Sporting Chef: Elk with Barley Soup & Duck Stock


Elk with Barley Soup

I look forward to cold weather so that I can enjoy a steaming bowl of soup. Any antlered game animal will do. Also, try this recipe with ducks or geese, but save it for less than premium species like divers and snow geese. I cannot overemphasize how much better the soup will taste if you make your own broth or stock from the carcasses and trim of your animals. Roast ‘em with some vegetables and throw everything into a pot. Cover it with water, bring to a boil and simmer, uncovered, for 5 to 6 hours or, better yet, overnight. Save the liquid and discard the rest.

This recipe calls for onions, carrots and celery, but you can use whatever vegetables you have lying around. If you can’t find barley, use rice, pasta or potatoes. I like to serve it with homemade croutons topped with some melted bleu cheese.

2 pounds elk meat, trimmed, cut into 1-inch cubes

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 large onion, diced

4 stalks celery, diced

3 carrots, diced

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 quarts game broth or beef broth

2 sprigs fresh rosemary (optional)

3 cups cooked barley (prepare as per package)

Season meat liberally with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat, add meat and brown evenly. Add onion, celery, carrots and garlic. Cook 5 minutes or until onions are translucent. Add broth and rosemary and cook over medium heat until meat is soft. Depending on the cut of meat, it may take an hour or two. Remove rosemary and stir in barley. Serve with warm bread or croutons.

Duck Stock

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Gather up a bunch of duck carcasses, legs and thighs and make a batch of delicious Duck Soup. This is a good way to make use of duck parts that we usually discard. You can also get rid of the root ends and trimmed pieces of carrots, celery and onions (even onion skins are okay!). Wine should be dry, unflavored and unsweetened, and can be inexpensive. A big jug of burgundy works fine. Use the stock for soups, stews and sauces.

8 to 10 duck carcasses (more bodies equals more flavor)

2 large carrots, chopped

3 celery stalks, chopped

1 yellow onion, chopped

6 garlic cloves

Cooking spray

Red wine

Cold water

1 tablespoon black peppercorns

Bouquet garni (a bunch of herbs tied together with string)

Place duck carcasses and next four ingredients in a large roasting pan. Spray contents with cooking spray. Place in a preheated 400-degree oven for 1 1/2 hours, turning every 20 minutes until evenly browned. Add contents of the pan to a large stock pot. Pour some wine into the roasting pan to loosen any bits stuck to the pan. Pour liquid and loosened bits into the stock pot. Pour 2 cups of red wine into stockpot and enough water to just cover contents of the pot. Add peppercorns and bouquet garni. Simmer, uncovered over low heat for 6 to 8 hours, making sure that you keep enough liquid in the pot to just cover contents. Cool to room temperature and pour contents through a colander covered with cheesecloth. Discard stuff in colander. Transfer liquid (stock) to a medium stockpot. Simmer until liquid is reduced by half.


Reduced and cooled game stocks can be frozen in ice cube trays or zipper-lock bags (double-bag it!). Once frozen, you can use a cube or two to add flavor to sauces.

Known as ‘The Sporting Chef,’ Scott Leysath has been an executive chef for more than 20 years, and is a leading expert on cooking fish and game. Author of multiple cookbooks, including “The Sporting Chef’s Better Venison Cookbook,” he hosts “The Sporting Chef” and “DeadMeat” TV shows on Sportsman Channel.