Bison Auction – Bison Chili
Ever been to a real stock show? The National Western Stock Show in Denver is one of the oldest and quite a tradition in the area, with live shows, all sorts of competitions (riding, breeding, showing) kids’ events, rodeos, and of course, the most basic and maybe most important, the auctioning off of both live and processed animals. It’s also the only time my husband – who was raised on Long Island in New York – puts on his cowboy boots and pretends he’s part of the wild west.For the past few years several of my friends from Slow Food Denver have been organizing a group of people to join together and bid on Colorado bison at the show. When you bid on meat for consumption, the animal has aready been processed and the carcass is judged for quality of meat based on things like tenderness, color of fat, marbling, etc. This year about 40 of us were successful in landing the #2 and #3 ranked bulls from CO (Ted’s Montana Grill always bids as high as possible to grab the #1 bull so that’s nearly impossible to win) and the #2 and #4 heifers from CO for an average price of $2.60 per pound. The auction itself went quickly, 45 minutes for 27 bison, but it was a great example of supporting local ranchers. Slow Food’s participation in the bidding helps the ranchers to keep prices stable and helped to ensure that all 27 carcasses were sold. They’ll be further processed and packaged and ready for pickup soon, but the day inspired me to make a Bison Chili.
I should comment up front that this recipe is adapted from the third place winner in the Leyden Street Chili Cook-off from last summer that I helped to judge. Thanks to all of you who requested the recipe – this is for you!
Start by browning 3 pounds of ground bison – the winning recipe used beef, but I’m inspired by bison today which can be used interchangeably with ground beef in recipes. When it’s completely, browned, remove it to a bowl with a slotted spoon, leaving the drippings in the pot.Cook both the onion and the minced garlic in the drippings from the meat until they are softened, then begin adding the ingredients to build the chili.Beef broth – and notice that I chose the low sodium. Also, chili powder which I forgot to photograph.Beer – in this case a local Fat Tire, but the recipe actually calls for a stout or darker beer so use that if you have it on hand. A can of tomatoes including the juices – I used a jar that I canned from my garden last summer.Some chipotle peppers, which are actually smoked jalapenos that come packed in a tomato-ey adobo sauce and have all the seeds in them still. If you like things really hot, keep the seeds in and mince them up. I like a bit of heat, but not too much, so just removed the seeds and minced them up.Then let the whole thing simmer, partially covered to let some moisture out and allow the chili to thicken. Notice how totally soup-like this looks like right now? Not that appetizing yet. Depending on how much moisture is in your pot, it could take from one to two hours to fully thicken.When it’s ready, you’ll need to add the black beans. Again, I’d rather use the no salt added beans and add what salt I want to finish my dish so I can control the sodium level and taste.The beans really need to be rinsed to get that thick liquid off them before adding them to the pot.
Now, here’s the secret that really makes this chili. When we tasted the chili during the competition, we first tasted it solo, without the sour cream, and were unimpressed. But when we topped it with the lime crema, well, we were hooked. Simply mix together sour cream with lime zest and juice and serve the chili with that dolloped on top.
Chipotle Bison Chili with Lime Crema
Adapted from Nora Neureiter,Â Second Place Winner of the 2009 Leyden Street Chili Cookoff
3 pounds ground bison (or beef as Nancy used)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, optional (see instructions)
Salt and pepper
3 cups chopped onions, about 2 medium onions
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 cup chili powder
2 14-ounce cans beef broth
1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes with juices
1/2 cup stout or dark beer
4 minced canned chipotle chiles
2 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
2 15 1/2-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup sour cream
1 lime, zested and juiced
Heat a large stock pot over medium high heat. If your ground meat is very lean, add 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to the pot before adding the ground meat. Season with a little salt and pepper and cook until meat is completely browned, using a spoon to break up meat. Remove cooked meat to a bowl with a slotted spoon. Add onions and garlic to the meat drippings and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Return beef to the pot and add chili powder, broth, tomatoes, beer and chiles. Bring to a boil, reduce to low, cover partially, and cook until very thick, about 1-2 hours.
When chili is thick, stir in cornmeal and add black beans. Let simmer together for 10 minutes before serving. Combine sour cream with lemon zest and juice and serve chili in bowls with a spoonful of lime cream on top.
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