A Squared: What's For Dinner Wednesday: Slow Cooker Bison & Black Bean Chili

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

What's For Dinner Wednesday: Slow Cooker Bison & Black Bean Chili

There is nothing better than a big bowl of chili for dinner on a frosty fall night.  It's especially good when you can make the chili ahead of time in a slow cooker so it can simmer all day and be served whenever you like.  Chili is one of my favorite meals to cook too because it is so versatile that I can experiment each time with new ingredients, cooking methods, and flavor profiles.  The core of my recipe is based on the chili that my mom used to make for us growing up-- a fairly simple combo of light kidney beans and ground beef in a smooth saucy tomato base with chili seasoning.  I've added bison and black beans to keep it lean, a ton of veggies to keep it healthy, and some extra spiciness to make it a little more "grown up."  The one thing that always remains from Mom's original though, is the unique quality of a thick tomato sauce base versus more of a soupy broth.

I also want to take an informal poll here.  My husband and I have a running feud in our house about how one should eat his/her chili.  Growing up, we always ate it more like a soup or stew-- with a spoon and cornbread on the side or with some crushed tortilla chips and shredded cheese on top.  Alex insists that eating his over macaroni noodles-- like a sauce-- is the proper way to eat it.  I know that's what they do in Cincinnati, but am skeptical that this is how all Texans eat their chili.

So, what do you think?  Do you prefer cornbread, chips, pasta, or straight up?  Any creative toppings that you add to yours?  Share your favorite ways to serve and eat chili below!

Mine on the left (sans tortilla strips) and Alex's on the right over pasta


Ingredients:
  • 1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 bell peppers, seeded and diced *Most people use green, but I hate the taste of them.  I used red, but you can use any combo of your favorite colors.
  • 1 poblano pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 jalepeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. Ground bison
  • 1 bottle of beer *Heavier beers are best for this, but most will work.  I used a bottle of Shiner Bock since that's what Alex has in the fridge at the moment
  • 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes with green chiles
  • 14.5 oz. can diced fire roasted tomatoes
  • 28 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 28 oz. can tomato puree
  • 6 oz. can tomato paste
  • 14.5 oz. can light red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 14.5 oz. can low sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen corn
  • 1/2 Tbs. Smoked Paprika
  • 2 Tbs. Chili powder
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. Cumin
  • 1/2 Tbs. Oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add onion and peppers and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes.  Add bison to the pan and use a spatula to break it up as the meat browns, stirring frequently.  Once the meat has browned, drain any excess grease from the pan and carefully pour beer into the bison and vegetable mixture.  Continue to cook, stirring frequently and scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan until the beer has reduced by at least half. 

Pour the contents of the skillet into a large slow cooker preheated to low heat.  To the slow cooker, add canned tomatoes and the following 6 canned items through the black beans.  Stir well to combine all ingredients and then add frozen corn and give the mixture one quick stir.  Add the remaining spices to the mixture, stir to combine, cover, and cook on low heat for 6-7 hours.  Periodically remove the lid and stir to prevent separation or burning.  I'd also recommend tasting a spoonful every so often.  The flavors tend to dilute as the chili cooks, so you may want to add more dry spices as it continues to cook.
Serve any way you like: With cornbread, crushed tortilla chips, or over pasta.  Other great toppings include: Avocado chunks, sour cream, shredded cheddar, shredded lettuce, or thinly sliced radishes.

This chili also freezes really well.  We have a few containers stored in our freezer for upcoming winter nights when we need a quick and hearty dinner.

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