietary changes, and a “modern” diet may, therefore, do as much harm to the human body as putting diesel fuel in a gasoline engine. Archaeological evidence suggests that Stone Age man did not suffer from heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis and other chronic diseases.

Lean meat, fish, leafy vegetables and fruits are health promoting because of our pre-agricultural ancestral experience, during which experience such basic, simple foods fueled human evolution. In short, eat your musk ox and wash it down with a delicious red wine. Surprise people who just may show up unannounced for dinner. They should be impressed.

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Joe Zentner is a freelance writer and photographer who was named after a long-time rancher on Kodiak Island.

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