Monday, March 28, 2011

Bison Chili

Whoa!  This is what happens when you've been craving chili and you see "Buffalo" on a package of ground meat at the grocery store:  You throw three packages of the stuff in your cart, and go home to create the best darn chili on the range.  Yessiree, this is hearty, satisfying fare.  I didn't have a recipe, but I wrote down everything I did.  'Cause this chili is definitely going to be made again. 

As the creative process unfolded, the red pepper and kohlrabi in the photo were relegated to crudite status.  I made an innovative cornbread stand-in, using macadamia oil instead of grapeseed oil, that turned out to be amazingly good.  Yee haw!

Because absolutely authentic chilies don't contain beans or tomato, I'm thinking about trying this sans-tomato next time.

This recipe comes with a book recommendation:  The Buffalo Commons by Richard S. Wheeler.  

The ancho chili powder will determine the overall taste and heat level of your chili.  I make my own with those leathery ancho peppers sold in the Mexican food aisle at the supermarket, mixing in a dried hot chili pepper or two. Make a lot!  Good ancho chili powder is hard to find, and makes a great gift.  It's especially important for red sauces for enchiladas, and chilies like this one.

3 pounds ground bison
2 tablespoons oil (I used avocado oil)

4 carrots, in 1/2-inch dice
1 turnip, peeled and cut in 1/2-inch dice
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 onions (I used a red onion and a white onion), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 small zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 head garlic, cloves separated, peeled and minced

2 tablespoons ancho chili powder (see note above) or regular 'ol chili powder
1 tablespoon regular 'ol chili powder
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon cumin seed, toasted in a dry skillet and slightly crushed with mortar and pestle
1 teaspoon salt

1 jar (26 oz.) spaghetti sauce
1 jar (7 oz.) tomato paste
3-4 cups water

3 fresh bay leaves or 1 dried bay leaf

In large soup pot, heat oil.  Add bison, break up with your spatula, and begin to saute.  While that's going on, prep your veggies in the order given and add them to the pot, stirring well each time.  By the time you get to the garlic, things should be sizzling along nicely.

Scatter the chili powders, paprika, cumin seed and salt over the meat/vegetable mixture, and stir well, cooking for a few minutes 'til the spicy aroma begins to waft around your kitchen.  Stir in the bay leaves.

Add the spaghetti sauce, the tomato paste, and 3 cups water.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 30 to 40 minutes. If you like a saucier chili, add another cup of water.

Makes 8 to 10 hearty servings.

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