If you’re looking for an alternative to a nice hot bowl of chili on a cool evening (or better yet, a hot summer’s evening) you might want to consider using something other than beef as the main ingredient. In this case, I chose the American bison, or Buffalo, and I couldn’t be happier with the results. I’ve actually been dying to try it since I found that I could purchase bison at the base commissary.
While this is just a riff on my normal chili recipe, there are several ingredients that I omitted, both to be true to the bison itself and because I wasn’t sure that those additions would do any justice to the slightly gamy flavor of the meat. In my opinion, I made the right choices.
We tried to keep the ingredients to something that native Americans might have had on hand if they had decided to make this dish. since the primary crops of many tribes were beans, corn and squash, I used these things as the secondary cast in this production, with stellar results.
The end product is most definitely chili, but with an ever so slightly gamy back note and a deep, rich flavor that I doubt could ever be achieved using beef. It is, in my humble opinion, everything that chili should be, and If you can find buffalo or bison locally I urge you to try it, you won’t be disappointed.
Buffalo Chili Recipe
- 2 lbs. Al natural bison chuck roast, cut in 1/2″ cubes
- 1 onion, chopped fine
- 2 tbsp. tomato paste
- 2 – 14.5 oz. can fire roasted diced tomatoes
- 1 8oz. can tomato sauce
- 1/4 cup red chili powder
- 1 Dried ancho chili pod, chopped fine or ground.
- 1 1/2 tsp cumin, ground
- 1/2 tsp. paprika
- 2 tbsp garlic powder
- 24 oz of your favorite dark beer, I recommend Shiner Bock or Ziegen Bock (Any good German beer will do)
- 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut in 1/2 cubes.
- 4 cups cooked pinto beans (or about 3 cans, if you don’t want to cook them.)
- 10 oz. whole kernel corn (or the corn from 2 cobs)
- 4-6 oz. chicken stock or water.
- 1 1/2 tsp dried Mexican oregano
- 2 tsp dried cilantro leaves
- 2 tbsp corn masa flour (Masa Ferina)
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil or bacon grease.
- Beef stock if needed to thin chili during cooking.
Heat oil or bacon grease in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add cubed bison in batches, browning well on all sides. Remove browned pieces and place in a large bowl until all buffalo is browned well.
Return browned bison to pot with whatever juices collected in bowl. Add onion and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring often. Add tomato paste and continue stirring until paste no longer smells raw (Your nose will know, the paste will start to smell a bit sweet and the aroma will deepen.)
Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, ancho chili, chili powder, cumin, paprika, garlic powder and beer. simmer for 30 minutes and taste for seasoning. (it will still taste bland at this point, just make sure the amounts are close.)
Add butternut squash and simmer 45 minutes to 1 hour or until squash is just about fork tender, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking.
Add remaining ingredients and simmer uncovered for 1 hour, stirring often to prevent burning. Add beef stock or water as needed to achieve desired consistency.Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.
Simmer uncovered for an additional hour, adding liquid if necessary. Allow to rest 15 minutes before serving
Serve with cheddar or jack cheese, sour cream and a slice of good cornbread .
What I would have done differently had I thought of it at the time:
The spice levels on this ended up being a bit much, but that’s not due to the recipe above. I think it has far more to do with the fact that some of my spices were old and I had to add a bit more than the recipe calls for. later in cooking they got a just a bit too intense. otherwise, the flavor of this chili is simply something amazing!