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Wild Recipes from Public Lands: Elk and Pheasant Molcajete Mixto

Editor's note: The following is part of a series featuring recipes with ingredients harvested from public lands.

The U.S. Department of the Interior has compiled its favorite recipes of dishes that "include ingredients you can hunt, fish, or forage on public lands," and has given GPM permission to reprint their creations here. Before you fire up your campfire or woodstove, however, DOI reminds us:

Hunting and fishing are outdoor activities with tasty results. Before you go after game or cast your line, check out our hunting and fishing guides so that you can make sure you’re following the rules, have the federal and state licenses you need and are keeping safe.

On many public lands, gathering natural, renewable products -- such as fruits, berries, nuts or sea shells -- is permitted, subject to certain conditions set by each location or state office. Be sure to check nps.gov, fws.gov, blm.gov or the websites of specific parks and national wildlife refuges for the most up-to-date information on availabilities and quantity limits before going to pick plants. Always make sure to properly identify plants before picking them, as some can be hazardous.

Elk and Pheasant Molcajete Mixto

Elk, pheasant and vegetables in a spicy sauce and served in a traditional stone bowl? That sounds awesome! This traditional dish can use game hunted on public lands across the western United States. It takes many steps to make, but the results are bubbling hot, beautiful and delicious. Paul and Katie White of the Bureau of Reclamation sent in this amazing recipe and suggest picking up a molcajete at your local mercado or online.

Ingredients:
1 pound elk backstrap
1 pound pheasant breast fileted
½ pound elk sausage
2 jalapeno or serrano peppers
1 medium nopales (cactus leaf) or ¾ cup zucchini or yellow squash, sliced for grilling
½ large onion sliced in thin rings
3 cups beef broth
2 tablespoons tomato paste
½ teaspoon salt, black pepper, or to taste
¼ teaspoon cumin
2 tablespoons chili powder
4 cloves of garlic chopped fine
1 avocado
2 whole green onions
1 bunch cilantro
1 lime quartered
½ pound queso fresco cheese, sliced thin
Small tortillas
1 large molcajete lava bowl -- 6” diameter

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit with molcajete inside.
On the stovetop, drizzle olive oil in a large pan and brown sausage.
Add tomato paste, cumin, chili powder and garlic; simmer together briefly.
Add beef broth and allow to thicken over low to moderate heat.
On grill, lightly char peppers and green onions; set aside.
On grill, cook spineless nopales until soft (or lightly grill zucchini/squash).
Season elk and pheasant breast with salt and pepper.
On grill, sear elk to medium rare.
On grill, cook pheasant to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
Chop cilantro, slice onion into thin rings, slice avocado into thin pieces.
Remove molcajete bowl from oven carefully using thick oven mitts and place on heat proof surface.
Immediately add sliced onions, half of the sauce from the pan and half the queso fresco; stir lightly.
Immediately add the elk, pheasant and nopales (or zucchini/squash) and cover with the remainder of the sauce. Toss lightly to coat the meat.
Top with the remaining queso fresco, avocado slices and cilantro.
Serve with warm tortillas and lime wedges to squeeze on top.

Photo Credit: Paul and Katie White, Bureau of Reclamation employees.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Gunpowder Magazine.