Greg Patent Venison Chili

A piping hot serving of slow-cooked venison chili garnished with some green onion and sour cream. Stirred into the chili, the richness and tang of the sour cream blend perfectly with the venison.

To all you successful hunters, here’s a venison chili recipe that will make you happy you’ve got that deer in the freezer. Use what you consider to be a tough cut from the animal. Leg and shoulder are excellent and will become meltingly tender while the meat simmers in its saucy brew.

I tend to make chili without beans because I just want that meat taste to come through with no beany interruptions. But if you like beans, by all means include some. For flavor, my preference is chiles and sweet bell peppers plus a generous amount of onions and garlic. A little tomato doesn’t hurt, so I plop in some tomato purée for flavor and to give the chili some body.

I stay away from barbecue sauces. As delicious as they are, they will just become the flavor boss and you’ll taste little else. Venison is precious, so treat it with care. Now, a little heat is just fine in this chili, and that’s why I add Sriracha sauce as a counterpoint to the onions and sweet peppers. Made from chiles, garlic, sugar, salt and a little vinegar, this Southeast Asian flavoring has become a runaway hit in recent years.

You’ll see that I say to brown the venison before adding it to the other chili ingredients. The browning adds another layer of flavor by way of the Maillard Reaction. Proteins and sugars on the meat surface get transformed into hundreds of tasty molecules as the pieces of meat sizzle in the hot fat. While the chili simmers, those molecules flavor the entire dish.

So, get out that hunk of meat and start cooking!

Venison chili

The assertive taste of venison combined with that of chiles, onions, garlic and spices all come together in this colorful chili. The special hotness of Sriracha sauce brings all the flavors together in this spicy, but not too spicy, dish. You can make this a day or two ahead.

Makes 6 servings (6 to 7 cups total).

2 ½ pounds venison stew meat

4 tablespoons safflower, suflower, grapeseed, or corn oil

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large red bell pepper, seeded and diced

1 large yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced

1 large fresh Poblano chile, seeded and diced

2 medium yellow onions, chopped (about 2 cups prepared)

6 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 teaspoon fennel seed

1 teaspoon paprika, sweet or hot

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon table salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup tomato purée

1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce, or to taste

1 can (12-ounces) non-alcoholic or regular beer

2 green onions, white and green parts, sliced thin

Sour cream

1. Trim the venison of sinew and cut the meat into 1-inch pieces. Pat dry on paper towels. Heat the oil in a wide 5-quart sauté pan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown the venison in batches, without crowding the meat, and transfer to a side dish. Discard the browning fat and add the olive oil to the pan. Set the pan over medium heat and add the bell peppers, Poblano, onions and garlic. Stir well, cover the pan, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring once or twice. The vegetables should be not quite tender. Add the fennel, paprika, coriander, cumin, salt and pepper, and cook for about 1 minute, stirring, to release aromas.

2. Add the tomato purée, hot chili sauce, beer and browned venison. Stir well and bring the chili to the simmer. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook at a slow simmer until the meat is very tender, 1 ½ to 2 hours or longer. If you want, you can cook the chili in a preheated 350-degree oven. At the end of cooking, the sauce should be slightly thickened. If not, cook uncovered, over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has some body to it. Taste carefully and adjust the seasoning as needed. Serve in heated bowls; sprinkle with the green onion and a dollop of sour cream. Hot cooked rice, noodles, potatoes, or cornbread, are also welcome. This chili is excellent reheated the next day.

Greg Patent is a James Beard Award-winning cookbook author for “Baking in America,” a food journalist, blogger and radio co-host for “The Food Guys” on Montana Public Radio. Please visit his blog, www.thebakingwizard.com, and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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