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TexMex Venison and/or Wild Pork Enchiladas

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It’s really hot outside.  And, yet, it’s time to start preparing for deer season.  It’s time to fill feeders and fix feeder pens.  And check on the game cameras.  It’s time to clean out coolers.

For the Deerslayer’s Wife, it’s also time to start thinking about meals that can be packaged up ahead and prepared in a jiffy but still be worthy of the hunter that made them possible.

Enchiladas are great because they can be prepared ahead, frozen, packaged, and served a few at a time depending on how many you need.

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The cookie sheet can be placed directly into the freezer for a few hours until the enchiladas are frozen through.

The trick to having fresh (not soggy) tasting enchiladas is to package up the sauce separately, heat it, and pour over the enchiladas before they are heated in the oven or on a bbq pit and served.

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Sauce can be made and poured up into smaller jars that can be taken, in a cooler, to the hunting camp.  I’ve used canning jars and larger plastic containers with screw-on lids.

I’ve taken several varieties on hunting/camping trips, Venison/Wild Pork Enchiladas with Creamy Poblano Sauce, Cheese Enchiladas with Venison Chili con Carne, and Pheasant (or Duck or Chicken) Enchiladas with Tomatillo Sauce.

This recipe is kind of a variation of a couple of the others.  It has all the flavor and cheesy appeal of cheese enchiladas with the extra heartiness of a meat filled enchiladas.  Everyone really enjoyed these so I thought I’d share.  I always prepare enough to serve as dinner the night I fix it and freeze the rest for an upcoming hunting/camping trip.

Enchilada Filling 

1 lb. cooked, shredded venison and/or wild pork (see all day cooking method in “Come and Take It”)

1 tsp.chili powder, comino (cumin) and salt  or to taste

enough beef stock and/or drippings from all-day-cooked meat to moisten the mixture

about 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese, divided (the more the better, I always say)

a package of corn tortillas (NOT FLOUR)

Enchilada Sauce

2-3 Tbsp. bacon grease
3 Tbsp. flour
½ green or red bell pepper, diced, seeds removed
½ onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. cumin
1 tsp. black pepper
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 10 oz. can tomatoes (with or w/o chilies to taste)
2 tsp. garlic salt
½ cup water

to make enchiladas

In a cast iron skillet, season shredded venison and/or wild pork with chili powder, comino, and salt to taste.  Add enough stock or drippings to moisten the meat a little.

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In a separate small skillet, heat about a 1/2 inch of cooking oil. When oil is just starting to shimmer, coat one corn tortilla, one side at a time, until tortilla is soft, just a couple of seconds.

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I discovered these great rubber-tipped tongs that do not tear the corn tortillas! Priceless!

Lay corn tortilla on a flat surface.  Spread with a line of seasoned meat and cheddar cheese.

Roll enchilada and place, seam side down, in a 9×13 baking dish or on a cookie sheet,

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Continue this process until you have rolled as many enchiladas as you have meat.

If you want, set aside the number of enchiladas you want to cook for a meal right away.

Then place the rest of the enchiladas in the freezer for several hours until frozen through.

For the sauce

Melt the bacon grease in a cast iron skillet,  saute all veggies until translucent.cheese enchiladas 001

 

Add remaining ingredients, stir, and simmer, covered, about 1 hour until tender and cooked down to thick gravy.

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Stir periodically to prevent sticking to the pan.  Using an emersion blender or regular blender,  blend sauce until smooth.

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At this point, you can pour what you need over your enchiladas in an ovenproof dish, sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake at 350º for about 30 minutes until bubbling and cheese is melted.

Pour extra sauce into jars to take on your hunting trip.

Note:

For a hunting/camping trip, preparing a meal that has as little cleanup as possible is almost always my goal.  Multi-packs of small foil pans are readily available at most grocers these days.   I have discovered that enough frozen enchiladas  (thawed) for a meal can be placed in one of these aluminum baking containers, heated sauce poured over the top, and cheese sprinkled on.  Cover and seal the pan with additional foil  and place on a bbq pit off to the side of some medium hot coals for about 20 minutes or so depending on how hot the coals are.  The pan should be turned a couple of times for even heating. Check the progress.  The enchiladas are ready when the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is melted.

 

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Axis Bacon-Wrapped Garlic Roast

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Get a bunch of hunters sittin’ around a fire and ask ’em what they think of axis deer meat.  I’m guessing  that the consensus, after a couple of contemplative sips of beer and a good deal of head-nodding, is that axis meat is top notch.  The flavor and texture are superlative. For several years, I’ve heard hunters say that they’d just as soon eat axis as any other variety of wild game, with the possible exception of elk.  I have to agree.

This is the beginning of my comparison between Axis and whitetail meat.   After a sip of beer, I’ll share my experience.

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This is a football roast from a small axis.  It is from the hindquarter. It’s larger than that of a whitetail.  Also, notice the thick layer of silverskin.  I discovered that it isn’t as tough or chewy as whitetail.  The roast has been placed on a roasting rack and placed over a small oven-proof pan to catch drippings.  I have to admit that this set-up is a little precarious and requires some coordination when it comes to placing the roast in the oven.  What can I say? I ride the ragged edge of disaster.  Use a roasting pan that is larger than the rack if you wish.  Problem solved.

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Notice the rich, mahogany color of the meat.  I cut the roast most of the way through, then filled the cavity with minced garlic and salt and pepper.

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I tied up the roast on the roasting rack.

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I covered the entire top of the roast with more minced garlic.   Yeah, it’s a lot.  A lot of fabulous!

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Take thick-sliced, maple bacon, cut each slice in half and lay across the top of the roast.  Place in a 350 degree oven.  Roast for about one hour.  

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I always throw a pan of root veggies in the oven at the same time as the roast.  I add sliced onions, carrots, potatoes, cubed sweet potatoes,  a drizzle of olive oil, plenty of kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, all tossed together with my hands in a 9×13 baking dish.  Add about a cup of water or stock to the pan. This can go into the oven with the roast and will be ready at the same time!

 

 

 

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Backstrap Scraps with Mushroom and Onion Gravy

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Every hunter knows that the backstrap is one of the most prized cuts of meat from a deer hunting harvest.  Seared or fried up into steaks, it just doesn’t get any better.   However, up near the neck of the deer, there’s some meat that is technically still backstrap but doesn’t lend itself to the traditional applications.  The meat is just as tender and succulent as the delicious lower portion, it’s just ummm… scrappy and shouldn’t be wasted.

Recently, I grabbed some meat from the freezer that had been appropriately labeled “axis backstrap neck meat”. It was indeed pretty scrappy.dsc_0282

I cleaned it up, removing the fascia or silver skin from the meat.  Then I cut it into chunks.

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Notice the pile of tissue that I removed from the meat.  DON’T THROW IT AWAY!  Bag it up, put it in the freezer and save it to use for stock or toss it in with your cook-all-day meat.

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I liberally seasoned the meat with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Then I sprinkled flour over the whole mess and tossed to coat.

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I browned it on all sides in a hot skillet with melted butter just for a couple of minutes so that meat stayed medium rare.

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Then I removed the meat to a plate and set it in warm oven.

I sauted an onion, thinly sliced, in the same skillet with a little more butter until browned and softened, almost caramelized.  I added mushrooms and stirred until the mushrooms were also browned.  I set those aside in a bowl so I could make the gravy.

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I melted a quarter cup of butter in the skillet. I added two tablespoons of flour and stirred until smooth scraping up all the tasty, browned bits to make a roux. I whisked in a cup of stock, a quarter cup of red wine, and about a quarter cup of Worcestershire (more or less to taste), stirring constantly. I heated it on low/medium heat just until slightly thickened. I added the mushrooms and onions back into the sauce and mixed until combined.  DSC_0289

I served the gravy over the backstrap scraps and some lovely garlic mashed potatoes.

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Ingredients:

  • about 2 lbs. of scrappy backstrap neck meat, chunked
  • liberal amount of salt and pepper mix
  • enough flour to coat meat chunks
  • 2-3 tbsp. butter, another 2-3 tbsp. butter, about a quarter cup of butter (Alright, about a stick of butter, divided)
  • a medium onion, sliced thinly
  • 8 oz. crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • about 2 tbsp. flour for the gravy
  • 1 cup dark stock (beef or venison)
  • ¼ cup red wine
  • about ¼ cup  Worcestershire sauce

 

 

 

 
1 Comment

Posted by on March 6, 2017 in Axis, Recipes, Uncategorized, Venison

 

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A First! An Axis Buck!

I’ve seen axis deer for years on drives through the Texas Hill Country.  Usually, they’re behind  the high fences of hunting ranches.  Sometimes they’re dead on the side of the road, having escaped from one of those ranches and not having kept up with the rules of the road.

They’re beautiful animals originally from India, fully spotted with long, three-pronged antlers. They were brought here to be hunted as exotics.  Slightly larger than whitetails with beautiful spotted coats like a fawn, they were first brought to Texas in the 1930s to keep on game ranches.  Because they’re exotics, they can be hunted any time during the year, not just during hunting season.

Deerslayer and I had heard, through the years, that axis is a preferred game meat because of its mild “non-gamey” taste.  I’ve always said that game that is properly processed and prepared beautifully doesn’t taste gamey.  But my curiosity was certainly piqued regarding axis deer.

Even though Deerslayer has hunted since he was a kid, he’d never had an opportunity to bag one….. UNTIL NOW!  An opportunity presented itself for Deerslayer to harvest his first Axis.  We were both really excited.  The buck was a little larger than a whitetail.  The skin was gorgeous.  I asked Deerslayer to save it for me.

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Being the Deerslayer’s Wife, I was so excited to try out the meat. It had quite a reputation. And after all, this is what I do.  As I use the meat for all my favorite recipes, such as Venison Parmesan, Pecan Crusted Venison Steaks, Seared Tenderloins or Backstrap, Bacon-Wrapped Garlic Football Roast, and all the others, I’ll share with my readers my findings regarding any differences that I discover between the axis and whitetail.

The first night that we brought it home and processed it, I noticed the gorgeous deep, rich mahogany color of the meat, deeper in color than whitetail.  There was also more fat on it than what I was used to seeing on whitetail.  In the Deerslayer household, we don’t really care for fat  that some whitetail have.  It kinda coats the inside of your mouth and doesn’t seem to add good flavor to the meat.  For the sake of experimentation, we decided to grill the tenderloins of the axis, one trimmed of fat and the other with the fat left on.

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It was the consensus of the family that both tenderloins, seared to a glorious medium-rare were as good as, if not better than, whitetail.  The tenderloin that had the fat left intact was as flavorful as can be. There was no unpleasant after-taste or mouth-feel.  I’ll continue to compare and share.  I’ll keep you posted.

 

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Christmas Decor for the Discerning Deerslayer

I think it’s safe to say, readers, that being a Deerslayer household means that life is a little bit different from ordinary households.  It permeates every nook and cranny of your existence. This seems most glaring  during the Christmas season.

While other families are wearing matching sweaters and caroling, we’re loading the truck for a weekend of hunting.  Christmas parties give way to camping, sitting by a fire, sharing stories, looking at the stars, and listening to the coyotes.

I have to admit that I cannot blame Deerslayer for the timing. Granted, the coolers and camo and other paraphernalia strewn about the house during this time of year do add a certain  unique ambience that is unmistakable. Christmas DOES fall during hunting season in South Texas, after all.

This tray holds sheds that we’ve collected over the years as well as ornaments that were on my Christmas tree when I was a child and some fresh and festive clementines.

It can be pretty hard to prepare for Christmas while we’re in the midst of hunting season. This is when being a Deerslayer’s wife gets complicated.  There are gifts that need to be bought and wrapped, a tree that needs to be thoughtfully chosen and decorated, cards for teachers and helpers that need to be written out, tamales that need to be made. You get the idea.

Grab the wine.  Take a deep breath. Perhaps block a few phone numbers like the homeroom mom’s or committee member’s.  Do the stuff that you must, delegate out some of the other chores.  Focus on what makes your family happy.  Remember the reason for the season.

Over the years, I’ve not only come to terms with the fact that my house will never be  like one of those on the magazine covers, but I’ve actually begun to embrace the lifestyle of a hunter and his natural habitat. It may be cluttered and stacked to the ceiling with coolers, camo, guns,  and ammo but it’s part of who we are and I’ve grown to love it.

The basket with candles, sheds, and old ornaments is casual and easy to throw together (like our lifestyle).

The house smells like wonderful things to eat (thanks to Junior Deerslayer) during this holiday season and is full of things that remind us of memories that we cherish.   It doesn’t get any better than that.  Have a Merry and Blessed Christmas!

 

 

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Dark Chocolate Zucchini Rubbish Muffins

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Well, friends, that lull that occurs between dove season and deer season down here in South Texas has come and gone.  Before things got too hectic, before my house was once again piled with coolers and camo, while I  still had some control over my household,  I thought it was only appropriate that I should make muffins.

Muffins are soothing. They make the house smell yummy.  And, as some of you who have been following my ramblings for a while are already aware,  muffins allow me to use up my stash of cereal crumbs that I collect. These crumbs are just rubbish to most people, the stuff that is left over and thrown away.  For some reason, there seems to be a pretty high percentage of crumbs in every box of cereal.  In my mind, while I’m not willing to make my family pour up a bowl of crumbs and choke them down with milk,  it seems just plain wasteful to throw away perfectly usable breakfast stuff.  So I came up with a couple of recipes like Cranberry Rubbish Muffins and Apricot Brandy Rubbish Muffins that incorporated the crumbs.

I was in the mood for a really chocolatey version of my dear rubbish muffins.  Since one of the Junior Deerslayers is a real Chocolate connoisseur, I had in my larder some black cocoa from King Arthur Flour’s online store.  It adds a very intense unsweetened dark chocolate flavor and color and can be added sparingly to substitute for a small amount of regular Dutch processed cocoa powder in recipes. Black Cocoa - 12 oz.

I went a step further to send these muffins over the top with deep dark chocolatey notes by adding a tablespoon of espresso powder (also from King Arthur Flour’s website).  It really deepens the intensity of the almost bitter dark chocolate flavor in recipes.

The family was pleased with the results and I used up my cereal crumbs.

Make these muffins, send them with your hunters and express your love in the best possible way… before the house is full of coolers and camo!

Espresso Powder - 3...

Dark Chocolate Zucchini Rubbish Muffins

Makes one dozen

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder*
  • 1 tbs. dark cocoa powder
  • 1 tbs. espresso powder*
  • 1 cup grated zucchini
  • 3/4 cup AP flour
  • 3/4 cup cereal crumbs
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (or 1/2 tsp. each;  ground cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom)

* or use 1/3 cup cocoa powder instead of combination of  1/4 cup cocoa powder, 1 tbs. dark cocoa powder, and 1 tbs. espresso powder

Preheat oven to 350°.     Lightly grease 12 cup muffin tin.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs until light in color.  Whisk in brown sugar and oil.  Add the cocoa powders, espresso powder,  and vanilla. Stir in cereal crumbs.

In a second smaller bowl mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin pie spices.

Add dry ingredients to egg mixture a little at a time. Fold in zucchini.

Pour batter into prepared muffin tins, 2/3 full.  Bake at 350° for 20 to 25 minutes.

Remove to a wire rack.

For a extra burst of chocolate, drizzle each muffin with prepared chocolate frosting, microwaved for a few seconds until pourable.

 

 
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Posted by on November 6, 2016 in Recipes, Sweet Things, Uncategorized

 

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Dove Breast Crostini

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I take pride in having more whitewing recipes than the average Doveslayer’s wife.  Every dove hunter loves dove breast with a slice of jalapeño and wrapped in bacon and tossed on the grill.  It’s the pretty much the gold standard.  Everybody loves it. When I talk to people about dove recipes, many of them will look around sneakily and almost whisper,”Have you ever tried slipping a jalapeno in the breast, wrapping it with bacon, and grilling it?”

“Yep, I’ve tried it. Yes, it’s a great way to eat doves.  But there just have to be more ways to enjoy these tasty morsels,”I would say to myself.  That’s why I started experimenting with whitewing recipes.

We end up with lots of doves in our freezer every year.  When Deerslayer/Doveslayer goes out for a hunt, he usually comes home with doves that other hunters have given him, probably because most people only have one “go-to” recipe.  I needed more recipes.  So I started with Special Occasion Whitewing Doves with Gravy, which I received from the matriarch of the Deerslayer Clan,  Roasted Corn and Poblano Chowder with Whitewing Breast,and  Chilaquiles Verdes with Dove Breast, both are variations of recipes we’ve enjoyed from favorite restaurants, and  Dove Ravioli in Browned Butter, a concoction of my own design.

As I worked on the ravioli recipe, my daughters were my taste-testers… to the point that I almost ran out of filling for the ravioli!  It was suggested that the ravioli filling would make a fantastic appetizer on crackers or toast… so I tried it.  Huge hit! Try it and let me know how you like it.  There are few recipes out there for dove appetizers.  I think you’ll like this one.

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  • a big splash of olive oil
  • ½ medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves,coarsely chopped
  • ¼ cup chopped red bell pepper (optional)
  •  dove breasts (from 10 doves)
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • ¼ to ½ cup dry white wine ( a glug)
  • ½ cup parmesan, plus more for sprinkling
  • small toasts or crackers
  • chopped parsley for sprinkling

In a hot skillet, sauté onion in olive oil until almost caramelized. Reduce heat.

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Add in garlic,  dove breasts, chopped red bell pepper (or not), dried thyme, red pepper flakes, and a ¼ cup of white wine. You may need to add some more  wine during the food processing to get a good, spreadable consistency.

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20 breast fillets from 10 doves

 

Toss about until combined and dove breasts are cooked through, about 7-10 minutes.

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The dove breasts are not quite done yet.

You can cut into the dove breast to test for doneness. Remove from heat.

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The breasts are done!

Allow the ingredients to cool before you add the parmesan or it will melt and create a large glob.  You don’t want that.

Transfer mixture to your food processor, in batches if you have a food processorette like I do, and process until everything is finely chopped and holds together. This is when you can add more white wine if the mixture is too dry to be spreadable.

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Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.  Serve at room temperature with small toasts.

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