Cold Weather Comfort Food: Bison Chili

Posted by on Feb 24, 2013 in Cooking | 0 comments

Cold Weather Comfort Food: Bison Chili

Once upon a time, Husband and I wanted to make chili. Husband remembered that his dad had a great chili recipe, so he called him up to get it.

Husband: “Dad, don’t you have a good chili recipe? We want to make chili. But I don’t like onions or bell peppers and C doesn’t like cumin or beans.”

Dad: “Ummm… I don’t think you guys like chili.”

A father’s wisdom right there, folks. But the thing is, we do like chili, so long as it’s of the onionless-beanless-meaty-easy-on-the-cumin variety. Recently when Husband requested bison chili for his birthday dinner (actually bison chili and chocolate mousse, he’s a man of diverse tastes) I was ecstatic to find that the famous recipe from Tolbert’s Chili Parlor in historic Grapevine, Texas, is basically just beef and chiles with lots of spice and a little cumin. I altered the recipe slightly to include bison instead of ground beef since it’s leaner and less processed with antibiotics and hormones, added a little bacon fat because, well, bacon fat makes everything better, and adjusted the spices to our liking.

I found the dried chiles called for in this recipe at Whole Foods. Speaking of Whole Foods, that place is like grocery nirvana. In an effort to save money and condense my shopping trips with small children to one stop, I’ve begun exclusively shopping at Wal Mart. I can feed our family of four on something like $20 a week, it’s incredible. But Whole Foods, oh man, Whole Foods is like an alternate grocery universe where the fish counter worker engages me in witty banter, I mysteriously enjoy grocery shopping, and my children skip through the aisles excitedly chattering about specialty foods. Wal Mart sucks and I never want to go back.

But anyway. Bison Chili. You should try it.

Bison Chili

Bison Chili (adapted from Tolbert’s recipe for Frank X. Tolbert’s Original Bowl of Red)

5 slices bacon

4 pounds ground bison

16 dried ancho chiles

1 heaping tablespoon ground cumin

1 heaping tablespoon dried oregano

1 heaping tablespoon cayenne

1-1 1/2 tablespoon tabasco, depending on spice preference

6-8 minced garlic cloves

1 tablespoon salt

2 tablespoons masa harina

Cut stems off of chiles and remove seeds from inside. Be sure to remove all seeds otherwise they will give the chili a bitter flavor. Place the chiles in a small saucepan and cover with water. Simmer the chiles for 30 minutes.

While chiles are simmering, cook bacon in a pan over medium high heat to render fat. Remove bacon from pan and brown ground bison in two batches in bacon fat. Once cooked, remove browned meat to a large pot or dutch oven.

Once chiles have simmered for 30 minutes, puree them in a blender with a small amount of cooking liquid to make a smooth, thin paste. Use as little liquid as possible or the chili will be soupy. Pour the chile puree over the ground meat in the dutch oven. Pour enough of the remaining chile cooking liquid into the dutch oven to cover the meat by about 1 inch. Bring the chili to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook uncovered for 30 minutes.

Remove the chili from the heat and stir in the cumin, oregano, cayenne, tabasco, garlic, and salt. Return the chili to the heat and resume simmering, covered, for 45 minutes, stirring once or twice.

After 45 minutes, add the masa harina. Cover the chili again and simmer for another 30 minutes, tasting often to adjust seasoning to your liking. Remove the chili from the heat, cool, and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Skim fat from top of chili before reheating. Serve with cheese, sour cream, and green onion.

This chili takes a bit of time to make but makes a lot, so we eat it for several nights and freeze the rest for a later time. It is also good served in chili cheese burritos, chili dogs, and stuffed poblano peppers.





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