Elk Braciole I Would Serve to the Cast of Dawson’s Creek

Valentine’s Day is usually a “go out to eat” day but it can be just as nice to stay in. If you are lucky, you have an elk in your freezer you butchered back in the fall, and you’re starting to think about how you can cook it before hunting season rolls around again (six months goes by fast). Elk braciole (pronounced bra-chee-O-lay) is a take on the classic Italian beef braciole dish. It’s luxuriant, delicious, and relatively simple to make, tastes like you spent all day in the kitchen, and is a perfect, impressive dish for Valentine’s Day.

Most Valentines will like this meal, and if they don’t, maybe you should reevaluate your relationship? I will admit I’m not a professional relationship counselor. On this year’s Valentine’s Day, I’m going to attending the Pacific Flyway Study Committee Meeting — which means that while I’ll be doing great work for migratory birds, I am going to be out $100 to some online flower delivery company and will probably end up eating a Hot Pocket in my hotel room while binge watching reruns of Dawson’s Creek. If you’re going to propose to someone on Valentine’s Day in some romantic fashion, I DO NOT recommend hiding the ring inside of the meat rolls. It’s going to be messy. Use your head and propose while skydiving like a normal person.

Mise En Place*


  • Meat Tenderizing Mallet. For tenderizing meat (duh).
  • Saran Wrap. Prevents a mess.
  • Butcher’s Twine. For knot-tying.
  • Cheese Grater. You know why.
  • Chef’s Knife. Razor-sharp as always.
  • Cutting Board. Self-explanatory, but clean.
  • Dutch Oven or Deep Cast Iron Skillet. For browning and braising.
  • Large Pot. For boiling pasta.


  • Elk round steaks, top, bottom, or eye of round (Approximately 1.5 pounds, serves two)
  • Prosciutto (Enough to cover your elk steaks pounded flat)
  • Sea salt (2 tablespoons)
  • Red pepper flakes (0.5 teaspoon)
  • White pepper (1.5 teaspoons. It’s got a different flavor than black pepper and is worth it)
  • Garlic (3–4 cloves or more if you’re awesome. Lightly toasted in a touch of olive oil)
  • Parmesan Reggiano (Shredded. One tablespoon for meat)
  • Basil (1 tablespoon fresh, finely chopped)
  • Parsley (1 tablespoons fresh, chopped)
  • Italian seasoning (2 teaspoons dry in tomato sauce)
  • Extra virgin olive oil (3 teaspoons)
  • Tomato sauce (12–16 ounces, homemade or canned. If using canned, use a plain sauce without a lot of added sugar or other flavors)
  • Red wine (1 cup dry)
  • Elk stock (1–2 cups. Use beef stock if you don’t have elk stock)
  • Pasta (2–3 cups penne, gemelli, rigatoni, or ziti. Don’t ruin this with elbow macaroni)


  1. Prep the meat. Pound the steaks flat and season with sea salt, white pepper, parsley, garlic, and parmesan Reggiano. Put the prosciutto on top of the steaks. Roll the steaks up and tie them into rolls with butcher twine.
  2. Make the sauce. If you have a homemade sauce, that’s great. I used a canned sauce from a store that sells things in bulk. It’s a relatively plain sauce to which I add some sea salt, Italian seasoning and stock. Simmer the sauce until it is as thick as you like it.
  3. Brown and braise the meat. Set your stovetop temperature to medium-high and heat your Dutch oven or cast-iron skillet with olive oil. Place meat rolls in the hot oil and brown on each side. After browning, add the dry red wine and let simmer for a couple of minutes. Add your sauce to cover the rolls to about three-quarters of their height. Finally, add the finely chopped fresh basil. Turn the heat to medium-low, cover, and let the whole thing braise for about two hours. Check the dish every so often. You can add a little more stock to thin out the liquid if it seems too thick. Keep it saucy (in life and cooking). Watch the temperature. Every range is a little different and if you burn your braciole your evening will be far less romantic.
  4. Make the pasta. When the meat has about 15 minutes remaining to braise, fill a pot with cold water. Salt the water until it’s as salty as the sea and bring to a boil. Add a bit of stock to the pasta water if you’d like. Add pasta and cook to just past al dente (that means just past a little firm for those of you who need to work on your Italian).
  5. Serve. Remove the meat rolls from the braising liquid and set aside for a moment. Grate some cheese into the liquid and stir. Drain the pasta and put on a plate, then cover the pasta with the braising liquid. Put the meat roll(s) on top of pasta add a bit more braising liquid, shred some more cheese, and garnish with parsley. Serve the braciole with garlic bread if you’d like to go the extra mile. The dish also goes well with a side salad. There’s nothing like greens to show how tender-hearted you are.

Parting Thoughts

You could make this dish with other types of venison (deer for instance). Also, I haven’t tried this, but I think that you could make this dish with snow goose or cackling goose breast meat. Pound the meat flat and prepare the same way. If you try it and it’s good, let me know.

I wrote this recipe before I realized that not only will this Valentine’s Day be the 25th time that my wife, Jessica, has been my Valentine, but that we have also reached the 25th anniversary of Dawson’s Creek. Is this coincidence significant or not? I don’t know, but, like Dawson said, “How do you explain the things you love? You can’t. You just do.”

Finally, to James Van Ber Beek: if you’re reading this, would it be so hard to write back?

French for “put in place.” In other words, get it together and be organized before you start cooking.

More recipes from Chef Joe:

Super Simple Game Bird Poppers

Mid-Summer Smoked Mallard: Celebrate Hunting Season on the Fourth of July

Get Stuffed! A Hot Italian Elk Sausage Stuffing Recipe for the Ages

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