Carne guisada (with elk)

A friend came by with two huge elk roasts from a hunt in New Mexico. I have never prepared elk and besides distant memories of an elk burger I had in Colorado when I was a kid, I don't think I've ever eaten it, so of course I was very excited! 

If you know me, you know how much I love Mexican food. I love the cheap and cheerful places around Austin that look like nothing from the outside and inside are filled with smiling staff, varied menus and the best Mexican food (in my opinion) you can get in Texas. When I go to Habenero Cafe in South Austin, I almost always get the guisada. Tender chunks of stewed meat in a thick tomato based gravy. It makes me hungry just thinking about it!  I thought it was the perfect vehicle for the elk.

Guisada is a simple dish that gets better with time. I think the elk could have improved with slow and low cooking so this is the perfect recipe for a crockpot or slow cooker - just cook your onions first for better flavor. Stovetop is also fine, but even after 3 hours of braising, I felt the meat was a bit dry. I had some smoked turkey stock in the freezer which made it unreal but homemade chicken or beef stock would work well. 

Elk Carne Guisada

Serves 4


2 lbs elk or beef roast (rump, shoulder, etc)
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 large yellow onion, medium diced
1 tbsp cumin
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 large tomato, cored and diced
2 cups smoked turkey stock
2 cups water

1 bunch coriander
1/2 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 avocado, thinly sliced
corn tortillas to serve


Cut the roast into bite size pieces. In a sauté pan, over high heat, heat the oil. Season the meat with salt and pepper. Sear the meat 1/3 at a time making sure you have plenty of room in the pan. Overcrowding means you will essentially lose the sear and go straight to braising the meat. Searing it adds texture and flavor. Brown all sides of the meat and set aside, reserving any juices. 

Using the same pan, add 1 tbsp oil and reduce heat to medium. Add the onion and scrape up any bits from the searing process. Add the cumin and cook until the onion is soft, about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Stir in the tomatoes and cook until they release their juice and the pan begins to dry again, about 5 minutes.

(If you want to use a slow cooker, it would be at this point you would add all ingredients to the slow cooker and put it on medium to cook for about 6 hours.)

At this point, add the juices from the seared meat and stir into the tomato-onion mixture. Add the meat and stir until coated. Add the stock and cover. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Allow to cook until meat is tender, stirring occasionally and adding water as needed to keep the liquid covering the meat about 2/3 at all times. When the meat is tender, raise the heat and reduce the liquid to a thick gravy. 

Serve with sliced avocados, sliced onions and cilantro over warm tortillas or with rice and beans or salad.