[Lindsey Bartosh]

The La Sal Mountain antlerless elk late season concluded on the final day of January. I didn’t draw a permit this time, but I had some family members with luck. Or maybe it was an unlucky draw? With the cold winter temperatures and unusual snow activity in the area, the hunt was definitely a difficult one. 

While fresh powder on the ground lays a map of where elk have traveled during the night, it also causes the herd to move to new locations, some of which are difficult to reach when you get a good blanket of snow. Sometimes the snow will push the elk down into low valleys, which can be favorable, but other times, which seems to be the case with this season’s hunt, it pushes them up onto the high south-facing slopes of the La Sals. It’s frustrating to sit below, glaring through binoculars at the elk lazily grazing on exposed vegetation and lounging in the winter sun. They know they are untouchable and want you to know it as well. 

But I feel fortunate too. While I want to harvest an animal, I also enjoy that hunting brings me into the animal’s world. I like learning about their behaviors, survival instincts and tactics, family dynamics, migration patterns, eating habits, basically any and all of it! It’s an honor just to be an observer and one I don’t take for granted. So, while my family members didn’t harvest animals and it was originally maybe an unlucky draw on the permit, I guess it’s a good reminder they are all lucky draws because you’re out with the elk. Even though it involved a lot of binocular glaring, it’s an opportunity that should never be taken for granted.

If you are one of the extra lucky ones to draw a permit and harvest an animal, here is a new twist on an elk steak. This recipe takes a coffee- and cocoa-crusted elk medallion, drizzles a hearty stout glaze over it, and tops the entire steak with crunchy buttermilk onion shoestrings. 

Coffee Crusted Elk 

Ingredients for Fried Onion Shoestrings

  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • ½ tablespoon cayenne
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 3 cups frying oil (vegetable, avocado, canola)

Ingredients for Stout Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 12oz stout beer
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Ingredients for Coffee-Crusted Steaks

  • 4 elk backstrap steaks, about 2 inches thick each
  • 2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms
  • 2 ounces ground coffee
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 2 -3 tablespoons fresh sage, minced


1. Prepare the fried onion shoestrings: Thinly slice the onions. If you can use a mandolin to get a fine slice that is easiest, but you can just cut thinly with a sharp knife.

2. Be sure to pull the onion slices apart and submerge completely in buttermilk. Let sit for at least one hour.

3. In a large ceramic Dutch oven or deep fryer, heat up three cups of high-temperature frying oil, such as avocado, canola, or vegetable, to 375 degrees.

4. In a shallow bowl, mix a cup of flour, tablespoon of salt, fresh cracked black pepper, and ½ tablespoon of cayenne.

5. Shake the excess buttermilk from the onion strings and coat completely in flour mixture. Shake excess flour from onion strings and immediately add to hot oil. Work in small batches to keep the oil temperature from dropping.

6. Fry the onion shoestrings for one to two minutes, until the onions are golden brown. Keep the onions separated from each other for optimal crispiness.

7. Remove onion batch from oil and place on paper towels to drain some of the oil off. Repeat with rest of onions.

8. In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, add two tablespoons of butter. Once the butter is melted add a finely diced medium sized shallot. Cook for five minutes, until the shallot is soft.

9. Add a bottle of stout beer, two tablespoons of honey, a tablespoon of molasses, and a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce. Allow the mixture to simmer and reduce the liquid down by half, which should take fifteen to twenty minutes.

10. Cut your wild game backstrap into two-inch-thick steaks. Let the steaks sit out at room temperature for about thirty minutes before cooking.

11. While the steaks are coming to room temperature, prepare the coffee coating. In a spice blender or coffee grinder, grind one ounce of dried porcini mushrooms.

12. Add the ground porcini mushrooms to a bowl along with 2 ounces of ground coffee, one tablespoon of cocoa powder, 1 tablespoon of cinnamon, a tablespoon of salt, and the dried oregano. Mix everything together.

13. Coat the wild game back strap steaks completely in the coffee and mushroom mixture.

14. Heat a large cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Once the pan is heated, about two minutes, add the steaks to the hot pan.

15. For a medium rare steak, cook the steak for six to seven minutes per side to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

16. Let the steaks rest for five minutes before serving. To plate, pile a heaping serving of fried onion shoestrings on top of the coffee and mushroom-crusted steak. Drizzle with the stout sauce and top with minced fresh sage.

17. Enjoy!

Lindsey Bartosh, an eighth-generation Moab girl, loves hiking, hunting, fishing, cooking, writing, photography and working on her website www.huntingandcooking.com.