I love fall, but fall in California is a little different from the fall I experienced growing up on the East Coast. There are no leaves that change color and crunch under your feet when you walk around town. We get mild sunny days and cool nights, punctuated by achromatic days full of rain. Lots of things actually start blooming and the gold hills of summer turn green. It took a while to get used to. I miss the fall colors a lot, but at least I still get to break out my thick sweaters and my crock pot. Of course, out here, I break these things out when the weather gets into the low 60's, where on the East Coast that's practically still considered warm. Living in California makes you "soft" when it comes to weather, that's for sure.
This past weekend it rained. All weekend. It was uniformly gray, wet & cold for 3 days straight. Perfect weather to make a pot of chili that could simmer away for a while and keep the kitchen warm. I love spicy chili, but my husband is not a fan of the heat, so this chili is pretty mild, although it's easy to spice it up more. It's another one of those recipes that I make a big batch of and then freeze half for future rainy weekends. I like using buffalo/bison meat- it's pretty lean, and has a nice sweet flavor and the chipotle & bacon give the chili a nice smoky flavor as well. Sweet, smoky & spicy is a winning combination in my book. And best of all, it can all be made in the same pot. Nothing beats a one-pot-wonder.
While technically I made this on Saturday, it is in fact what's for dinner tonight at the Munoz's.
3 Bean Bison Chili
1 lb Ground Bison (Buffalo)
1 lb Bison chuck roast, cubed (if you can't find it, you can substitute regular beef- the kind you buy pre-cut up for beef stew or even better just use 2 lbs of the ground buffalo instead, which is almost always available at Safeway)
4 strips thick-cut bacon, cut into small pieces
1 large onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 can black beans, drained & rinsed
1 can white or red kidney beans, drained & rinsed
1 can chili beans
1 28oz can of crushed tomatoes
3 Tbsp Cumin powder
1 Tbsp Chipotle powder
1 Tbsp Chili powder
2 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
Salt & Pepper
- Brown the meat. In a large dutch oven over medium heat add a little olive oil, the onions, garlic & bacon and cook for about 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions start to soften. Turn the heat up to medium-high and add in the ground bison and bison cubes. Season with Salt & Pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until the meat is cooked through and starting to brown slightly, about another 5 to 10 minutes.
- Add the beans & tomatoes. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add the drained black beans & kidney beans to the beef & onion mixture and stir. Then add in the chili beans along with all the sauce they came in and the can of crushed tomatoes. Stir.
- Add the seasoning. Add the cumin, chipotle powder & chili powder and stir well. How much of each is really up to you. I love cumin so I tend to add a lot of that and since my husband doesn't like his chili too spicy I add a little less chipotle powder & chili powder than if I was making it for myself. Add the apple cider vinegar and stir. Turn heat down to low.
- Simmer away. Simmer the chili on low heat, covered, for a couple of hours, stirring every once in a while.
- Serve! We like ours with a small dollop of light sour cream in the middle & some shredded sharp cheddar cheese sprinkled on top. Sometimes I make mini cornbread muffins to go on the side. For those I just follow the recipe on the side of the cornmeal bag I get at Safeway.
I've made this chili in a crock pot as well. I just cook the onions & brown the meat on the stove top first (step 1) and then transfer it to the crock pot right before step 2 above. From that point everything else is just the same. I've also made it many times using ground turkey instead of bison.