Hand-Held Venison Quesadilla
A recipe featured in the Outdoor News Taste of the Wild
Photos and recipe by Eileen Clarke – author of several Wild Game Cookbooks
I love quesadillas, but they’re hard to eat in a blind—or pickup. So, as soon as I saw this folded version, I jumped on it. One, it’s easier to handle: instead of being 10 inches around—and needing both open hands to hold it—it fits easily in one hand. Plus, it’s easier both to get in and out of the pan, and to flip it. Each folded tortilla can be totally different, to suit everyone’s individual tastes. I’ve eaten at least 5 varieties this week alone. And remember, with a freezer full of wild game meat, variety is a great thing.
The best things are that the ingredients stay separate, so each individual flavor is more obvious.
This recipe is very adaptable: Use tender steaks or, if you have pretty tough steak to start with, cut the steaks up very small, essentially mincing them, or just use venison burger. Minced steak or burger is perfect for finger food: less bits dropping in your lap or down your shirt.
You can add jalapeno peppers, nopalitos (cactus stems), or bacon. Another option is to turn the whole thing upside down with Italian sausage, mozzarella, grated Parmesan, sautéed peppers, onions and pepperoni in the quesa-foldo. They all work.
Makes 8-10 quesadillas
For the sour cream/cilantro sauce: Makes 1 ¼ cup
4 cups loosely packed cilantro leaves
10 cloves garlic
2/3 cup chopped onion
2/3 cup sour cream
For the meat
2-4 tablespoons oil
12 ounces minced venison
4 cloves garlic
1 yellow onion sliced
1 Anaheim pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground oregano
1/3 cup Picante sauce, mild
To assemble you will also need:
10 Flour tortillas (9-10”diameter)
1 pound grated cheese
1 ¼ cups picante sauce, mild
Preparing the sauce
- Start with the sour cream/cilantro sauce, making it ahead of time and chilling it in the fridge. First strip the cilantro leaves from the hard stems with your fingers then, in a mini grinder, pulse the cilantro with the garlic cloves and onion. Pulse it four to five times so everything is minced—but not liquefied. Stir into a bowl with the sour cream, then cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Cooking the venison
- In a large skillet heat 1-2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat and brown the minced venison/burger/ in batches, adding more oil as needed for the second batch. Don’t overcrowd the pan. When the meat is browned, transfer it to a bowl, and add the garlic, onion, and Anaheim pepper to the skillet. Sauté them until they soften, 3-4 minutes.
- Return the meat to the pan, with the juices, and add the cumin, chili powder and oregano. Stir to coat the meat and veggies with the spices, then add the picante sauce and stir that in. Remove from the heat and assemble the tortilla.
How to: Assembly
- Set a flour tortilla on a plate, warm it :15 seconds in the microwave so it folds easily without breaking. Then mentally divide the tortilla into quarters, like 15 minute intervals on a clock; 12, 3, 6 and 9.
- Cut the tortilla from the center to 6 o’clock. Now spread your ingredients, quarter by quarter, on the tortilla. Starting with the 6 to 9 quarter, with something that will stick to the tortilla—like guacamole or the sour cream/cilantro spread –gently fold that quadrant up over the 9 to 12, then the 9 to 12 over the 12 to 3, gently folding quadrant over quadrant, rotating clockwise around the face of the tortilla as you go. You now have a very thick multi-layered triangle, with a layer of tortilla between each element of the filling.
Once you’ve made your first one, you’ll see which layers end up deep inside, so be certain to set it up so any cheese quadrant that needs to melt, will end up with only one layer of tortilla between it and the hot skillet. Don’t worry, it will be obvious!
- Now put a smear of oil in the skillet, turn the heat to medium and toast the outside of your tortilla, both sides, until golden brown.
About the Chef: Be sure to check out Eileen Clarke’s wild game cookbooks, including Slice of the Wild: 100 venison Recipes, and her informative wild game cooking blog at www.riflesandrecipes.com. Or call 406-521-0273