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Cooking with Keene

Cooking with Keene
Jun 7, 2010

“If you shoot, you must cook.”
So says hunter-fisherman David Keene, who is better known around Washington as the current chairman of the American Conservative Union and a vice-president of the National Rifle Association. (He'll become president in 2011.) Earlier this year he put on an elk dinner at his Arlington home, which POLITICO was able to attend for our Cooking with… series. In those interviews, it is always appropriate to ask the interviewee how he learned to cook. This is the first time the subject replied by saying, “I learned to cook by cooking.”
And then he confessed he was still learning. When asked the most embarrassing cooking experience he’d ever had, Keene didn’t hesitate. “When I was cooking the elk. Don’t you remember? The elk was a little tougher than it should have been,” he said, in a conversation a few weeks later. He blamed the reporter, whose many questions may have distracted him. “I overcooked the elk and it was your fault,” he said and laughed. “I thought everyone had arrived when I started it and they hadn’t.”
On that first go-round, to keep the meat warm, after he had sautéed it in butter, he covered it and continued cooking it. Not good for a lean piece of meat like elk. But the cook and the elk were redeemed on a re-do later on that same night: lightly sautéed, the meat was very tender and flavorful.
The “steamed” elk was served first, though, with roasted acorn squash seasoned with butter and brown sugar, macaroni to sop up the meat juices, and a salad of iceberg lettuce, sliced white onions and sliced egg, topped with Marie’s blue cheese salad dressing.
To continue the theme of simple is good, Keene put an apple filling in a prepared pie crust then topped it was a crust he had made himself.
The elk served that evening was the first Keene had ever shot. Just a month before our dinner, he’d landed his trophy at Ted Turner’s 600,000 acre ranch in New Mexico, which is just next door to the NRA’s 35,000 acre Whittington Center, a shooting center where the elk and the antelope roam. (As member of the NRA board, however, Keene is not permitted to hunt there.) 
“Elk is about as good as you can get,” Keene said as he served his guests delicious lightly smoked elk and duck (also from his own stash in the freezer), with drinks before dinner. “It’s like the best caribou; like really good beef, only better, not really gamey.”
Who knew?