Al pastor, roughly translated, means in the style of the shepherd. This classic Mexican street fare offers bold flavors, which makes it a perfect match for the full flavors of elk or any wild game meat. I like to think this is a very social dish. It puts you at the helm as you pull lightly toasted tortillas from the grill and place them on the plates of your waiting guests. The symphony of sweet pineapple, smoky chilies, rich, quick-grilled elk with a splash of lime and refreshingly cool cilantro will be the envy of any Mariachi Band. Ole!Al Pastor Marinade
1 lg onion, diced small
1 pineapple, peeled, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup white vinegar
6 guajillo or 8 chili d’arbol (peppers)—toasted, stemmed and seeds removed, ground fine
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp coarse kosher salt
1 tsp dried oregano, or 2 tbsp fresh chopped oregano
1 tsp freshly toasted and ground cumin
2 chipotle (canned) chilies and 1 tsp adobo from the can
2-3 lbs elk top round, top sirloin, loin or tenderloin, cut into 1/2-inch slicesGarnishes
Chopped fresh cilantro
Smoky Chile Salsa (recipe to follow)
Sliced red radishesPlace the onion and 2 cups of pineapple in blender. Reserve the remaining pineapple for the grill. Process in blender until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients for the marinade and blend until smooth. Place the elk in a large re-sealable plastic bag. Add marinade and seal bag, releasing excess air. Turn to coat. Chill at least 4 hours and up to one day.
Heat the barbecue to medium-high. Grill remaining pineapple and scallions until warm and slightly charred. Set aside.Oil the grill with vegetable spray or a rag soaked in olive oil. Grill the elk until slightly charred to medium rare and allow to rest for 3-4 minutes. Transfer the grilled pineapple, scallions and elk to work surface; chop all and mix in a bowl. Transfer to a platter, or fill your guests’ freshly warmed tortillas. Serve with garnishes, cold margaritas, cerveza fria and smiles!Smoky Chili Salsa
Makes about 2 cups of salsa. To make larger batches, simply multiply ingredients and store in small plastic containers in the freezer for later use.Ingredients
8 large dried guajillo or New Mexico chiles, stemmed, seeded, coarsely torn
2 cups hot water
2 tbsp oil
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves
1 to 2 chipotle chiles and 1 to 2 tsp adobo from canned chipotles in adobo
1 tsp freshly toasted ground cumin
2 tsp fresh lime juice
kosher salt to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantroPreparation
Place the dried chiles in a bowl. Add 2 cups hot water and soak at least two hours or overnight. Drain the chiles and reserve soaking liquid .
Heat a small non-stick skillet or pot with the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until light brown and fragrant. Add the remaining ingredients and the reserved soaking liquid—except the cilantro. Bring it to a boil. Then lower the heat and simmer for five minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to sit to cool slightly, then place in a blender and blend until smooth. Adjust the seasoning to taste. At this point you can add additional chipotle chilies if you want more smoky heat. Add the cilantro, additional salt if needed and more lime juice.
Transfer to a bowl to serve with your elk al pastor tacos.
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