"Not Your Mama's" Venison Chili
Growing up, mom’s chili was one of our staple meals, in large part because it was a crowd pleaser that could be made in bulk and frozen for future meals. The recipe at its core consisted of seasoned tomato sauce (you know the brands), ground meat, chili powder, creole seasoning, vegetables, and sugar (sweetener these days). It was simple, delicious, and customizable as we topped our bowls with hot sauce and other accouterments. We still enjoy it regularly, and even the in-laws are asking for “Peggy’s chili” these days. All that said, this recipe will have almost nothing in common with mom’s, but I had to show some respect before I stray from the family favorite…
I am by no means a “chili connoisseur,” but I love spicy/bold flavors and wanted to try my hand at a traditional chili. Researching Texas-Style Chili revealed three constants, no tomato paste/sauce, no beans, and no chili powder. At this point you’re either laughing at my chili ignorance, guffawing at my concept of authentic, or staring in disbelief, as I did when reading “no chili powder.” How can you make chili without chili powder? That doesn’t even make sense. Well, the answer is you start with real chili peppers and proceed from there…
First you need to decide which chili peppers to use. I was forced into my selection due to grocery store limitations, but luckily they worked perfectly. I wish I could help more here, but there are so many peppers variations. Just do some research and try to find the right balance of heat and flavor (maybe don’t go for the Carolina Reaper chili right off the bat; your guests might become your enemies pretty quickly). I definitely recommend incorporating the red bell pepper, as I found it added a nice sweetness to the chili.
1/2 lb of bacon
1.5 lbs of venison (I prefer stew meat for this, but ground works too)
2 onions diced (white or yellow)
2 pablano peppers (or other pepper of similar size)
1 large red bell pepper
1 cup of room temp coffee
2-3 fresh cloves garlic
2 tablespoons of Cumin (more if you like the meaty flavor)
1 tablespoons of coriander
2 tablespoons of paprika
3 tablespoons of molasses
4 cups of beef broth
Zatarains Creole on standby
2 tablespoons of corn flour
Rinse and dry your peppers, coat them in olive oil, and place them on the grill at medium heat. You want the peppers to have some black char on the skin, but not be completely burned up. Once this has been achieved, remove the peppers from the grill and seal them in a Ziploc bag. The steam will force the skin to peel away from the pepper. Once they are cool enough to handle, peel remaining skin from the peppers and remove the stems and seeds.
Place the peeled peppers and your cup of coffee into a food processor or blender. Turn the mixture into a pulp and set aside
Cut the bacon into small crumble size pieces, then cook on a medium-high heat. Once finished set bacon aside, but leave leftover grease in the pot
Brown your venison in the reserved bacon grease, making sure to get a nice brown crust on all sides. Once you have the meat sufficiently browned, remove meat with a slotted spoon to reserve “gravy.”
Add diced onions, garlic, and chili pulp to the pot, stirring frequently until onions are translucent
Add venison and bacon back to the pot and stir the mixture around until all meat is coated
Add molasses, paprika, coriander, cumin, then creole seasoning as needed
Add the beef broth one cup at a time over the next few hours as the liquid in the pot reduces. You may need to add some water here and there to allow for longer cooking. The goal is to have the meat falling apart when it comes time to serve. Add your corn flour to thicken towards the end.
As for serving, I suggest spooning the chili over polenta (add chopped cilantro just as you are stirring in the butter for a twist) and allowing your guests to top their chili as desired. Cilantro, red onion, lime, shredded cheddar, and fresh sliced jalapeno are all excellent toppers.
-Kevin Johansen, Fall Obsession Field Staff