Barbacoa de venado, or roasted venison, is a wonderful and festive comfort food for many people of Mexican descent. Often served for family and special occasions, its authentic preparation is a time-consuming labor of love.
Barbacoa is traditionally cooked by placing large pieces of seasoned meat in a rock-lined pit in the ground, and covering it with a combination of green or soaked sticks, large leaves, and dirt. While producing an end result of superior flavor and texture, it is difficult to reproduce the original cooking pit in the average Chicagoland home. That being said, the application of steaming was substituted to give a similar, albeit slightly inferior, effect.
Barbacoa de Venado
5-7 lbs venison ribs cut into 5-6 inch pieces
2 lbs boneless venison cut into 2 inch cubes*
generous salt to taste
2 (¼ oz) pkgs dried avocado leaves
*Note: Any combination of venison cuts will work for barbacoa, but a good mix of bone-in and boneless pieces should be prepared when considering flavor as well as sufficient meat to feed your guests.
Rinse venison pieces well with hot water. Place on parchment sheets, season with salt and cover with avocado leaves. Fold parchment together so that it forms a neat packet and staple to seal well. Place venison packets into a large pot with a steamer basket. Steam covered for 3 hours or until meat is tender and falls from the bone. Serve with warm corn tortillas and salsa. Yield: 4 portions
Barbacoa de Venado in Chicago:
While venison is not typically available in the local grocery store, it is very possible to acquire it via word of mouth or with the help of any local hunter during deer hunting season. Dried avocado leaves are used in other Mexican dishes and are commonly found in the spice and dried chile section of your local Hispanic market. Any of the stores in the Jimenez grocery chain, located throughout the Chicagoland area, would be a sure bet for finding them.
Related Recipes From the Chicago Mexican Food Examiner:
Salsa Verde para Tacos
Tacos de Lengua
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