Cinco de Mayo Fajitas Anyone?
From Tenderize the Wild: Marinades, brines and rubs for wild game
We’re getting ready for Cinco de Mayo. I’ll bet our local brewery will be doing some delicious Mexican beers—maybe even better than the two Irish ones they brewed up for St Patty’s Day. (We’ve brought home a growler or two of them already. And a crowler…or three.) But it’s time to switch gears.
Rowdy Brined Elk Fajitas Recipe
Brining is the magic that makes this recipe work–especially if you start with a chunk of tough old bull elk as I did. I wrote about brining wild game in the spring and summer 2015 issues of Rifle Loony News, and how tender it makes all kinds of game meat, and how different the timing is from brining commercial meats. It works for these fajitas, too. But this brine is also about flavor, so do the shorter brine if you’re cooking a tender forkhorn or young doe, but do brine them for the added flavor. Even if it’s just overnight. (For the tough old elk, we eventually went a bit over 48 hours, or 2 days.) The process is easy. Just start the brine and the Mojo sauce 24-36 hours ahead. One more thing: it looks like a lot of work, but most of the work happens in the brine. And that’s no work for you.
24-36 hours ahead
2 pounds venison steaks
4 cups water
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder (not garlic salt!)
½ teaspoon red onion flakes
Put the steaks and brine ingredients into a re-sealable plastic bag, adding the steaks separately so at least some of the brine reached all the steak surfaces. Seal, then chill for 24-36 hours. (For 36 hours or more of brining, give the steaks a good shake to re-adjust what surfaces get more brine flavor.)
For the Mojo and Veggies:
Juice of 2 limes
Juice of 1 orange
6 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 roasted Anaheim chili
The Rest of the Ingredients
3 tablespoons oil
1 yellow onion, sliced
1 red sweet bell pepper, sliced
1 orange sweet bell pepper, sliced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
12 flour tortillas
Grated Monterey Jack cheese
- Preheat a propane grill to medium-hot, 350 to 400°F. Alternately, start your coals. When they are covered with white ash–the vast majority of them, not just a few–spread them out for cooking. When the cooking surface is hot, give it a good scraping with your grill brush, then wipe it with oil. (That way you’ll season the grate, as you would season a cast iron pan, to make it more non-stick.)
- Combine the Mojo sauce ingredients. To roast the Anaheim pepper hold it, with metal tongs, over a burner on your gas stove or propane grill, blistering the skin all over. (Let it get pretty black) Let the pepper cool a few seconds, then close it up in a plastic bag and let the steam loosen the skin; when cool enough to handle, pull the skin off, chop the pepper and add it to the Mojo.
- In a skillet over medium heat, heat the oil, then add the onion, peppers and garlic and sauté until they are browned on the edges. Pour the Mojo over them and stir well. Continue cooking 2-4 minutes until most of the liquid is gone. Once you start the veggies, remove the steaks from the brine and put them on the grill. Cook about 10 minutes all together, turning once about halfway through.
To Assemble the Fajitas:
- Slice the steaks across the grain, holding your knife at an angle (rather than straight up and down). Arrange the slices on one end of a platter. Now arrange the sautéed Mojo veggies beside the meat on the platter. Finally, add a stack of flour tortillas to the end of the platter with sour cream, Jack and salsa on the side.
- Let each person arrange their own fajita: first meat, then veggies, then toppings of choice. John likes fresh salsa and grated cheddar. I prefer lots of sour cream and nothing else. Some people like to spread guacamole on the tortilla before stacking the meat and veggies.
- Serve hot with your favorite Mexican beer.