We're proud of this recipe for two reasons. One, the Chief Troll designed it completely from scratch, after writing a beer recommendation for Esquire a few years back to accompany a venison chili. He thought he could make a better chili. Turns out he could. And two, everyone who's ever had this chili has absolutely loved it.
The big-time media has even picked up on it. Fox Sports will use this recipe in its "Best Damn Tailgate Cookbook Period," which will be out in August 2007. The greatest praise, though, came from a parking lot attendant at Penn State, who lived smack dab in the middle of Deer Hunter country and harvested his fair share of animals over the years. He proclaimed this the best venison dish he's ever had. It's not quite Michelin 3 Stars, but high praise from a noted authority just the same.
The recipe is pretty straightforward, though there are a lot of ingredients. So make a batch a day or two before the game and simply reheat it in the parking lot. This chili absolutely tastes best when it sits around for awhile, basking in the warm glow of its own juices. You can also freeze it and reheat it at any time.
One key is to get the smokiest bacon and ham possible. Store-bought bacons and hams usually don't cut it. So we prefer to make our own bacon
, or buy them from a local or mail-order smokehouse specialist, such as Dakin Farm
- ½ pound good, smoky bacon chopped into 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch chunks
- ½ pound good, smoke-cured ham, cut into 1/2-inch to 1-inch chunks
- 2 pounds ground venison
- 5 stalks celery, chopped
- 2 large onions, chopped
- 8 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 2 potatoes chopped
- 8 to 12 ounces Schlenkerla Rauchbier (Bavarian smoked beer), or substitute with dark porter or stout
- 1 cup beef broth
- 6 fresh jalapenos, roughly chopped (leave in the seeds for hotter chili)
- Optional: 2 fresh habanero peppers, finely chopped (for very hot chili)
- 1 14.5-ounce can of tomatoes, chopped or diced
- 1 15.5-ounce can of dark red kidney beans (they must be "dark red" beans or they'll lose their color)
- 1 7-ounce can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
- 2 to 4 Tablespoons vegetable oil or olive oil
- Optional: Frank's Red Hot, to taste
- Optional: Worcestershire sauce, to taste
For the spice mixture:
- 3 Tablespoons cumin
- 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 Tablepoon smoked paprika (or substitute with regular paprika)
- 1 Tablespoon cayenne pepper
- 1 Tablespoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper, or to taste
- 8 to 12 juniper berries, crushed
Mix the spices and store in an airtight container until ready to use. Chop celery, onion, garlic and bell pepper and set aside in a large bowl. Chop potato and set aside in another bowl.
Fry chopped bacon in a 13-inch skillet or 3- to 5-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove bacon with slotted spoon and set aside in a large bowl. Brown chopped ham in bacon fat. Remove with slotted spoon, and set aside with bacon. Brown ground venison in bacon fat, breaking it up while it cooks. Remove with slotted spoon and set aside with ham and bacon. Venison will soak up most of the bacon fat, so add some vegetable oil to the skillet, and fry potatoes until lightly browned. Remove potatoes and add to bowl with meat.
Add vegetables to the skillet (with a little more oil) and saute until lightly browned (about 10 minutes). Add beer and beef broth to the vegetables, and return all meat and potatoes to the skillet. Add jalapenos and/or optional habaneros. Mix very, very well while slowly adding all the spice mixture until it's well incorporated. Mixture should turn an attractive reddish-brown color. Cover and simmer on low heat 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally (if mixture starts to look too dry, add a bit more beer or beef broth).
Then add canned tomatoes with juice, dark red beans with juice and chipotle peppers with adobo sauce. Mix well.
Simmer for another 15 to 20 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Add optional ingredients, such as Frank's Red Hot or Worcestershire sauce, if desired.
Serves 8 to 12.
Serving suggestion: We typically serve this with breakfast on a cold day. Put two halves of biscuit in the bottom of a bowl, scoop chili over the biscuit, and top off with a pair of fried eggs. You'll be glad you did.