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Mexican Rice

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There are recipes that just call for a great side dish like never-fail Mexican rice.  As a matter of fact, the next couple of recipes that I’m planning to post will most definitely be served with this rice.  I’ve used this recipe all of my married life.  I got it from a good friend of the Deerslayer who is originally from Mexico.  I’ve continued to use the recipe because it tastes great and it’s easy enough to prepare with just a few simple ingredients.  Recently, I’ve been using parboiled rice.  I’ve been pleased with how it doesn’t clump up, ever!  The Junior Deerslayers still prefer the original long grain, however.  It’s just a matter of preference. The recipe will not be altered either way.

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The only “specialty” item that is required that may not be readily available worldwide is Knorr’s Caldo de Tomate Con Sabor de Pollo (Tomato Soup with flavor of Chicken).  It’s basically chicken bouillon granules with tomato flavoring.  It really adds a depth of flavor to the dish.  I should try to substitute plain chicken bouillon with a bit of instant tomato soup to see if it works.  But the Knorr’s is really good and I’d recommend getting some if you can get ahold of some. I think it would be available in the soup aisle, or the ethnic section of most grocers.

Ingredients

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a splash of corn or canola oil

1/2 onion, chopped

1/2 poblano pepper, chopped (red bell pepper can be substituted)

1 cup rice (I used parboiled)

2 cups stock or water

2 tsp. Knorr’s Caldo de Tomate y Pollo

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In a cast iron skillet (with a lid) pour a splash of oil.  In hot skillet, saute chopped onion and pepper until soft.  Add rice and stir until rice is lightly browned.  Add water or stock and Knorr’s.  Stir one more time.  When liquid comes to a boil, reduce heat to medium low, Cover skillet and simmer for 20-25 minutes.

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2013 in Recipes, Side Dishes, Uncategorized

 

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Flan, Heaven on a Plate!

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This is one of my favorite desserts of all time.  It is the perfect ending to a delicious meal of Venison/Nilgai/Wild Pork Enchiladas with Creamy Poblano Sauce.  And Pheasant Enchiladas with tomatillo sauce. And Faux Venison Barbacoa.  You get the idea.  Flan is perfect.  Texture, creamy. Simple in preparation and perfectly simple in flavor.

The point I’m trying to make is that Flan is perfect….. and simple.

I got this recipe from a dear family friend, Tony. I wrote it on the back of a Sea World coupon shortly after Sea World opened in San Antonio.  See I was teaching back in those days.  I had stuff like that in my purse all the time; hall passes, detention slips, notes from parents, confiscated rubber bands, water guns, gum.          DSC_0218

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Notice the expiration date; Oct. 1, 1990.

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The best-loved recipes are usually the ones that have been through many years of wear and tear.  Every time I pull out this splattered and worn scrap of paper, I remember the  very evening that Deerslayer and I visited with our new baby in tow. (She’s 27 now and teaching at the university!)   We enjoyed a delicious meal of chicken enchiladas with tomatillo salsa, Mexican rice and the best flan I’d ever eaten.  Tony graciously shared all the recipes and allowed me to watch him prepare them.  Looking back, I think that these were some of the very first GOOD dishes that I ever cooked.  Thank you, Tony!

Ingredients

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1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 can evaporated milk

4 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

½ cup sugar (I usually use a bit more cuz I love the caramelized sugar)

That’s right!  There are only 5 ingredients.

You will also need a 9″ Pyrex pie plate, a trivet or folded kitchen towel and a larger oven-proof pan that will hold the pie plate and some hot water.

Preheat oven to 350°.   Combine all ingredients (except sugar) in a bowl and whisk together. Set aside.DSC_0223DSC_0234

For the next part, set out what you will need.  Time will be of the essence as you prepare the caramelized sugar and pour it into a Pyrex pie plate.  Have it sitting on a trivet, or folded kitchen towel, ready for the molten sugar.

You will need to work quickly once the sugar is ready to

Pour sugar into a small sauce pan.  Over high heat, gently stir until sugar begins to melt. I like to use a wooden spoon.

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Continue stirring as sugar starts to caramelize.

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It will begin to look clumpy.  Don’t worry.  Keep stirring.

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Be sure that the sugar does not boil over or burn.  Simply lift the pan off the heat if begins to boil over.

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After most of the sugar clumps have dissolved, you may pour it into the Pyrex pie plate that has been set on something to protect the surface of the counter.  It also serves to prevent the Pyrex from being too cold  when you pour the hot caramelized sugar.

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Tilt the pan to allow the sugar to coat the bottom.  You must work quickly because the sugar will harden almost instantly. Don’t worry, though.  The caramelized sugar will create a luscious syrup in the oven. (Notice the trivet that I got as a birthday gift during my first year teaching in 1983.)

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One last whisk of the egg mixture before you pour it over the sugar.

Prepare a water bath for the pan.  I set my pie plate in a larger cast iron skillet.  Place the pie plate into a larger pan on the middle rack of the oven. Add some hot water to the outer pan until the water is half way up the side of the pie plate.

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Bake for 50 minutes.  Flan will jiggle joyfully.  Don’t fret.

Allow to cool for about 20 minutes.  Chill in the fridge for a couple of hours.  Run a knife around the edge of the pie plate.  Invert onto A SERVING PLATE THAT HAS A LIP AROUND THE EDGE!  The liquified sugar mixture will spill out onto the plate.  You’ll have to restrain yourself from lapping it up.

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Please let me know if you agree that this is the simplest, most elegant, most perfect dessert you have ever prepared and eaten.

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2016 in Sweet Things, Uncategorized

 

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Jalapeno/Wild Pork/Bacon Snacks

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It’s time to gear up for the annual Deerslayer Camping Trip.  Every year the entire clan (three generations) converges upon southern Wyoming for two weeks. We’ve been doing it for years. In its heyday, there would be sixty-plus people coming and going during the two-week stretch.  Now, all the kids are growing up. Many are going away to college.   I have a feeling that the group will continue to gather, with the younger ones bringing their own families.  My generation will become the one that all the kids roll their eyes at, the group that everybody brings drinks and food to.  Sounds like fun! Can’t wait!

I have to admit that, for me, the preparation is part of the fun. I love the list-making, the planning, the menu-planning, and the cooking for the whole group. This year we’ve decided to prepare:

  • Steak tacos with fresh flour tortillas, pico de gallo, beans with smoked wild pork shank, and Mexican rice
  • A whole roasted pig, roasted corn, and coleslaw
  • Venison and nilgai enchiladas with creamy poblano sauce, beans, and  Mexican rice.
  • Pulled pork on toasted buns, potato salad, coleslaw.

In addition, we decided to try our own version of jalapeno poppers that would include some of our ground wild pork. Sadly, due to my busy camping  prep days, my post is coming out after my dear friends, Patrons of the Pit, who beat me to the punch with their own version of a stuffed jalapeno recipe. Theirs is absolute perfection with a glorious glaze of maple syrup.  You go, guys!

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I used about 18 jalapenos to make 36 delicious, bacon wrapped portions.

18 jalapenos

1 lb. ground wild pork

4 tsp. LEM sausage seasoning

1/8 cup water

36 strips of cheese (I used a strong cheddar)

18 strips of very thin, inexpensive bacon, cut in half

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Mix 4 tsp. of seasoning mix with water and blend with ground pork.

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Cut the ends off the jalapenos.

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Call me a wimp, but I’ve learned over the years that wearing rubber gloves results in a lot less pain and discomfort.

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Using a spoon, scrape out the seeds and white membrane.

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Slice cheese into strips the length of the peppers.

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Add a slice of cheese and some pork sausage to each pepper.

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Wrap each pepper with a half slice of bacon.  This is why the bacon should be the cheapest you can get.  The thinner, the better.

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Once the peppers are ready to go on the grill, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared for every possible scenario!  I filled two 9 x 13 pans with the jalapenos.  One batch went on the grill, the other went into the freezer for the camping trip.  I wanted to make a test batch first, in addition to seeing how they would freeze for later use.  The frozen ones will be transported in a Yeti cooler with dry ice.  They will stay frozen for up to a week if we’re careful not to open the cooler too much and store it in the shade once we’ve arrived at our destination.

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The peppers were cooked for about 45 minutes on a sheet of foil on the grill over indirect heat.

A nine, tasty morsel for a camping trip!

 

 

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Faux Barbacoa (Nilgai or Venison)

faux bbq, fawns, mary's bday, alamo, tower 054Living in South Texas is unlike anything else in the world!  There are daily experiences that one would expect  to find only in more remote regions of Mexico.  For example, dodging crates of cactus pads that have covered the street after falling from an overpacked pickup, swerving to avoid onions and pineapples littering the road, hearing the screeching of flocks of parrots long before they fly over.  More recently, the sounds of Homeland Security and Border Patrol helicopters have become commonplace. In our  part of the world, everyone samples the produce in the grocery store before they buy it (or don’t).  Cars frequently are seen heading the wrong way into oncoming traffic to avoid the necessity of making the block.

While I’d be perfectly happy to live without any of those experiences (and plenty of others), one thing that I absolutely love about South Texas is barbacoa.  Barbacoa is traditionally made from the head meat of a cow or goat, sometimes just the cheek, either buried in the ground or cooked in a pit until the meat falls away from the bone. This lengthy process is the reason that barbacoa is usually only available on weekends in many restaurants and the focal point of many family gatherings.

I have to admit, it was years before I was willing to try this dish just knowing that it was made from the head of a cow.  After being a wife and mother, I’ve experienced many disgusting things.  Beef head is no longer on the list.  Once I finally tasted it, I was in heaven.  I never realized that the most succulent, tender meat comes from the head.  The members of the Deerslayer household eat barbacoa as often as possible. (Don’t forget that my junior deerslayers are hunters and not put off by the origin of meat the way I used to be.)

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I stumbled upon this recipe quite by accident.  I needed a quick dinner and had some “cook-all-day” nilgai packaged into one-pound portions in the freezer.  It really saved the day.  I’d say it was a 30 minute meal, start to finish since I added Mexican rice, which took 20 minutes to cook, and some bean soup that I simply had to thaw and reheat, as well.

Faux Barbacoa

1 lb. “Cook-All-Day” Nilgai or Venison

Beef Stock

Comino (Cumin)

Tommy’s Salt and Pepper Mix

 

Chop and shred meat into a cast iron skillet.  Add enough beef stock to cover meat and simmer on low.  Add ½ to 1 teaspoon of comino and stir.  Season with salt and pepper mix.  Allow stock to reduce by about a third.  This is a perfect time to prepare Mexican rice. Serve with fresh corn tortillas and pico de gallo.

Sometimes the easiest recipes surprise us.  The Deerslayer clan really enjoyed the meal and it was pretty effortless thanks to a little advanced preparation at the start of the season.  Beans with wild pork shank are as easy to prepare in large quantities as it is small.  Frozen in bags and stacked in the freezer make it a great go-to.  I usually add extra beef or chicken stock since the deerslayer clan likes their been soupy.  A little garnish of fresh cilantro adds flavor and flair.

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I added some beef stock, some kosher salt, pepper, garlic powder (Tommy’s Secret Mix) and a little comino (cumin).

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I simmered the meat for about 20 minutes until some of the juices thickened.

Everyone in the family agreed that the texture and flavor of the meat was very much like barbacoa.  The rib meat has a great deal of connective tissue that, when cooked all day, breaks down into sticky, deliciousness.  While most of my readers may not have access to nilgai, venison would certainly suffice for this recipe.  Any sinewy parts like shank or rib meat would cook up the same way.

Just one more recipe for meat that most hunters throw away or grind.  Yay!

 

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All Cooked Up and Nowhere to Go?

eggs, graduation, quail, nilgai ribs 096Last week, during an unexpected (and appreciated) cool spell,  I took advantage of the opportunity to cook up fifteen pounds of Nilgai rib meat, using my “Cook-All-Day” recipe.  From meat that many hunters would toss out, I produced five delicious meals, right off the bat, and packaged up and froze several 1 ½ pound bags of succulent, cooked meat that will be used in quick meals  during the hot months of summer.

I love cool days that allow me to prepare “cook-all-day” meats.  There’s such a sense of satisfaction that comes from creating delicious meals from cuts of meat that would otherwise be considered unusable.  First of all, the whole house smells wonderful!  The Deerslayer clan has taken to just grazing from the pan of freshly cooked, fall-apart meat on that first night, with a side of rice and perhaps some peas.  The “au jus” can be drizzled over the rice as is or thickened in a cast iron skillet with a slurry of butter and flour.  That was Day One.

Day Two brought  warmed, shredded meat served with homemade flour tortillas with lettuce, vine-ripened tomatoes, and avocado slices.  I provided a side of beans & smoked wild pork shank that had been prepared previously and frozen.

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Day Three.  I adapted my venison marsala recipe. Since the meat was already cooked, I cut it into bite-sized pieces and added it to the sauteed mushrooms and sauce, and served it over fettuccini with a side of steamed broccoli.  Done!

Day Four allowed me to pull up a family favorite from the recipe archives; Enchiladas with Creamy Poblano Sauce. Deerslayer absolutely loves these.  I served them up with the leftover beans and a side of Mexican rice.  It doesn’t get any better!

2013-02-21 094By Day Five, I feared that I was treading on thin ice by continuing to concoct recipes with the nilgai rib meat of which I was so proud, so I shredded it, tossed in some commercial BBQ sauce and served up some fabulous BBQ sandwiches with coleslaw.

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That evening, feeling content that I had once again fulfilled my role as the Deerslayer’s/Nilgai slayer’s wife, patting myself on the back, if you will, I donned a stunning pair of red pumps and pearls. I had successfully provided the clan with wild gamey goodness for an entire week with meat that might have been left for the coyotes. Then I packaged up the remainder of the cooked meat and knew that all was right with the world because the Deerslayer/Nilgaislayer household would make it through the hot months of summer without having to sacrifice any delicious wild game meals!

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Camping Preparation Continues and Plain Ol’ Easy Venison/Wild Pork Hamburgers

burger 003As we gear up for the big trip to Wyoming and the date draws near, the mess in the kitchen piles higher and higher.  Every time I think of something that I won’t be able to get along without, it goes on the pile.

Yesterday, I worked on the medicine box. After many years of camping/hunting trips, we have, at different times, needed a variety of medications and/or first aid items.   Our box is clear plastic so that we can easily and quickly identify and put our hands on necessary first aid or meds and includes (for all camping trips):

Band-aids, all sizes (including waterproof and stretchy for knuckles), butterfly sutures, triple antibiotic ointment, tweezers, magnifying glass, a needle for spinters and thorns, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, and sterile pads & surgical tape

Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen, Naproxen, aspirin

Anti-diarrheal meds, Benadryl, Sudafed, Various sore throat and cough lozenges, sore throat spray

Sun screen, aloe gel

Thermacare heat wraps for backs and necks

Any prescription meds required by various campers in your group

Candied ginger (works wonders for upset stomach and motion sickness)

Benadryl capsules – I have discovered that, not only is this med. effective for allergy symptoms, but it has worked for us as a topical relief for itchy insect bites.  My junior deerslayer and I are particularly susceptible to mosquito bites.  We opened a Benadryl capsule, made a paste with water, and applied it topically to the affected bites.  The paste relieved the itching and reduced the swelling.  While I can’t vouch for others, know that we don’t camp without Benadryl capsules close at hand.

Remember, I’ve traveled with or camped with kids for many years.  “Always be prepared” is the mantra of all parents.  Also, I suffer from allergies so I keep a well-stocked medicine box that I update periodically to ensure that nothing is past its expiration date .While many may say that my first aid list seems a little excessive, keep in mind that everyone’s situation and needs are different.   Also keep in mind, though, that nothing can ruin a good camping/hunting trip more than a pesky intestinal or allergy-related problem or a cactus encounter that might have been remedied with just a little fore-thought.

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I’ve chosen to show some of the items that we always have with us. All items fit into the box with the lid closed except for the Thermacare wraps. Notice the magnifying glass.  It really comes in handy for thorns and splinters.

In addition to preparing the first aid box, I’ve continued to plan for our meals for the two weeks we’ll be on our trip.  I’ve prepared and frozen food for four dinners for 50 people.  I’ve decided to bake and freeze Cranberry-Rubbish Muffins for several breakfasts.  I made arrangements with my local source for farm fresh eggs and homegrown tomatoes to pick up plenty of both for the trip.  That will take care of several more breakfasts (huevos con chorizo) and BLT sandwiches for lunch. The homegrown tomatoes will also make for some superb pico de gallo. (My last entry.)

An old stand-by for a fast and fabulous camping meal is Plain Ol’ Easy Venison/Wild  Pork Hamburgers.  These burgers are so flavorful due to just a couple of key ingredients. Garlic and Knorr’s Caldo de Tomate con Sabor de Pollo (Tomato Bouillon with Chicken Flavor).  This stuff is worth its weight in gold.  It also adds beautiful flavor and color to Mexican Rice.  Of course, you doctor them up as you desire with things that you can transport easily.

Plain Ol’ Easy Venison/Wild Pork Hamburgers

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1 lb. ground venison and wild pork

1 egg

3 cloves garlic, chopped (or a tbsp. minced garlic to save time)

1½ tbsp. Knorr’s Pollo y Tomate bouillon (Chicken and tomato)

1 tsp, pepper

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This item is usually found down the soup aisle or with the ethnic foods.

4 Hamburger buns

All the trimmings

1.  In a mixing bowl, combine ground meat, egg, garlic, and bouillon.  Shape into four patties and throw on the grill.  Cook to medium.  Add good cheese (Awesome cheddar or blue cheese) and melt.

2.  Toast buns on a cast iron griddle in some butter or on the grill.

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3.  Doctor up as desired.  Easy Peasy!  Perfect for camping!

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I’ve recently discovered Plochman’s Mustard has a variety with Killian’s Beer. Yum! Also, McIlhenny Farms has a great spicy ketchup. I have very strong feelings about burgers.  There are times when one must be a purist and times to branch out, go crazy, enjoy the thrill of new tastes.

For a camping trip, it’s easy to prepare the meat with the seasonings before leaving home. Hamburger patties could also be prepared ahead.

 

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Camping and Pico de Gallo (and skinning fajitas!)

fajitas, pico, burgers, corn & poblano soup 021This is the time of year that I enjoy the most.  My younger junior deerslayer and I have finished up her homeschool year.  My older junior deerslayer turned 24 today.  With these milestones under our belts, the entire family has switched into camping mode.  We are pulling out camping lists, preparing menus, and beginning to cook and freeze the meals that we will prepare for the annual Deerslayer Clan camping trip to Wyoming.  This year we will be staying for two weeks.

With plenty of planning, the trip should be twice as much fun as in previous years.  The first thing that we did was to have our camper thoroughly checked out by a local RV place.  They did yearly maintenance that included checking seals all around to insure that everything is water-tight in case of heavy rain.  (It’s been an issue in the past.)  They also checked the batteries and electrical system. (It’s been an issue in the past) They checked the bearings and tire pressure.  (Also been an issue!)

We’ll be filling propane tanks and cleaning out coolers this weekend.

I’ve prepared and frozen 9 dozen wild pork enchiladas.  They were frozen in 9 x 13 casserole pans and transferred to gallon freezer bags. I’ll prepare the gallon of creamy poblano sauce a couple of days before we leave.  I’ve also prepared 1 ½ gallons of bean soup and transferred it to gallon bags which I lay flat on a cookie sheet.  I’ll be making Mexican Rice for 50 people this weekend.  I discovered that parboiled rice doesn’t get sticky and can be reheated in batches with a little broth in a large cast iron skillet and transferred to aluminum trays for serving.

Every year, my Deerslayer prepares fajitas for the entire crew.  This is no small feat!  Fajita meat, also called skirt steaks, requires removing skin (usually even the skinless ones).  For this reason, until the last 20 years or so, fajita meat was some of the cheapest you could buy in the South, because of the work involved in preparation.  With the increased popularity of fajitas nationwide, the cost has continued to rise.  Same amount of work, just quadruple the price.  Go figure!

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Fajitas, like I mentioned before, require skinning.  This process is very similar to removing the silver skin or fascia from venison or elk.  The skin can rather easily be lifted and removed using a sharp filleting knife.  I have my favorite that I bought in the fishing area at Academy Sporting Goods.

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  I keep 2 sizes in the camper and also at home.  I really, really like this knife. Its thin blade makes short work of what could become very tedious with a substandard, dull knife.  My deerslayer has instilled in me a real appreciation for good cutlery.

Last year, I skinned all the fajitas (25 lbs.) at home, packaged them up pretty flat in gallon sized bags so they would thaw easily, and froze them, in the bags on cookie sheets in the freezer.  That way they stacked easily with the other food I prepared.

Before the frozen foods are packed into the coolers on the day we leave, I place several flat gallon bags into a 2 gallon zip bag.  One year, the carne guisada began to thaw once we got up there.  The zip bag had split and we had a big mess in the cooler and no carne guisada!

It’s at this time of the summer in South Texas that fajitas begin to go on sale, usually around Memorial Day and again near the 4th of July.  Some are more flavorful than others.  Some require less skinning than others.  The Deerslayer family becomes guinea pigs right about now.  We purchase fajitas from various grocers and grill them up to see which are the best. Once we’ve come to a consensus on the best flavor for the money, we buy up lots, skin them, package them, and freeze them.  The process isn’t really that painful!  There are several weeks of great grilled fajitas in preparation for the trip.

I give my Deerslayer credit for being “grill-gifted”.  He prepares some amazing feasts.  Usually, he uses McCormick’s meat marinade, but just for a very short time, since it has papaine, a meat tenderizer in it that will turn good meat to paste if you’re not careful.

Even the best fajitas need good tortillas.  The packages that are available in the bread section at the local grocer SHOULD NOT be an option.  I DO realize that not everyone has access to fresh, hot corn tortillas.   There’s nothing to compare to the soft, melt-in-your-mouth fresh corn flavor that can only be attained from fresh hand-made corn tortillas.  In Texas, we are lucky enough to have cook-yourself flour tortillas available in local grocers in the refrigerated section, near biscuits and pie crusts.  They’re worth their weight in gold.  Once you’ve had them, you’ll never go back.  They even freeze!!!  My dear Deerslayer surprised me with a professional-sized griddle to take on our Wyoming trip.  It’ll fit on the Camp Chef propane cooktops.  I can cook about 10 tortillas at a time, or toast as many buns, or heat up thick-cut bacon that I cooked at home, or make about 15 pancakes at once.  That man knows what I like!   He also gave me a beautiful string of pearls for those times that I feel like Julia Child!  Guys, learn!  Girls, weep!  He’s mine!

I’ve gotta say that, without sounding irreverent, fajitas are only as good as the tortillas and toppings that you put on them.  When I say toppings, you need to know that there’s really only one acceptable topping for this meat of kings in the Deerslayer domain; and that topping is Pico de Gallo (the beak of the rooster). My deerslayer uses the recipe that he learned from his father.  The bright, fresh veggies, accented with garlic, vinegar, and oil compliment the meat perfectly.  Here it is, but only with permission!  I’m not sure how “authentic” it is, but it is truly from the Deerslayer Clan.

Pico De Gallo

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1 Large Onion, coursely chopped

2 Jalepenos, chopped, seeds and pithy membranes removed

Garlic, 6 cloves, chopped

Apple cider vinegar, enough to cover

6 Roma Tomatoes, chopped

Cilantro, 1 bunch, chopped, stems removed

Salad oil, a splash 

Kosher salt and pepper taste

Avocado, scooped and chopped

1.  Add chopped onion, jalapenos, garlic in a one-gallon zip bag.   Add enough apple-cider vinegar to cover.  Allow to macerate for at least a couple of hours.

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2.  Transfer to a glass serving dish.

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 Add tomatoes, salt & pepper, cilantro, and avocado.

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Toss with a splash of oil and serve with tortilla chips, homemade if at all possible.  There’s nothing like homemade corn tortilla chips!  Soooo worth the effort!

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3.  Start with corn tortillas from the store.  They don’t need to be fresh.  As a matter of fact, I always toss leftover tortillas into the freezer and save for a batch of tortilla chips.

4.  Add about an inch of cooking oil to a deep-sided cast iron dutch oven.  Heat to medium high heat.  

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5.  Be sure that tortillas are dry.  Prepare one tortilla at a time.  Using tongs, add tortilla to hot oil.  Allow to fry for a couple of minutes until crispy.

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6. Set on a cooling rack atop a cookie sheet.  Immediately sprinkle with kosher salt.

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7.  Enjoy!

 

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