Happy opening day! Deer hunting opens this weekend in Wisconsin. Even as a non-hunter myself, it’s hard to escape the plethora of game-based dishes around here this time of year. From simple pan-fried tenderloin to venison processed as bacon ( a tasty lean breakfast option), deer seems to be everywhere. By far, my favorite way to prepare this lean, sometimes challenging meat is in venison chili.
I’m Chili—Add the Heat!
Chili has widely different recipes across the country, but the basis of any good chili, are good chilies. For this venison chili, I chose to use mostly milder chilies. Cascabel, ancho, and guajillo, which are all also commonly found in mole sauces, pair well with pasilla and chipotle chilies.
Each pepper brings something different to the dish. Some are smoky, some sweet, and some with a heat that sneaks up from behind. Once you’ve made this dish a time or two, you will learn which chilies you want more of and which you’d like to temper.
Visions of Venison
As we’ve discussed, venison can be a very lean meat, especially if it’s harvested later in the season. To get some of that tasty fat back into the dish, I add bacon. I fry up the bacon first, and then brown the ground and diced venison in the bacon grease. Then I add onion, garlic, and seasonings until the contents are steaming and aromatic.
Even after cooking down for three hours, the venison will retain some of it’s original sweetness, enhanced by the agave nectar and molasses. The combination of heat and sweet makes for a truly delicious, savory venison chili you’ll be dying to cook on cold winter days.
Classic Comfort Food
I topped my venison chili with extra chilies, chives, and a dollop of sour cream with a side of cornbread. While the chili certainly stands on it’s own, if you’re looking for something a little extra try serving the venison chili over homemade macaroni and cheese, sour cream mashed potatoes, or roasted spaghetti squash.
If we’re going to serve comfort food, sometimes its wonderful to just lean in and create a warm, decadent meal. Your dinner guests will know that you’ve been cooking with love and living to cook.
Jim & Jena
- 10 Dried chiles (2 of each ancho, pasilla, cascabel, morita, chipotle)
- 1 cup Hot coffee
- 1 cup Hot water
- ½ lb. Bacon, diced
- 1½ lbs. Ground venison or venison stew meat
- 1 med. Onion, diced
- 4 cloves Garlic, minced
- 1 Tbsp. Smoked paprika
- 1 Tbsp. Cumin
- ¼ tsp. Cinnamon, ground
- 2 tsp. Kosher salt
- 1 tsp. Fresh ground black pepper
- 3 Tbsp. Tomato paste
- 1 Tbsp. Molasses
- 1 Tbsp. Agave nectar
- 1 qt. Beef broth
- 1 ea. Bay leaf
- 1 can Pinto beans, rinsed and drained
- Garnishes: Sour cream, jalapeño slices, cilantro, corn chips, tortilla chips, onions, cheese
- In a large bowl, combine chiles, hot coffee and hot water. Cover with plastic wrap. Let sit for 30 minutes to an hour. Add mixture to a blender. Cover and blend on high until smooth. Set mixture aside while cooking bacon.
- In a large saucepan, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels, reserving 2 tbsp. of bacon grease in the saucepan.
- Brown venison meat in remaining bacon grease over medium high heat until cooked well browned. Add onion and next 6 ingredients. Reduce heat to medium. Cook for 3-5 minutes or until onion is softened.
- Stir in pureed Chile mixture and remaining ingredients except garnish. Cover and cook on low for 1 hour, stirring about every 15 minutes. Adjust salt and pepper to liking and serve with desired garnishes.