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

Oaxaqueños have been eating venison since pre-Hispanic times. Although it is less available there now, it’s still used in moles and stews. I learned how to make this tasty dish from Carmen of the Restaurante Carmelita, located outside Tuxtepec. After marinating the venison in chile paste, it is grilled over a wood fire.

Salsa de Chile Seco Tuxtepecano (Chile Paste)

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sunflower or vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons sliced garlic
1 cup chiles secos, stemmed, or chiles de arbol, stemmed and seeded salt

In an 8-inch cast-iron frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons 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 tablespoons 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.


4 chiles anchos, stemmed, seeded, and deveined
8 chiles guajillos, stemmed, seeded, and deveined, or cascabels
1/2 small white onion
5 garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon 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)

In a small saucepan, bring 2 cups of water to a boil. On a 10-inch 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, cover with the boiling water, and 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 in a blender. 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 tongs and place in the blender. Add 1/2 to 3/4 cup of the chile-soaking water and blend until smooth. In an 8-inch 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 5 to 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 thirty 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.


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

Heat the oil and butter in a 9- or 10-inch 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 to 10 minutes (they will appear brown and bubbly as they give off some of their natural sugars). Salt to taste. Keep warm.


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

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 lime wedges, soft corn tortillas, and the salsa de chile seco tuxtepecano. Serves 6.

From A Good Mango Is Hard to Find Texas Monthly, April 2002.