The whitetail needed a bit more time in the wood oven, so Garcia and I took a stroll around his garden, which takes up about an acre and seasonally provides the bulk of Garcia’s vegetables, greens, and herbs for the year. Instead of neat rows in tilled beds, Garcia’s garden has a wild look to it, with vegetable stalks shooting up from clusters of lamb’s quarters and spinach. “It’s called permaculture,” Garcia told me, chewing on a stalk of lovage, a perennial from the celery family.
Back in the kitchen, we sipped a fine reposado tequila while Garcia carved steaming bits of meat off the whitetail shoulder, preparing to add them to the sofrito. Pozole is a Latin version of hominy, a light broth made with whole kernels of corn. Garcia had already prepared a fresh batch of chicken broth that morning, which he then used to make a purée of toasted and simmered guajillo peppers. “This is the most important step,” he said, adding the purée to hot avocado oil in the bottom of the terracotta bowl. “Frying the pepper purée will concentrate the flavors and enhance the color.”
To the frying purée, he added more broth, a couple of bay leaves, and the meat, and then he left it to simmer on the flame for another hour.
Garcia grew up hunting the hills around Emigrant, in Montana’s Paradise Valley, south of Livingston, where he moved with his family from Mexico in 1986, when he was six years old. “I’ve been cooking deer longer than any other meat, and roasted whitetail shoulder is my favorite wild game dish because it takes me back to my roots, hunting deer and butchering them on the spot with very little adult supervision, cooking whole quarters on the bone over an open flame with my buddies,” he told me. The pozole is a tribute to his family’s roots south of the border, and I was fortunate to share this particular batch with Garcia’s father, Manuel Garcia, 68, who taught Garcia to cook with the recipes and spices of his native village in the Yucatan Peninsula, Isla Mujeres. Manuel Garcia was taking a nap when I showed up, but he roused himself to guide me and a couple of other lunch guests through the proper method of hand-pressing and cooking corn tortilllas on a comal or griddle as we know it here in the states.
When the pozole was finished, Garcia set the table with plates of radishes, chopped white onion, avocado, cilantro, and lime for garnish. Manuel Garcia sat at the head, and Garcia served him first. “What would you like, Dad, more broth or more meat?” he asked. “Just dip a ladle in and see what comes out,” his dad replied. Garcia dished up a steaming ladleful and garnished his father’s bowl. The old man ate a spoonful and his eyes closed halfway, “Que rico,” he said. How delicious.
Lightly oil and season the venison with salt and pepper. Grill over hardwood coals or gas grill until meat is evenly browned on all sides for approx 1 hr. Let the meat rest off the heat. For the chile puree, gently toast the chiles, then cut them open and remove the seeds and ribs. Submerge chiles in a bowl of hot water for 1 hr. Drain chiles and puree till smooth in a blender with 1 cup of the chicken broth.
In a large pot heat oil and lard over med heat. Add onion, garlic and fresh herbs and sauté, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Next add dry herbs for a quick 5 seconds and immediately add chile puree (watch out for the splatter, liquids and hot oil is tricky, so be careful). Stir continuously for the first minute and then lower the heat to a simmer and continue to cook for 5 minutes. Cut venison into very large 4” pieces. Add hominy, remaining chicken broth and venison. Cook for 1-2 hours over low heat or until meat is tender. Season to taste with salt and serve piping hot!
I like to add the below items to a family-style plate for my guests to add as they like to taste.