“The Snow Child” by Eowyn Ivey has been described as something Willa Cather and Gabriel Garcia Marquez might collaborate on, but that couldn’t be the case. This book describes the tangibility of cold as though it were a character itself: neither of those authors could describe the Alaskan wilderness in such starkly beautiful terms. Are you familiar with the Russian fairy tale of the old couple who build a snowchild that comes to life? Mabel is, which is why when the tiny blonde forest creature starts appearing alongside the snowstorms outside the cabin she shares with her husband Jack, she is inclined to blame depression. After all, her childlessness drove her to seek this life of solitude and work in frontier Alaska to begin with.
The battle to survive is as strong as the battle for clarity in the puzzle of the child; fear of hunger drives Jack and Mabel every day to work harder and longer. The only way to survive the heartless winter will be in killing a moose to supplement the meager takings from the summer garden. Mabel might make a meal like this to eat while she works on a drawing of the elusive snow child…
Don’t have juniper berries? Use a shot of gin. Pregnant? Avoid either!
I like the smoked salt because I think it evokes the wood burning cookstove Mabel would have used, but you don’t have to seek that out.
Elk Steak with Wild Mushrooms
8 oz elk sirloin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 sprig rosemary
1 Tb smoked salt
1 Tb cracked pepper
4 juniper berries, crushed and chopped
2 Tb butter, divided
1/2 lb mixed mushrooms
1/4 tsp dried thyme
2 Tb wine, white or red
30 minutes before cooking, remove the elk from your fridge. Mix the next 5 ingredients and rub them on the steak. Let it sit half an hour. In the meantime, wash and coarsely chop the mushrooms.
In a medium pan, heat 1 tablespoon of butter over medium high heat. When it’s hot, sear the elk for 2 minutes on each side. Remove from the pan and let it rest on the cutting board. Turn the heat down to medium and add the second tablespoon of butter to the pan. Toss in the mushrooms and thyme. Sauté for 4-5 minutes before adding the wine. Once it cooks off, slice the steak. Serve with the mushrooms and a healthy dollop of lingonberry jam.