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What to Serve on a Mooseburger

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In the last two weeks we've seen the term "mooseburger" take on unprecedented political implications. And yet, the dish itself has passed unscathed through our national discourse like a pine cone through a... well, like through a moose.

I want to know how to make those mooseburgers, and, more to the point, what to put on them once they're ready to serve to your hungry brood.

This is pretty urgent as I've had this moose carcass sitting here in the kitchen ever since I took it down in the pantry (it was snacking on the granola, I was cleaning my crossbow at the time; I didn't realize it was loaded). That's 300 to 400 pounds of potential mooseburger. What part do I use?

I checked with the only culinary source willing to acknowledge the way Americans really eat. I mean, of course, the classic Joy of Cooking, (1975 edition, 21st printing) which deals with large game (elk, deer, moose) on the same spread that it helpfully offers the means to cook up that peccary you've dragged home (briefly: remove the musk glands, marinate, then cook using a moist-heat method).

Moose, the ever-practical Madames Becker tell us, is relatively fattier than venison (which is notoriously lean), and may be cooked in much the same manner one cooks pork. But since Irma Rombauer and her daughter Marion Rombauer Becker hailed from St. Louis, Missouri -- hardly moose country -- I am going to bet they came by that information second-hand.

The New York Daily News, jumping quickly into the large-game fray, published a piece on Friday, August 29 that scooped the mooseburger press; it actually deals with the question of how to cook a moose -- if vaguely. Laraine Derr, owner of Chez Alaska cookery school Juneau told Daily News reporter Christina Boyle that "it tastes very much like ground beef, but it's a very mild, very lean meat." It is to her everlasting credit that she didn't say "it tastes like chicken."

The News also provides a recipe (step one: grind up moose meat), but doesn't get into the messy specifics. There's a lot of moose from which to choose; which part? The shoulder? The rump? The rear-left lower quarter of the haunch? (Certainly not the "mouffle," the prized, loose covering around the nose and lips: thank you, Joy of Cooking.) This is something we need to know.

And as far as the garnish, all the recipe tells us to do is to "serve with cranberry catsup and smoked onions." Okay, I'll bite -- what's cranberry catsup? For that matter, what are smoked onions? Am I getting a whiff of something... elitist here? Well, there's no mention of arugula, so probably not.

Tell you what: if you'll come over here and help me shift this moose so I can get into the fridge, I'll take a gamble and use the meat from the shoulder (whoa, that's a big shoulder) to grind the mooseburgers, then I'll grill them up and serve them with a classic, tradition-blessed Cumberland sauce (port, orange and lemon juice, red currant jelly, ginger and butter). With tomato and lettuce. On a bun. A great big bun.

And you can take the rest of the moose, too. No, really.

Chris Hall writes for bonappetit.com's Project Recipe, cooking his way through the website's Top 100 Dishes.

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