the appetizer:

The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook by Matt Lee and Ted Lee, winner of several major cookbook awards, presents recipes ranging from the electic, like Francisco's Tractor-Disk Wok Venison, to down-home favorites like Sweet Potato Buttermilk Pie.

Cookbook Profile

Francisco's Tractor-Disk Wok Venison

For 6 people
Time: 45 minutes

There's an abundance of deer in St. Matthews, South Carolina, and they're a particular nuisance to the folks at Wannamaker Seeds, where deer chow down on acres of precious soybean plants. So the Wannamakers hunt them as best they can and process the venison for their own consumption. Francisco Torres, the farm's foreman, has become famous locally for this dish, in which he cubes the venison and sears it with onions and fresh jalapeño chiles in a "wok" fashioned from the blade of a disk harrow, which is pulled behind a tractor to break up the earth. The genius of the tractor-disk wok is that it is so big around and its sides sloped so gently that Torres can warm the tortillas at the outer edge without disturbing the stir-fry action at the hot center.

We've adapted Francisco's dish for a conventional skillet or wok, but the simplicity and bold, zingy flavor of the original remains. The steam that rises from the peppers can be overpowering, but note that the flavor of the jalapeños is more fruity than fiery, and that that fruitiness, along with the caramelized sugar from the onions and the juices from the venison, makes a gravy that is out of this world. We've substituted lean beef for the venison in this dish with great success.

What To Drink
The bubbles in a brisk Mexican lager like Pacifico are the perfect antidote to the fiery jalapeño and onion blend in this stir-fry.

1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Place a large ovenproof bowl on the bottom rack and a large ovenproof plate on the top rack.

2. Heat a large wok or 12-inch cast-iron skillet over high heat until water droplets dance and disappear readily. Stir-fry the ingredients in 4 batches: Pour 1 tablespoon oil into the wok, swirl it around so that it thinly coats the pan, then add 1 cup chopped onions and stir for 2 to 3 minutes, until they begin to brown and caramelize. Scatter 1/2 teaspoon salt lightly over the onions, then add 1-1/4 cups venison and sear for a few seconds. Turn the meat with a wooden spoon to brown all sides, about 3 minutes total. Add 1/2 cup jalapeños, stir-fry for another 2 minutes, and transfer the contents of the wok to the bowl in the oven. Deglaze the pan with 1 tablespoon lime juice and drizzle the pan juices over the meat. Repeat until all the ingredients except the lime wedges have been used.

3. In a 9- or 10-inch cast-iron skillet, warm each tortilla over medium-high heat, about 30 seconds per side, until it is fragrant and stiffening but not toasted. Add a few drops of canola oil to the skillet if the tortillas begin to scorch. Stack the tortillas on the plate in the oven and cover with a clean dish towel.

4. To serve, fold the tortillas in half and fill them with the venison, peppers, and onions. Serve with the lime wedges and your favorite mild salsa or sour cream, if desired.


Tractor-Disk Wok Mushrooms: These make a terrific vegetarian main dish. Woodsy fresh mushrooms like chanterelles, portobellos, or shiitakes play the role of the gamy venison beautifully. Simply substitute 1 pound mushrooms for the venison, and add 2 tablespoons water to the browned onions in step 2 before adding the mushrooms to the wok.


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This page created June 2007