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Wild Gourmet – Pronghorn on an Iron Cross


Excerpt from Wild Gourmet

Recipe Courtesy Chef Michael Chiarello

When I consider all the people, throughout centuries, who have used this method to cook, I feel like one small dot in a very long time line. This is a 30-log kind of a fire. To be safe have 3 dozen logs, each about 6 inches in diameter and each completely dry, stacked, and ready before you begin.

The basting liquid makes enough for one antelope up to 45 pounds. I love the flavor butcher’s salt adds to the basting liquid. Butcher’s salt is a blend of salt and spices from France made especially for meat. In a perfect world, you’d baste the antelope while it cooks using a branch of rosemary as your brush. Silicone basting brushes—as big as you can get—do the job just fine too.


  1. In a food processor, or in a blender in batches, combine the sage, rosemary, thyme, parsley, mint, oregano, garlic, kosher salt and butcher’s salt or pepper. Process to a coarse puree.
  2. With the machine running, add the oil and wine and puree until smooth.
  3. Transfer the liquid to a container with a lid, add the bay leaves, and refrigerate until the pronghorn goes on the fire.


When you’re ready to start cooking, clean the pronghorn, but don’t tie it to the cross until you’ve started the fire. Build your fire. When it is ready for the big logs, add them and then fasten the pronghorn onto the cross while the fire burns down a little. The fire you need to build won’t be the size of a bon­fire but just big enough to provide steady, even heat for the 4 hours that the pronghorn will cook.

Have one or two friends hold the pronghorn up against the vertical bar, with the pronghorn shoulders toward the ground while you tie each of the four legs to a crossbar. The back of the pronghorn should be against the cross; the ribs should be facing out toward the fire. Use a heavy-gauge wire (at least 16-gauge, found in any hardware store) to securely tie each leg to a crossbar and then use the wire to fasten the neck to the center, vertical bar. If you have an iron cross with rings, slide each of the animal’s legs through the rings. Secure each leg by twining 16-gauge stainless steel picture wire around the leg and the crossbar. 

When the fire has died down slightly so it’s not raging flames, maneuver the iron cross into place so it’s close to the fire but not right on top of it. Use your hands to test that the pronghorn is close enough to the heat to cook. You’ll want to allow at least 3 to 4 hours for an pronghorn that weighs 30 to 45 pounds.

Check the fire periodically. If it begins to cool, add logs but always add new wood to the edge of the fire farthest from the iron cross; you don’t want flaming logs under the pronghorn. When the new wood glows red and is no longer emitting lots of smoke and flame, then rake it forward closer to the antelope. Don’t rely on time alone to determine when the meat is done. For medium-rare pronghorn, it’s done when the meat registers 135°F on a meat or probe thermometer. Take the pronghorn off the fire and let rest for 15 minutes before you begin to carve.

Have a large heat-proof surface ready for the pronghorn. A butcher block table is ideal. Ask a friend or two to help plate the pronghorn as you carve.



First untie the wire from the pronghorn and discard it. Cut away the hind legs at the joints; the meat should be tender enough so this is easy. Next, carve at the shoulder, working down toward the front legs. Cut away the front legs, and then carve the antelope one section at a time, working from the ribs toward the backbone. Serve with chile-fennel tzatziki sauce.

Makes 3 cups

The rich hot pronghorn and the cool, creamy sauce are made for each other. I gave this an Italian twist by adding fennel, roasted lemon juice, and Calabrian chiles. Use a traditional thick Greek-style yogurt, such as Fage, and use the green fronds at the top of your fennel to give this extra flavor and color. For more flavor grate the cucumber, catching all the juices for the tzatziki, I like to make this at least an hour ahead of time so it can chill before serving. 

Grill the lemons at least 1 hour before serving or the day before if you like. On a hot grill or in a cast-iron pan over a fire or on the stove, place the lemon halves cut-side down. Cook until the lemon shows some char, 4 to 5 minutes. When the lemons have cooled, juice them and then strain the juice to get rid of some of the char. Measure about 1 tablespoon of the roasted lemon juice and reserve the remaining juice.

Trim the fennel. Cut the white part into ¼-inch dice (about 1 cup); coarsely chop the green fronds (about 1 tablespoon).

In a medium bowl, mix the 1 tablespoon strained lemon juice with the diced fennel, yogurt and garlic. Grate the peeled cucumber into a measuring cup, catching all the juice that you can. Add the grated cucumber and its juice to the bowl when you have about 1 cup. (A little less or extra is fine.) Stir in the chopped fennel fronds, chile paste, salt and pepper. Taste and then add another few teaspoons of roasted lemon juice or more salt and pepper, if you like.

Cover with plastic wrap, refrigerate, and chill for at least an hour or overnight. Stir just before serving. 


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