Asado de Venado Enchilado (Grilled Venison Smeared with Chile Paste)

The Guajillo (wha-hee-oh) chile is the most common dried chile in Mexico after the Ancho. The flavor of the Guajillo is distinct, slightly fruity with a strong piney, berry under taste. Guajillo flavors dished easily so a little goes a long way. This chile is between a 2-4 on the heat scale of 1-10. Guajillo, combined with the Passilla and Ancho, form the holy trinity of chiles used to prepare the traditional mole sauces.

Suggested Use:
A mildly hot chile. Use in sauces, salsa, soups and your favorite chile. A little goes a long way.

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Ingredients for the salsa de chile seco tuxtepecano:

1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. sunflower or vegetable oil
1-1/2 Tbsp. sliced garlic
1 cup chiles secos, stemmed, or chiles de arbol, stemmed and seeded

Ingredients for the venado:

4 chiles anchos, stemmed, seeded and deveined
8 chiles guajillos, stemmed, seeded, and deveined, or cascabels
1/2 small white onion
5 garlic cloves
/2 tsp. black peppercorns
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tablespoon lard or sunflower or vegetable oil
salt to taste
a splash of beer
2 pounds boneless venison (backstrap or from chops), cut in 6 equal servings (loin or tenderloin of beef may be substituted)

Ingredients for the topping:

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1-1/2 medium white onions, halved and then thickly sliced
1/2 pound tomatoes (1 medium-large round tomato or 6-7 plum tomatoes)
1 Tbsp. capers

Ingredients for the garnish:

lettuce leaves
tomato, avocado and onion slices
ime wedges
corn tortillas


Method for the salsa de chile seco tuxtepecano:

In an 8″ cast-iron frying pan, heat 2 Tbsp. of oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and chiles. Cook slowly, stirring constantly, until the chiles turn slightly brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a molcajete (Mexican mortar and pestle) and grind, adding the remaining oil, 2 Tbsp. at a time. When the mixture is ground uniformly, remove from the molcajete. The sauce will be oily, but this will preserve it for weeks. Add salt to taste. (This salsa is very hot, so be careful when tasting; a tiny speck will give you enough flavor to adjust the salt.) Note: This recipe takes about an hour and a half to prepare. You can make it in advance.

Method for the venado:

In a small saucepan, bring 2 cups of water to a boil. On a 10″ dry comal or griddle or in a cast-iron frying pan over medium to high heat, toast the chiles, turning them with tongs to keep them from burning, until they blister and give off their aroma. Place in a medium bowl and cover with the boiling water. Soak for about 15 minutes.

On the same comal, grill the onion and garlic cloves until they are translucent and soft, turning them so they will not burn. Place them in a blender and add the peppercorns and cumin seeds to the comal, stirring constantly until they brown and give off their aroma, about 2 minutes. Add them to the blender. When the soaked chiles are soft, pick them out of the water with the tongs and place the chiles in the blender. Add 1/2 to 3/4 cup of the chile-soaking water and blend until smooth.

In an 8″ cast-iron frying pan over medium to high heat, heat the lard or oil until smoking hot. Pour the chile mixture through a food mill or strainer into the pan and fry over high heat, stirring constantly, for about 5-7 minutes or until it thickens. Add the salt and beer and continue to cook for 5 minutes longer. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

In a medium bowl, combine the meat and chile mixture. Marinate the meat for at least 30 minutes and preferably overnight (in which case it should be refrigerated).

Prepare a wood or charcoal fire or preheat the broiler.

Grill the meat over a fire, or place under the broiler, for 4 (for rare) to 7 (for well done) minutes on each side.

Method for the topping:

Heat the oil and butter in a 10″ cast-iron frying pan over high heat. Add the onions and sauté until transparent, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and capers and cook until caramelized, 8-10 minutes (they will appear brown and bubbly as they give off some of their natural sugars). Salt to taste. Keep warm.

Method for the garnish:

Spoon the meat onto half of a large serving platter. Arrange the lettuce leaves and tomato, avocado and onion slices attractively on the other half of the platter. Surround the meat with the topping. Serve with fresh lime wedges, soft corn tortillas, and the salsa de chile seco tuxtepecano.

Yields 6 servings.

Recipe adapted from Seasons of My Heart: A Culinary Journey Through Oaxaca, Mexico (Ballantine Books) by Susan Trilling.