Well, deer season is now over, and plenty of hunters spent the last few months stocking their freezers with fresh game. Luckily, my buddy Chuck is one such outdoorsman, and he’s not stingy with his meat.
He came upon some frozen venison from last season and, not wanting to discard it or crowd his freezer in anticipation of a 2014-15 haul, offered some of it to me. Being a carnivore who has never had the guts to shoot an animal, I figured I’d play the beta role and accept his generous offering.
Of course, I didn’t quite know what to do with it — I’ve eaten plenty of venison in my day, but I had never cooked it. So, with a few tips from Chuck, I decided to wing it. First, I made some chili with a package of cubed venison; it was delicious. I then cooked a pair of deer chops for my girlfriend and myself to go with some mashed potatoes and veggies, and let’s just say that I had plenty of deer chop for my lunch the next day. (I’m always open to having more meat.)
But when it came to the ground venison Chuck gave me, I didn’t know whether to make burgers or deerloaf. But then I had an idea: Since tacos are the most wonderful meat vessel known to man, why not make venison tacos? Is there even such a thing? Are there Mexican deer running around south of the border?
So I made it simple: I took a package of the ground venison, which was a pound or a pound and a half, plopped it into a mixing bowl, and randomly added spices: minced garlic, black pepper, ground sea salt, ground Mexican-style chile peppers, cayenne and a couple of dashes of El Yucateco Chile Habanero sauce, along with some beer (I used an IPA).
I mixed it all up, and then plopped a fist-sized lump of it into a frying pan with some extra virgin olive oil and the heat on medium. Using a spatula, I chopped and flipped, flipped and chopped. The stuff took maybe five minutes to cook, and it smelled delicious.
And then I dropped some pico de gallo into a tortilla, chopped up some fresh cilantro to go with it, hand-dropped some of the venison on top, and then added a couple squirts of lime, a bit more Yucateco and topped it with cheese.
You know what? I made freaking magic. The venison turned the taco into something between a Mexican cheeseburger and a deer-sausage taco. The slightly pungent gamey flavor of the deer actually blended far better than I expected with the (mostly) Mexican-style ingredients I paired it with.
And I experimented — if you use shredded cheddar cheese and minimal hot sauce, the experience is closer to a cheeseburger. Use a Mexican blend or white cheese with a bit more of the chile habanero and you’re skirting closer to the sausage taco flavor. (Also, I’m happy to report that these tacos pair nicely with pretty much any kind of beer. But I had already counted on that one.)
Anyway, I took the excess ground venison, made them into burgers, froze them, and now I have what I have dubbed “anytime tacos” – I just thaw the burger, microwave it, crumble it into the tortilla with the other ingredients, and it’s a taco feast straight from the forest.
With each taco, I experiment with different hot sauces, from Blair’s Death Sauce to El Mundo Red Hot Mamma habanero sauce. Hey, El Yucateco still feels right, but why not try new combinations?
The only problem is that I’m almost out of Mexican deer meat. Here’s hoping Chuck bags another couple of deer before the season is over. Otherwise, I’m going to have to resort back to beef, and at this point I’m not sure Mexican cow will satisfy the craving.