Venison Machaca One of the Best Dishes Ever?

Tacos Carnitas can be made with shredded beef, like these, or venison if you have some deer meat in the freezer. They're great! (Photo: Jess Lander/Wikipedia)

Tacos Carnitas can be made with shredded beef, like these, or venison if you have some deer meat in the freezer. They’re great! (Photo: Jess Lander/Wikipedia)

Sunday in Nashville on the final day of the CMA Music Festival my wife and I were just taking in the sights along Broadway Street, the main drag through the city, and there were quite a few sights.

It looked like the infield of a NASCAR race, quite honestly. I’m sure most of the folks there have been to a NASCAR race, want to go to one or have seen at least one if not several on television. Ages ranged from teen to 60s, white, black, male, female, skinny, fat, boots, more boots and still more boots. It was a boots ‘n hats kind of week in the Music City. Probably quite a few deer hunters among the crowd, too.

Everyone appeared to be having a good time. The street stages were breaking down for the evening. Many folks were going to LP Field to hear the final concert of the week while others were just hanging out, drinking, eating, laughing and just being there.

My wife and I turned up 2nd Avenue and found Nashville Street Tacos, which opened earlier this year. It’s a tacos ‘n music joint with downstairs eating and upstairs music. Pretty cool place. On the menu I spied machaca, which I immediately ordered on three small “street tacos” with pico, cilantro, cheese and topped with some spicy sauce.

Dagnabbit, I could have chowed down on about 10 of those. They were great. And it reminded me of just how good venison machaca tacos can be with a slow cooking method on your shoulders, necks or even a hindquarter roast.

Machaca in its original form is beef or pork cooked slowly with onions, peppers and seasoning. Then it’s dried for easier storage and transport, and rehydrated and pounded lightly to make it more tender before serving. Hybrid versions on the Tex-Mex foodie scene don’t dry it, which makes it simply a shredded, tender filling for tacos, burritos or whatever dish you want to make. Some folks even combine it with eggs for Machaca con Huevos, which sounds like a super breakfast or brunch at deer camp.

Venison is easy to prepare this way. Too many hunters discard the front shoulders and neck, both of which have good meat worth savoring, because they don’t want to fool with them. That’s a shame, though, because it’s easy to use them. The slow cooking process breaks down the connective tissue and adds flavor, and then bones can be easily removed before you shred the meat for meals.

Scott Leysath, one of our favorite wild game chefs, has some great suggestions for using both shoulders and necks. Don’t discard them. Instead, give them a good dry rub, toss in the slow cooker or smoker for several hours, and then enjoy.