Dzik, Venison Yucatan

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I was paging through my copy of the late David Sterling’s book Yucatan, and I came across this dzik recipe. It took me by surprise, because I almost never see recipes specifically for venison in Mexican cookbooks.

Sure, you can make all sorts of excellent Mexican dishes with venison, but usually it subs in for beef or goat. This is different.

Venison dzik on a plate
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Interestingly, venison plays a significant role in the cuisine of the Yucatan. I did a bit of searching and it turns out that there is not only a whitetail deer subspecies that lives there, but there’s also a teeny little deer called a brown brocket. Who knew?

Dzik is essentially a mashup of barbacoa, cochinita pibil and ceviche. It’s normally eaten at room temperature, but I like it warm, not hot.

This salad can be as picante as you like, and if you can get my favorite salsa chile, the beguiling rocoto or chile peron or chile manzano, it will add a lot to the dish.

chile manzano, Capsicum pubescens
Photo by Hank Shaw

These are Capsicum pubescens, an odd, perennial chile originating in Peru. They’re the only chile with black seeds, and they are as juicy as a bell pepper, floral and tropical as a habanero, and about as hot as a ripe jalapeno, which is to say pretty hot, but nothing like a habanero. I like to put one or two in this dish, depending on how hot they are.

If you have access to sour Seville oranges, by all means use them. They’re what you need for this dish. But even I can’t regularly find them, so the mix of lime and orange juice works fine. Similarly, if you can find chile manzano, use them. They are, in my opinion, the best chile for dzik. Habaneros are traditional, but they are hotter.

The end result is surprisingly good, and almost totally non-fat. You bite into a burst of differing textures and flavors — sweet-sour-salty-savory-spicy — and the dish just looks gorgeous. Dzik is a perfect warm weather picnic or outdoor party dish. And those days are coming soon, my friends!

I cook quite a lot of Yucatecan food, so if you like this recipe, you might want to try my rendition of cochinita pibil, poc chuc, which is grilled pork, sopa de lima, a stew called ajiaco, or a braised Yucatecan turkey dish I like to make with turkey thighs. There is also another version of venison salad from Tamaulipas called salpicón.

Venison dzik on a plate
5 from 6 votes

Dzik, Venison Yucatan

Any roast or sinewy piece of venison will work here, since you are shredding it. If you use a standard roast, the meat will be drier and you might want to add a little olive oil. If you use shanks, neck or shoulder, there is enough connective tissue in those cuts that will melt, coat the meat and make it silky.
Course: Salad
Cuisine: Mexican
Servings: 8 people
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 20 minutes

Ingredients 

BRAISE

  • 2 to 3 pounds venison from the shoulder or legs
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 quart beef or venison stock
  • Salt

SALAD

  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • 1 small red onion, sliced root to tip
  • 2 tablespoons minced green onion or chives
  • 1 cup chopped red onion
  • 2 diced plum tomatoes, only if they are in season
  • ½ cup chopped radishes
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 to 3 minced habaneros or chile manzano
  • Pickled red onion and sliced radishes for garnish

Instructions 

  • To pickle the onions, slice them thinly from root to tip and soak them in lime-orange juice mixture while the venison is cooking.
  • Mix all the ingredients for the braise together, bring to a boil and simmer gently until the venison begins to fall apart. When it’s tender, shred it with two forks and toss it with the salad ingredients. Garnish with the onion and radishes. Serve on tostadas or corn tortillas.

Notes

This salad doesn't keep well. The meat does, of course, but once you toss everything together it needs to be eaten within an hour or two. If you braise a big batch of meat, shred it and keep it in the fridge, then put together the rest of the ingredients when you want to eat it.

Nutrition

Calories: 189kcal | Carbohydrates: 10g | Protein: 29g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 96mg | Sodium: 1172mg | Potassium: 769mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 283IU | Vitamin C: 20mg | Calcium: 42mg | Iron: 5mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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27 Comments

  1. Mixup at store left me with no habanero, so substituted jalapeños and worked great. Fantastic summertime meal loved by all with multiple requests for more in the future. Pickled onions made it shine. One day I will find that Chile Manzano. Thanks for all these great recipes, research and thoughtful insights that takes the success in the field to another level and appreciation.

  2. That there is a venison recipe from that part of Mexico is not so unexpected if you also know that the motto of the state of Yucatan is the “land of the deer and pheasant”, or that their coat of arms has a deer leaping a henequen plant. ?
    Anyway, thanks for sharing… I had forgotten what goes into this as I have not made it for a few decades. Lol

  3. Made this tonight. Was light and delicious. My wife really enjoyed all the veggies and the refreshing nature of the dish.

  4. I had this in Merida this weekend and it was so delicious. Was looking for a recipe for my brother who is stocked up with venison. Thanks!

  5. I actually have two shoulder roasts from hubby. Thinking I will smoke them first and use one for barbacoa, one for this recipe. Would smoking pre braising for this recipe work? How long and what internal meat temperature did you aim for when you smoked your shoulder roast? Would you recommend doing all of the meat barbacoa style and using some of that in this salad? I’m afraid the chipotle pepper and adobo will overpower in salad form, or longer cooking will affect texture. I am willing to do each roast cooking method as specifically directed but am looking for streamlining. Appreciate your feedback.

    1. Anne: Absolutely. So when you are doing this sort of thing, time and temp is less important. I tend to go 225F for about 3 hours, then move it to the braise. I think if you do it all as barbacoa, yes, the adobo could get in the way. You can add maybe one or 2 chiles in the pot, and it won’t be too assertive though.

  6. As usual you’re recipes deliver! I used ham steaks off a 2 year old buck. Shredded nicely and the braise had a nice change of flavor from the usual “taco truck” choices Delicious and simple like tacos should be.

  7. Love the recipes Hank! I’m going to make this for my wife, who is studying Mayan Massage techniques. One quick question (because I’m a neophyte), the braising is done in a lidded pot with all the ingredients for several hours? Just want to be sure. Thanks for the culinary inspiration!!!

  8. Tsi’ik does indeed mean shredded. It is useful to know, this is a great way to prepare all kinds of gamey meat. It works great with wild goose meat, and many others. The gaminess is tamed very effectively.

    Note: The Yucatecan Mayans who I know, generally do not use the cumin, the cloves, the green onion or parsley, or the meat stock. They do ser e it with crunchy corn tostadas or corn chips, and many like to spread some mayo on the corn tostada, then put tsi’ik on top. Many also like to use kut bil ik (charred habanero salsa made with sour orange or lime juice) as a condiment at the table. DELICIOUS!

  9. Cooking the meat now. Will put the salad together tomorrow. Using lime and grapefruit juice, with some added sugar. Hope that suffices. Question though, can I pickle the onions a day in advance?

  10. Ward and Hank: the word is from the Mayan language, which is in a completely different language family from the Nahuatl language which dominates indigenous borrowings in Mexican Spanish. (The difference in language families would be equivalent to the difference between English and Hebrew). Knew all those Anthropological Linguistics classes would come in handy….

  11. Sounds so good and different. I tire of my cooking. This will be a nice twist, I’ll try it soon. Thanks for the background on the dish and language.

  12. Hank, when you asked what readers would like to see in the your new cookbook, this is exactly the kind of dish I was thinking of. Good stuff.

  13. Hank, you are totally singing my tune today. I have never heard of this variety of pepper, but will look for seeds!! They sound delicious, as does this salad. I love that you’re on a Mexican kick!!

    I think you should continue on the ceviche vein for your next post :). Spring is springing!

  14. We killed a nice fat sow this weekend in Texas… any reason this recipe wouldn’t work with a cut of hog shoulder?

  15. Dzik is a Maya word. The proper English transliteration is tsi’ik, but Mexicans often tend to be informal about spelling. The spelling dzik in English publications seems to be limited to cookbooks; according to a Google search Rick Bayless spelled it that way in 2007 and other cookbook authors have apparently copied it from him. The word means “shredded” (deshebrado in Spanish).

    The name of the dish (the whole salad) in Spanish is salpicón de venado.

    Here’s the definition of the word, with the proper spelling, in a Maya-Spanish dictionary:

    https://www.mayas.uady.mx/diccionario/ts_maya.html

    According to Google, the following is the first appearance of the spelling “dzik” with this meaning in English on the Web:

    https://www.rickbayless.com/recipe/dzik/

  16. Hank: I know you are not writing HAGC&Etymology, but I am curious about the work ‘Dzik’. It sounds neither Spanish not Amer-Indian to me. Any idea what the origin is?

    1. Ward: Was wondering about that, too. No idea. I can only assume it’s an indigenous word. Definitely not Spanish.