Travis Rathbone

Here’s a flavorful and simple stew inspired by the Native American cooking of the Southwest. The marriage of mild chiles and venison is a classic one, and this is especially good with Apache bread–cornmeal and bacon fat, roasted in a corn husk–crumbled on top. If you’re in the Southwest, use the best green chiles you can find. For the rest of us, the canned variety sold in most grocery stores (Old El Paso, etc.) will suffice just fine; figure on four 7-ounce cans, and drain the chiles before adding to the stew.


MAKE THE APACHE BREAD: Soak the dried corn husks (available at many grocery stores and Latin American markets) in water until soft and pliable, about 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the cornmeals in a medium bowl with salt and pepper, then add the boiling water and bacon drippings and stir with a wooden spoon until a dough forms. Using your hands, form the dough into eight fat cylinders, then wrap these with the corn husks, tying the ends with kitchen twine. Place the filled husks on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour.

START THE STEW: Dry the meat, and salt and pepper generously. Heat the oil over high heat in a Dutch oven, and brown the meat in batches so as not to crowd the pot. Use additional oil, if necessary. Remove the meat and set aside.__

YOU SHOULD HAVE about 3 Tbsp. oil left in the pan; add more if needed. Add the onions, reduce the heat to medium, and saute until limp and golden; then stir in the garlic and saute for 1 minute. Return the meat, and any juices, to the pot, then add the bay leaves and chicken stock and bring to a boil.__

REDUCE THE HEAT to low and skim any impurities from the surface. Simmer, covered, for 1 hour, then remove the cover and simmer for 30 minutes more. Add the chiles and bell pepper, and cook for 15 minutes. Add the cilantro, salt and pepper to taste, and serve with the warm bread, removed from the husks, on the side.__


8 dried corn husks
3/4 cup white cornmeal
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup boiling water
1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp. bacon drippings
2 lb. venison, cut in 1-inch cubes
4 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 onions, diced
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
2 bay leaves
6 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
3 cups roasted, peeled, chopped green chiles
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 Tbsp. cilantro, finely chopped