Deep in the grasslands of south Texas, an unforgiving landscape provides a home for the exotic nilgai antelope. Master chef Jesse Griffiths of Austin’s Dai Due restaurant sets out on a hunt to create an epic Tex-Mex feast. Here, he shares four of his favorite recipes from the hunt
Taking a cue from seafood ceviches, this dish is very lightly ‘cooked’ by the citrus, but is still for the most part raw. Add any crunchy vegetables available; we often add in cactus paddles (raw or grilled), different chilies, yucca blossoms and other herbs depending on the season.
1 pound antelope of venison tenderloin, cleaned of all silverskin, diced into 1/4 “ pieces
¼ cup Key lime juice
2 tbsp olive oil
salt to taste
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
¼ cup white onion, finely diced
¼ cup cucumber, diced
½ bunch cilantro, leaves only
4 radishes, thinly sliced
Tostadas, for serving
In a medium bowl, toss together the antelope, lime, olive oil and salt. Adjust seasoning. Add the pepper, onion and cucumber and adjust seasoning again. Let stand, refrigerated, for about 10 minutes, then serve, garnished with the cilantro, radishes and tostadas.
Carne Asada Marinade
The sweet, sour and salty flavors of this work very well with grilled game like venison or antelope, as well as the traditional beef. The olive oil helps with both moisture and caramelization on the grill, while the soy gives it a salty boost. If you can, grill the asadas over burning wood or charcoal for the best flavor. We used hearts, chops, skirt steaks and flank steaks for our asada, but any grillable cut or steak would be perfect.
Makes about 1 ½ cups, or enough to marinate 3 pounds of meat.
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup lime juice
½ cup orange juice
1 tbsp dry Mexican oregano
2 tsp ground black pepper
Combine all ingredients in a bowl, whisking well to combine. Marinate the cuts intended for use for 24 hours in a non-reactive container, then grill over a very hot fire until charred and crisp and the desired doneness.
This spicy Mexican sausage can be stuffed into casings for grilling, but it is almost better left in bulk and browned for taco fillings. Serve the crisped ground sausage in corn tortillas with sliced radish, raw onion, cilantro and salsa, or brown it and scramble eggs into it. It also makes a great addition to beans and soups.
Makes 5 pounds
4 lbs lean venison or antelope trim, diced into 1” pieces
1 lb pork fatback, diced into 1” pieces
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 tbsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp ground cumin
2 tsp dry Mexican oregano
1 tsp Mexican cinnamon, ground
2 tbsp ground chipotle chile
4 each allspice berries, ground
3 each cloves, ground
1 tbsp granulated garlic
2 tsp coriander seed, ground
2 tbsp hot paprika
2 tsp dry thyme
1 tbsp brown sugar
Chill a meat grinder in the freezer. Lay the trim out on a baking tray and freeze for about 20 minutes, or until the meats are very cold. Combine the spice mix in a small bowl. Toss the meat and fat with the salt and the spice mix, then grind through the medium plate of the grinder. Gently mix the sausage by hand until homogenous. Refrigerate the sausage for up to 5 days, or freeze for later use.
Prickly Pear and Mescal Margaritas
Carefully pick ripe, red cactus fruit with tongs, and handle them gingerly. The large spines will hurt, the finer spines will annoy. For this margarita, we chose a good mescal, but not an expensive sipper. Tequila would be just fine, too. The chile pequin salt adds a fantastic spice and salt to the drink.
Makes about 12 margaritas
About 20 prickly pear fruits
1 cup sugar
3 cups mescal or tequila
2 cups fresh squeezed Key lime juice
1 cup Grand Marnier or quality triple sec
Chile Pequin Salt (recipe follows)
Put the fruit, sugar and five cups water in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Strain the fruit through a fine strainer, gently pushing the fruit to extract as much liquid as possible. There should be about 3 cups of strained liquid.
Mix together the prickly pear syrup, lime juice, mescal and Grand Marnier in a pitcher and chill.
Using a squeezed lime, rub the rim of each glass, then invert onto the chile pequin salt. Fill all the way with ice cubes and pour over the margarita. Squeeze another half lime into the margarita and enjoy.
Chile Pequin Salt
½ cup coarse sea salt
20 chiles pequin (or substitute two red ripe serrano peppers, sliced)
In a molcahete or mortar, coarsely mash the chilies and salt together. Spread out onto a flat saucer. Store at room temperature for up to 2 days.