I went on something of a cooking kick this weekend – making everything from Risotto to Pita Bread to Mooseloaf over the course of several days. Since we didn’t even have moose meat until Saturday night, that’s saying something.
I’m not really sure where this interest in cooking came from, but it’s been wonderful to mix up my recipes (mainly midwestern fare, like meatballs, pizza, and mac & cheese) with ingredients and recipes from Alaska. The volunteer house just happens to have a Moose and Caribou cookbook, which helped immensely.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The most wonderful thing about cooking in Alaska is how people are willing to trade or share their food supplies. Since any big game provides more meat than any couple can eat over the course of several years, most hunters are willing to “spread the moose love” after bagging one. Other, non-hunting types often collect more berries than they can eat before they’d spoil – and yes, canning and preserving them are options – and well-used options at that – but there’s something amazingly friendly about sharing the food supplies with your neighbors. It’s beyond simple hospitality, too – it’s an acknowledgement of the reality of the “boom and bust” nature of subsistence living.
And I love it.
I may not be a hunter or berry picker – but I love to cook, and to cook new recipes. So when I woke up on Sunday morning and discovered around 4 pounds of ground moose… I lept for joy.
Wait… “What do you mean discovered?” you might be asking…
Well, I had gone to bed early the night before – I’m on air at 6 am during the week, so I tend to like to sleep on the weekends. Meanwhile, the rest of the Planetteers… err… KNOM volunteers… had gone to a bonfire about 30 minutes away. Somehow – and I’m not yet clear on how – this meant that they came back with moose meat.
So it was there in the morning, like the most wonderful gift in the world, wrapped up in plastic and simple white paper, sitting on the bottom shelf of the fridge. As the others awoke, or came back to the house, we took an informal poll, and “moose-meatloaf” was chosen as an appropriate dinner.
I’d made meatloaf several times before, but never with this particular meat, nor without using 2% milk, a no-no in the volunteer house, as a few of us are lactose intolerant. And unlike most foods, you can’t really try the taste of meatloaf before serving it – eating raw meat is one of the quickest ways to get sick, especially since this recipe also calls for egg (Salmonella and E.Coli are common in both eggs and meats). So… I improvised. Soy milk? check. Parmesan cheese at the table instead of in the recipe? check. Canned pizza sauce instead of chili sauce? check.
Daynee wearing a moose hat and staring forlornly at the finished mooseloaf? Priceless.
If you’re following along and you’d like to make the “KNOM Mooseloaf” for yourself, here’s the recipe (modified from one taken from the Moose and Caribou Recipes of Alaska by Cecilia Nibeck)
(serves six hungry KNOM volunteers & guests)
~1.5 lbs ground moose
2 slices whole wheat bread
8-10 “Fire-roasted Tomato” Triscuits (or other cracker of your choice)
~1/4 cup soy milk
1/4 Green Pepper, chopped
1/4 large purple onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon Kosher Salt
2 tsp mixed ground pepper
1 small can Pizza Sauce
- Pre-heat the oven to 350 °F
- Put the two slices of bread in a shallow bowl, and cover with soy milk. Remove after saturated (or two minutes) to a large mixing bowl
- Put the crackers in a ziploc bag, and crush them with your hands (or a flat meat tenderizer). You may want to put a cutting board down to avoid damaging your counters.
- Put the crushed crackers, chopped green pepper and onion, egg, pepper, and salt into the mixing bowl. Cover with the ground moose meat. Either work with your hands directly to mix all of the ingredients together (like folding a dough) or cover your hands with ziploc bags or vinyl gloves (not latex!)
- Thoroughly grease a loaf pan with olive oil
- Transfer the meat mixture into the loaf pan, and shape to the pan. You should have about an inch of space on top, all the way around.
- Pour the can of pizza sauce over the top, even-ing it out with the back of a spoon (if you’re picky about food appearance the way I am. Otherwise, just pour it on!)
- Bake in a 350° oven for 50 minutes to an hour.
- Remove from the oven, and break the seal of the pizza sauce on one corner. Let cool 5 minutes, then drain as much of the grease as possible.
- Slice with a spatula or flipper-turner, and serve with pita bread and vegetable of your choice!