A Montana Moment: Montana BHA's 2022 Wild Game Cookoff Recipe

Elk Meatballs with Huckleberry-Jalapeno Jam and Labneh, Sauteed Morels and Wild Asparagus, Flathead Cherry and Huckleberry Crisp and a Midnight Forest Bourbon Cherry-Basil Smash

Building relationships and connection to place is key to how and what I cook. My wild game comes from friends or my students who want to share their experiences with me. Most of my Wild Game Cookoff menu was foraged or grown by my family, or the same market vendor I’ve been going to since I was a kid. Finding and growing food connects us to where we live, and building those relationships with growers, hunters and even ranchers, allows me to take my food to the next level and tell a story about something or some place we all cherish. I hope you are able to make and enjoy this recipe and feel the connection to Montana no matter where you're cooking.

Elk Meatballs


  • 2 lbs ground elk meat
  • 1 small shallot, diced
  • 1 egg
  • ½ c breadcrumbs (I used sourdough)
  • 3 cloves pickled garlic, minced (fresh is fine if you don’t have pickled)
  • 1 tsp worcestershire
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • Splash of Midnight Forest Bourbon
  • Salt and pepper

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Mix everything in a bowl.
  2. Use a small ice cream scooper to scoop mixture out and then use your hands to roll into a ball. It’s easiest to do this in batches.
  3. Heat a cast iron skillet to medium-high heat and melt some butter or olive oil in the pan.
  4. Add meatballs, making sure to not crowd the pan.
  5. Sear for a few minutes and then rotate.
  6. Keep doing this until there’s a nice brown all around, about ten minutes. Take one out to test for doneness.


Two pounds will make 30 meatballs, depending on scoop size.

Nest a couple of meatballs over the labneh and then drizzle with the huckleberry jalapeno jam.

Huckleberry Jalapeno Jam


  • 1 c huckleberries
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 2 tbsp sugar or honey

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Throw everything in a saucepan and let it come to a boil.
  2. Turn it down to simmer until it reduces, 20-30 minutes. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn.
  3. Pour into a glass jar and let it cool so it can set up.




This is essentially strained greek yogurt. Typically it’s strained 24 hours in cheesecloth. For faster straining, I used a mesh sieve and put some weight on it. Make as much as needed for the recipe. For 2 lbs elk, I made about 2 c Labneh. I recommend using Kalispell Kreamery plain yogurt.

Sauteed Morels and Asparagus


  • 1 handful each asparagus and morels per person
  • 2 tbsp Kerrygold butter
  • Pepper and large, flaky sea salt

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Melt butter on a griddle/flattop or in a cast iron skillet.
  2. Toss in the asparagus and morels, making sure not to crowd the pan (this will result in steaming and not browning).
  3. Sprinkle pepper.
  4. Shake the pan occasionally to help brown on all sides.
  5. Turn out of the pan and sprinkle sea salt on top.


Flathead Cherry and Huckleberry Crisp


  • Equal parts cherries and huckleberries. Two cups each should serve 8-10 people.

Crisp Topping:

  • 6-8 tbsp cold Kerrygold butter, diced
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1 c Wheat Montana 7 Grain Cereal
  • ½ c Wheat Montana Flour
  • ½ c brown sugar
  • ½ c pistachios

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Heat a dutch oven over medium heat and add a pat of butter.
  2. When that’s melted, add in the fruit and stir.
  3. While that’s cooking for a few minutes, make your topping. In a bowl, mix everything together using a fork. You still want visible chunks of butter.
  4. Give the fruit a final stir and then distribute the topping evenly over the fruit mixture.
  5. Place the lid on and let cook for at least 20 minutes. Depending on how hot your heat source is, this may take up to 40 minutes.

Take off heat and let cool for a bit so it firms up. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or just a drizzle of heavy whipping cream.


Bourbon Cherry Smash with Basil


  • 2 oz Midnight Forest Bourbon
  • 1 oz Flathead cherry juice
  • 5-6 cherries
  • 2 leaves basil

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Using a muddler, smash the cherries and basil with a splash of water and a couple of ice cubes in a cocktail shaker.
  2. Add bourbon and shake for 20 seconds.
  3. Pour into glass and enjoy!


Put it all together, and you've got the meal that had our judges scraping their plates clean at our 6th annual Wild Game Cookoff! The Montana Chapter would like to extend our deepest appreciation for chefs Marisa Crerar and Brian Joos for cooking this amazing dish at our 2022 Rendezvous in Missoula, MT.


About Marisa Crerar

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