Southwest Chili with Venison

I have a confession to make. There are some foods that I really, really dislike. Olives come to mind. Pot roast with boiled potatoes (too dry!) too. Grits or anything made with overt amounts of cornmeal. Like polenta. Or cornbread. Ugh. And chili. There’re probably a few other things that I’m not thinking of. But chili is probably the most popular meal that I dislike. I don’t think dry pot roast is really all that popular. Nor are ice berg salads with bacon bits. Gag.

Apparently there was a memo sent out several years ago to everyone else in the world (okay, country) that indicated everyone should agree to adore a meaty, beany soup called chili. I missed that memo. I have never liked it. Correction. I have liked chili as a means to eat melted cheese with sour cream. I was once served chili with no toppings and was at a loss. I went and found toppings. I like it on top of hot dogs too. But what other hot dog topping would you eat with a spoon in a bowl? None. Can you imagine a nice soup made of relish, onions and mustard? No. Gross. Long story short – this girl and chili no son amigos.

So why, why would I ever make a giant pot of chili? Well, Senor, crazy man that he is, loves chili. I also had a pot of beans and wanted to try something new. And because I don’t like being the weird girl out. I want to like chili.

I knew that if I made chili it was going to have to be flavorful and it was going to have to use something besides the dreaded kidney bean. I love beans, but kidney beans are my least favorite. And by flavorful, it had to actually have flavor, not just have a lot of spice. Too often chili is just spicy with no other savory flavors working in there. I knew this would never work. There had to be delicious, distinctive flavors to make me want to eat it.

It started with a pot of beans. We never buy canned beans anymore, far preferring to soak and cook them ourselves. It’s so much cheaper, they’re so much tastier and you avoid any BPA contamination issues that way. Once they’re cooked, you can drain them and store them in the freezer in big plastic bags. They keep forever and it’s so easy to break a clump off, thaw them in some cool water and add them to whatever you’re making.

So it started with the beans. I was boiling a large batch of black beans. The broth from the beans is delicious stuff and I’ve used it before to whip up creamy bean dips but never for a pot of soup itself. But this time, I added three chilies (I used chipotle chilies because I once bought a dozen dried chipotles at the store and I still have half of them in my cupboard), some salt, some garlic and a dash of cayenne. The aroma was delicious.

Once the beans were soft, I decided to do this chili conquest right. I browned some ground meat. We had venison in the freezer and since it’s not great in patty form, it seemed like a good choice. You can totally use ground beef though. Chopped onions and tomatoes were added to the pot to simmer. More garlic, cayenne and lots of chili powder went into the pot. A good dose of smoked paprika went in too.

It all simmered and bubbled and smelled really good, but I was still worried it would suck and still just be regular old chili.

I made a bowl for Senor. I topped with with cheese and green onions, and a few tortilla chips on the side. He made noises that generally indicate ‘good’ and ‘yummy.’ I made my own bowl with cheese and onions and sat down, prepared to hate it. And….it wasn’t bad. Still not my favorite. But edible. I ate it for dinner last night and lunch this afternoon. When it comes to chili, that’s pretty much a swinging endorsement. The flavor was smokey and a little spicy. The beans, thank god, were delicious black beans, full of flavor and not overwhelmingly beany. Yes, beany. It’s a word. I just made it one. And of course, it was a vehicle for melted cheese, fulfilling all of my requirements.

If you’re a chili person, make this. If you’re not but your spouse is, make it for them and be surprised when it doesn’t completely suck.

Southwest Chili with Venison
makes one gigantic pot

3 cups dried black beans

1 pound ground venison or other ground meat

3 large tomatoes, chopped

2 large onions, chopped

3 dried chilies

garlic powder, cayenne powder, chili powder, smoked paprika, salt and pepper

Soak three cups of black beans in water over night or for 8 hours during the day. Drain and rinse extremely well. If you don’t rinse them thoroughly you’ll get a weird grey scum on the boiling liquid. Rinse well.

In a large stock pot cover the beans with water. The beans should be covered by 2 inches of water. Add three dried chilies to the pot and sprinkle garlic, salt and pepper over the water. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 1-2 hours, stirring occasionally, until the beans are soft and tender.

Remove the chilies from the pot. Add the tomatoes and onions, letting simmer. If the water level has fallen greatly, add some back so you have a nice full pot. Season the chili with garlic, cayenne, chili powder and smoked paprika.

In a separate pan, brown your ground meat. Season the meat as desired. Once it’s cooked, add it to the stock pot and stir.

Taste the broth and adjust the seasoning as needed. Let simmer for 30 minutes.

Serve the chili with shredded cheese, green onions, sour cream and tortilla chips. And a bottle of tabasco for the spice fiends.


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