Venison Salsa Burgers With Hand-Cut Garlic-Butter Fries
Author: Josh Dahlke
Ditch the mundane burger and taco nights for this colorful mash-up.
Taco Tuesday! So boring and predictable. But there’s nothing wrong with tacos when they’re done with some flare—especially when the ingredients are wild. I love tacos. The same goes for burgers. But your dinner guests deserve more than a standard taco bar or a box of frozen beef patties. The good news: It’s easy to wow a hunting camp at dinnertime with some thoughtful preparation, and you can bring in the wild side by using venison. Try this taco/burger fusion and you’ll be sweeping up salivation from the dining room floor.
There’s no specific formula for creating taco meat. Typically, it’s a blend of Mexican herbs and spices with some type of chili powder in the mix. Forget about store-bought seasoning packets; making your own is simple and cost effective. Speaking of efficiency, the killer salsa and smoky ground meat from this recipe can be made in bulk to repurpose for breakfast burritos or chips and salsa at cocktail hour.
INGREDIENTS (serves 6-9, prep time: 2 hours)
- 3 pounds ground venison
- 2 tbsp. minced fresh oregano
- 1 tbsp. Aleppo chili powder
- 1 tbsp. chipotle chili powder
- 1 tbsp. garlic powder
- 1/2 tbsp. salt
- Hamburger buns
- Sliced cheese
- Bacon grease
- 3 large Roma tomatoes
- 1 medium red onion
- 4 minced large garlic cloves
- 1 bunch minced cilantro
- 1 diced mango
- 1 minced jalapeno pepper
- 1 15-oz. can drained whole kernel sweet corn
- 1 15-oz. can rinsed black beans
- 1 tbsp. salt
- Juice from 1 lime
- 4 large russet potatoes
- 4 minced large garlic cloves
- Peanut oil
- Smoked paprika
- Romaine lettuce leaves
- Sliced avocado
- Modelo Especial with lime
Grind venison through a relatively coarse grinder plate (7mm holes seem about right). I use the .5HP grinder from MEAT! Mix in seasonings by hand, then run seasoned meat through the grinder once more. Hand patty the burgers to desired size; I recommend keeping them to 1/2-inch thickness for fast cooking and to preserve juices. At this point, you can fire up the burgers immediately if you’re in a crunch, but you’ll get much better flavor by allowing the burger patties to chill in a fridge or cooler overnight.
The salsa can be made just before you’re ready to cook, but it will maintain integrity for up to 5 days in a sealed glass container (mason jars work well). Sharp matters, so be sure to start with a sharp knife for your own safety and to make clean cuts. A countertop knife sharpener such as the Work Sharp E5 is a handy companion.
Dry your hand-cut fries in a 275-degree oven for 20 minutes. Heat peanut oil to medium-high in a deep pot. Fry once, remove, and then fry again until golden brown to achieve crispy results.
While you’re working on the fries, allow burger patties to rest on the countertop until they reach room temp prior to cooking. This allows for more consistent heat distribution—a technique that can (and should) be applied to most meats.
Heat a well-oiled skillet to medium and fry the burgers to desired doneness. If you have bacon grease, use it. Add cheese during the last 30 seconds to allow for perfect melting. Smoked gouda is a mild, flavorful cheese that tastes especially good when melted, but consider pepper or habanero jack if your guests are fond of some extra bite. Of course, you can grill the burgers if you wish, but frying makes late-night or cold-weather cooking a breeze.
TIME TO EAT
Slap the burgers onto the bottom half of a buttered bun and smother with a generous heap of your black bean salsa. Keep the presentation open faced, and garnish the top half of the bun with lettuce and avocado. Toss fries in warm garlic butter and salt prior to serving. Sprinkle the whole plate with smoked paprika for a touch of fancy with a hint of smokiness. Wash it all down with a cold, golden bottle of Modelo Especial with a lime wedge stuffed into the lip.