Are you feeling "Chili"?

Autumn has been teasing us here in North Carolina. We had a week of cool, misty mornings followed by low humidity afternoons with temperatures in the high 70s. But now we are back up to 90 degree days and rain most afternoons. Yuck. Nevertheless, I was determined to get my chili fix. 

Somehow, it became a weekly tradition in my house to make a big pot of chili on Sundays. Maybe because my Mom and I are both rabid Baltimore Ravens fans, and we could put it together easily between church and kickoff time, and then let it simmer all day while we cheered, cried, and cursed at the TV. Plus it’s easy to make a LOT of chili, and we could eat it for lunches and quick dinners all week long. 

My chili now is different from those days. Back then I was vegetarian and my chili was lentil and bean based. Now I’m primal, and I use bison or beef. Maybe one day I’ll give a White Chili a whirl, but no promises. To me, chili is a dark, smoky, rich melange of spices and tomatoes, laced with the heat of fresh and dried chile peppers. Preferably accompanied by a hearty red wine, or dark beer. 

So last Sunday I cranked up the air-conditioning, found the online audio stream of the Ravens game, and pretended it was chili weather. My boys in purple in lost (again) but this batch of Bison Chili was a winner in every way possible. 

Bison Chili
2 lbs bison stew meat ( cut into bite sized pieces)or ground bison
2 15 oz containers diced fire roasted tomatoes (or equivalent amount)
2 Tbsp Tomato Paste
1 baseball sized yellow onion
4 cloves of garlic
1 red or yellow bell pepper
1-2 jalapeño peppers
1 cup water or stock (as needed during cooking)
2-3 TBSP Jessica’s Favorite Chili Spice Combo*
2 TBSP Coconut Oil or EVOO 

Start by peeling and small dicing your onion. Clean and dice your bell peppers to the same size as your onion. Peel and mince your garlic cloves. Set these aside in a bowl while you deal with your jalapeños. Make sure you wear gloves while working with these little guys, or be prepared to forget you chopped them and then rub your eyes hours later only to suddenly be reminded by the stinging pain. Seriously wear gloves. The heat in jalapeños comes mostly from the seeds and ribs. By removing most or all of these you can adjust the intensity of the burn. Once you’ve removed the desired amount of ribs and seeds, mince your pepper(s) and add into the bowl with your other aromatics. Set aside again for now. 

Heat a large cast iron dutch oven (or other heavy pot) over medium high heat. Once hot reduce the burner setting to medium. This helps eliminate ‘hot-spots’ in the pot. Add your oil and allow to heat until shimmering. Once your oil is shimmering, add your bison and brown the meat. You may need to do this in batches. Once the meat is browned, remove it to a bowl. Allow the oil to return to shimmering, adding a bit more if necessary. Now add in your onions, garlic, and peppers. Stir them around to soften and allow them to brown just a bit. Don’t caramelize them, but a little color is okay. Now add in your Spices and stir them around to bloom in the oil. You don’t want to burn them, but allowing them to cook in the oil will give your chili a richer flavor. Once they are fragrant, add in the tomato paste and stir to distribute. Pour in your diced tomatoes with their liquid. Stir all of this to combine and allow to come up to a simmer. Once this mixture is bubbling, add in your meat and stir again. Bring the chili up to a nice strong simmer and then lower the heat and cover partially. Allow this to bubble along for two hours, stirring occasionally to prevent any sticking.The lengthy simmering allows all of the flavors to blend and the bison to be tenderized by the tomato and spices. If it becomes too thick, add a little stock or water to loosen it back up. No one likes runny chili, but it shouldn’t be dry either. 

Taste it as it cooks, and adjust the seasoning as needed.  
We serve our chili with my favorite gluten free cornbread (recipe coming soon). 
You can top this with shredded cheese, sour cream, creme fraiche, or whatever you like. 

** Jessica’s Favorite Chili Spice Combo
 1 TBSP Smoked Paprika
 1 TSP Ground Cayenne Pepper
1/2 TBSP Ground Chipotle Pepper
1 TBSP Roasted Ground Cumin
1 TBSP Cinnamon
1 TBSP Cocoa Powder
Combine all spices and store in an airtight container. 

Let me know if you make this—I love to hear how other people adapt and customize my recipes. And feel free to share this with you friends, just click the share button. The more the merrier.