February has been a great month, which is partially why I haven’t written in almost two weeks. Between work events and weekends of recharging, I have not spent as much time in the kitchen as I would like. But instead of apologizing about that, let me share some of the good things that happened. Like venison and bean chili.
I also read several books: the historical culinary tale of Fannie’s Last Supper, the graphic novel Kickstarter and weekly web series Strong Female Protagonist, and a lovely story of Michelin Star chef Marcus Samuelsson in his novel Yes, hef. Moments ago I finished Amy Poehler’s Yes, Please because I needed to laugh hard. I recommend all of these books to you.
After voicing my opinion online of how my neighborhood could really use a community garden, I was connected to a neighbor who agreed with me and had a similar desire to create one herself. We met and devised a plan, discussing which vacant lots we dreamed of overtaking with a beautiful bounty all could partake in. Starting with a visit to our neighborhood association meeting, we both signed up for a conveniently planned community garden workshop on February 28. Christie and I are hoping we can make progress quickly and we are both giddy with excitement.
Through all of this, I am slowly starting to regain my normal routine of working, cooking, writing and reading, and hanging out with Rahul. We just purchased NHL Game Center and are watching hockey often. It makes me want to cook up some short rib poutine and say “eh” a lot. Today we went to the Indy Soup Fest and tasted 12 different soups from Indy businesses. Best – lunch – ever.
Yesterday I cooked this pot of venison and bean chili and let it hang out in the slow cooker for a few hours. It snowed 5 inches the night before and a little that day. It could not have been a better moment for a comforting bowl of chili, the kind that keeps you from having to wear a sweater and turn the heat up.
This recipe mixes a little of both my spicy beef chili and my venison and beef chili. After years of making chili hundreds of different ways – tomato juice, tomato sauce, whole chiles, just to name a few – I have finally settled on a combination of spices, tomatoes and beef broth that I prefer over most anything else. Each person has their own way of preparing a comforting pot of chili and therefore I only suggest mine as a guide that you can divvy away from should you become inspired. After all, the best Chili’s are the ones made with a few risks.
- Two cans of Brooks mild chili beans for two cans of an unseasoned variety of pinto, black and kidney beans
- Canned Red Gold Chili tomatoes for canned crushed San Marzano tomatoes
- Roux for no roux
One variety of beans are boring, and I took a chance on a new brand I have never had before and loved it. San Marzano tomatoes are possibly the best tasting canned tomatoes in the world. I could eat them with a spoon and be perfectly content – and this is coming from someone who does not eat tomatoes at all. And without a roux, I produced a thinner broth perfect for soaking up elbow macaroni and peanut butter sandwiches, because this is Indiana and I am a Hoosier.
I do hope this recipe introduces you to venison if you’ve never had it before. My first introduction was through chili after My dad gave us a pound of ground venison from his freezer and before that, from a deer in his backyard. Any game flavor you may think exists in venison is not to be found in chili, where the acidic tomatoes and spicy seasonings turn the ground meat into a vessel for flavor. Venison is so lean I prefer to mix it with ground beef for the fat, which also helps cut down on game flavor. All of these spices can be found at Penzey’s, but you can substitute more chili powder for the ancho chili powder and chili con carne if it is not available near you.
VENISON AND BEAN CHILI
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 small yellow onions, diced
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons diced jalapenos
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 3/4 teaspoon ancho chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon chili con carne
- 1 pound ground venison
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 32-ounce can crush San Marzano tomatoes
- 2 cans of mixed pinto, kidney and black beans
- 2 cups beef broth
- Chopped green onions and cilantro
In a large dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Cook the onions until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the jalapenos and garlic and cook two minutes more.
Stir in all of the seasonings, followed by the venison and ground beef. Cook the meat until no longer pink, then add the crushed tomatoes, undrained cans of beans and beef broth. Heat to boil, then lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 3 hours. Alternatively you can move the chili to a slow cooker and cook on low for 3 hours. Serve with chopped green onions and cilantro.