My husband makes a mean chili.
He's been working on it, batch by batch, for years. He's been adding and subtracting ingredients, tweaking, tasting, and changing for so long, it's hard to remember the time (in college) when our "chili" consisted of a grocery-store packet of chili spice, water, and a can of kidney beans heated on the stovetop.
I think, with this recipe, he finally achieved perfection.
He doesn't measure, so I can't share the exact specifications. His recipe is so unbelievably simple it's almost crazy to think that anyone would make chili any other way. But, then again, that's kind of the whole point of this blog: remembering that the less stuff we do to whole, real food, the better it is!
1 pound of ground bison meat [Grass-fed/finished beef also works.]
4 small cans of no-sodium added, plain tomato sauce [Make sure to check that there are no natural flavors or other bizarre additives in the tomato sauce -- some brands have them, some don't. We get ours from Trader Joe's. Next year, I hope to can some tomatoes myself so I'll know exactly what's in it.]
1 can low-sodium light red kidney beans, drained and rinsed (or soaked from dry)
1 can low-sodium dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed (or soaked from dry)
About a tablespoon of chili powder
About a 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
2 fresh habanero peppers (including seeds), quartered
Put everything in a crock pot, add a little bit of water (maybe 3/4 of a cup), and cook on low for an entire day. We usually start ours around 5:30 in the morning and eat it around 9:30 p.m., which is 16 hours later. It would probably be okay in less time than that, but I can't say for sure.
We always serve it with a sprinkle of shredded cheese. If I'm feeling crazy, I sometimes top my bowl with a scoop of plain, fat-free Greek yogurt and some diced raw onions. You really can't go wrong.
...Except if you eat the habaneros...
We treat the habanero peppers in this recipe like bay leaves. We like them to flavor the chili, but we don't really like to eat them directly. That said, they're tiny and hard to find in an entire batch of chili, so we just keep a watch out for them in our individual bowls and eat around them. It's not the end of the world if you miss one and eat it accidentally, but you might want to have that scoop of yogurt ready to cool your tongue down.
So, where's the local, in-season produce in this recipe? Well, I bought the fresh habaneros from a local farmer at the Anne Arundel County Farmer's Market just before Christmas.
They must have been grown earlier in the season, but they keep well. We signed up for the hot pepper share offered by our CSA farm, so we should have plenty of excellent peppers for making chili in the new year! Can't wait!
And, why bison? Well, bison is usually pastured and grass-fed, rather than feed-lot kept and grain-fed (like most beef sold in this country). Healthier animals make for healthier meat! I do still eat beef, as long as I know that it's been pastured and grass fed.
But there's something about "bison chili" that just sounds so...home on the range.
And it's delicious!