Why does Cinco de Mayo make me want Mexican food? It’s not really a thing in Mexico, and sometimes it just feels like an excuse to eat nachos and drink Mexican beer and tequila in the US. Is that a bad thing? Maybe ‘excuse’ could be changed to ‘a reason to contemplate regional cuisine and celebrate’ makes it sound better. Rationalization? Justification? Hell, I just wish I could pull out all kinds of wacky global holidays to give me a reason to go nuts on ingredients and flavors ranging near and far. Hmmm…. That might be an idea that I need to begin incubating in the space between my ears (and I am always open to suggestions).
So. Mexican food.. Something a little more… What? Well, something different than tacos. Please don’t be offended tacos. I love you so very much, but you get oh so very much attention. Let’s try to come up with something different. Grilled mole marinated venison? Grilled romaine and corn? Yes, I do love to cook with fire.
Mole is an incredibly complex sauce/paste that can take hours if not days (or feels like it) of preparation. Yes, you can do this. It can even be a fun project. It doesn’t make for a quick marinade though. While living in San Miguel de Allende I kind of got spoiled when it came to being able to buy little tubs of different varieties of home made mole in the marcados (I even some good commercial ones in the bigger grocery stores). I haven’t found anything like that in the States just yet, but I continue to look. I did schlep some back to the States when I moved back, though these have now been sadly depleted.
The Secret to Rick Bayless’ Oaxaca Mole
Lucky Peach: The Guide to the Regional Moles of Mexico
Food Republic’s 7 Moles of Oaxaca
Maybe some products to try: https://store.ilovemole.com/
This is more of a process dish than a complex recipe and makes for a bright salad. I used a salsa verde that I make, can, and keep in the cupboard for just such occasions as this. If you have the salsa verde and some mole, then this is a quick dinner.
- First marinate the venison steaks (or beef if you don’t like venison)
• 2 steaks
• A couple of tablespoons of Oaxacan rojo mole (or mole of your choice - though the deep and rich red or black ones will work really well with the red meat)
• 1 Teaspoon of toasted cumin
• Ground chile (like chile de arbol) to taste
• Salt and pepper to taste
• 2-3 Tablespoons of oil
Mix and coat meat well - sit in the fridge while you build a fire and prep other ingredients.
• Shuck and silk 5-6 ears of corn, coat with a bit of oil and season with salt and pepper.
• Cut a couple of cups of cherry tomatoes in half, toss with salt and pepper.
• Cut a couple of heads of romaine lettuce in half and drizzle with oil.
• Make salsa verde vinaigrette.
- Combine 4-5 tablespoons of salsa verde with the juice of 1 lime and 6-7 tablespoons of your oil of choice (I tend to use olive oil for most things)
- Taste for balance and adjust accordingly
This is super easy and is pretty shelf stable because of the amount of acid it contains. It’s great to have as a go to for all kinds of uses - taco topping, enchiladas, base for cooking chicken parts in the crock pot, base for cooking a white bean and turkey chili, topping for carnitas nachos, ad nauseam.
• 6-8 Tomatillos (depending on size) - whole
• 2-3 Green jalepenos - whole
• 1-2 Onions (depending on how big they are) - quartered
Place all items into a large pan over high heat and char on as many sides as you can manage. The tomatillos can be less than cooperative when you are trying to get more than two sides to make contact with the pan’s surface. You will see what i mean when you try it. Keep at it until you get frustrated.
Dump all items into a heat proof blender and add the latter items on top:
• The juice from 2 limes
• 2-3 Cloves of garlic minced
• A couple of big handfuls of cilantro - stems and all
• Salt to taste (you might have to re-season after you blend - and remember that salt blooms!)
Blend CAREFULLY. Pour into jars and use your canning method of choice. I know it’s a bit janky, but I usually just flip the jars upside down and let the heat seal the jars for me. Store in the fridge or in the pantry.
When the fire has burned down to a SUPER hot coal bed put your steaks on and cook to your preferred doneness (you should aim for mid rare to rare). Pull off the grill and let the meat rest.
Add the corn to the grill and turn until the sides begin to char. Remove from the grill and cut the kernels from the cob. Quickly sear the cut face of the romaine. Cooking lettuce has to be done quickly over really high heat or it turns into a wilty mess.
Cut and scoop out a ripe avocado and toss with lime juice, salt and pepper.
Plate lettuce, top with tomatoes, corn, tomatoes, avocado. Dress generously with salsa verde vinaigrette and add some crumbled cotija cheese.
Slice venison and nestle on top of the salad. Serve with your favorite south of the border tasty adult beverage. I recommend a frosty paloma.
Eat, drink and be merry. Viva la raza!