Let it be known, here and now, that the Deerslayer’s wife loves Tex-Mex food. I always have and I always will. The evolution of the mix of traditional Mexican cuisine with what was available in Texas in the early days of our great state resulted in nothing short of heaven. The many variations of this particular style of cooking are as limitless as the families who have passed the recipes down and the regions from which they came. I’ve adapted many of my favorites to work with the wild game that fills my freezer. Thus far, I’ve shared wild game recipes for faux barbacoa, picadillo, carne guisada, venison and wild pork enchiladas with creamy poblano sauce, beans with wild pork shank, and others.
My all-time favorite Tex-Mex recipe has to be cheese enchiladas with chili con carne, though. The melted cheese, and, ohhhh, the chili con carne. The rich flavor of comino (cumin) in a spicy gravy combined with carne (meat, in this case, ground) poured over sharp cheddar cheese wrapped in corn tortillas has to be what St. Peter will have waiting for me in heaven!
While I appreciate a shortcut as much as the next person, I draw the line at canned enchilada sauce. I can always tell when it’s used at a restaurant and I promptly scratch the offending restaurant from my list of haunts. For several years, I’d thought about adapting my carne guisada recipe to use over cheese enchiladas. Last week I tried it and it was a huge hit, a new addition to the Deerslayer clan list of favorites.
Cheese Enchiladas with Venison or Nilgai Chili Con Carne
1 lb. ground nilgai or venison (or wild pork)
2-3 Tbsp. bacon grease (Most venison recipes require the addition of some extra grease or fat since the meat is so lean and, let’s face it, everything tastes better with bacon!)
1/2 large bell pepper, diced
1/2 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp. flour
2 Tbsp. cumin
1 tsp. black pepper
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 10 oz. can diced tomatoes (with or w/o chilies, like Rotel, to taste)
2 tsp. garlic salt
½ to 1 cup water
In a cast iron skillet, brown ground meat. There won’t be any fat to drain off if you use venison or nilgai. Remove browned meat from skillet.
Heat bacon grease in same skillet. Saute’ onion and bell pepper in bacon drippings. Add garlic and stir around for a minute or two.
Sprinkle flour over sauteed veggies and incorporate. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for about 30 minutes, covered.
With an immersion blender, create a relatively smooth sauce.
Add ground meat back into the skillet and simmer for an additional few minutes.
To make the cheese enchiladas:
I like to keep it simple!
In a skillet, heat enough corn or vegetable oil to cover the bottom about ¼ inch. You can tell the oil is hot enough when you see small ripples on the surface. Using tongs, lightly dip a corn tortilla in the oil until soft enough to roll. Dipping the tortillas in oil keeps them soft through the baking.
I found these rubber-tipped tongs that don’t tear up the tortillas.
Sprinkle a nice thick line of sharp cheddar cheese of your choice down the center of the softened tortilla.
Roll enchiladas and arrange in a 9×13 oven-safe pan.
Arrange, seam-side-down, to fill the pan. The great thing about this recipe is that you can prepare as many or as few enchiladas as you need. At this stage, you place additional enchiladas in the freezer, in zip bags. Pour chili con carne over enchiladas to cover and sprinkle with extra cheese.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes until cheese melts and chili bubbles. Add to your favorite recipes!