Smoky Bison Chili

Not vegan. Not kosher

Coarse black pepper
Cumin seeds
Smoked salt
Bacon grease
Dried chili peppers
Cinnamon stick
Black cardamom

2 onions
Garlic
4 sweet potatoes
1/2 lb bacon ends
Red palm oil

2 28oz cans tomato sauce
Broth
Chili powder
Cumin powder

2 lbs ground bison

Start with a tadka of whole cumin seed, coarse-ground black pepper, smoked salt, dried chili peppers, a cinnamon stick, and a small black cardamom pod.
Get a big soup pot. Then heat the pot and put the cumin, pepper, and salt in before any fat. Let it heat up dry to start pulling the flavor out, but don’t burn the cumin. You’ll smell it if it starts getting too toasty. Once you feel good about those puppies, drop in a couple tablespoons of bacon grease, enough to coat the bottom of your pan. Now toss in your chili peppers, a sizeable cinnamon stick, and a black cardamom pod (that is Amomum sublatum or A. costatum as opposed to Elettaria cardamomum, green cardamom, both from the ginger family). Black cardamom is dried by fire roasting so it adds an incredible smokiness along with its aromatic flavor. A little goes a long way.

For the chili peppers I used two morita and one arbol and it had a nice spice. You could add more to give it a kick. Dried chilis of any kind will work and you could always sub fresh, but put them in later with the garlic. So let all the spices sit there for a few minutes to get their flavors spread around the hot oil.

Caramelize onions, garlic, sweet potatoes, and bacon ends.
While the fat is heating up and accepting all of the essences of your spices, you should be able to get through chopping 2 onions, 4+ cloves of garlic (to your taste), and 4 sweet potatoes that fit nicely in your palm (medium? small?), and the bacon ends. If you mostly cover the onions with the sweet potato chunks you should have enough. If the spices start getting too hot, you can turn the heat off, but while the bacon grease is hot, pour in your onions. Stir a little so the cumin and pepper don’t burn. Then let those sit, according to the instructions inthis recipe.

You can use this time to do the rest of your chopping. Chop the bacon ends (or regular bacon) last, but put it in first, so it can get crispy. If they don’t it’s OK—it’ll still be amazing. Before the onions are done half way, add your garlic, half way or more, add in the sweet potato chunks. The sooner you add them the more carmelized they will get themselves, but garlic will burn sooner than the onions and the sweet potatoes can turn to mush. It’s all a matter of how much you wanna go for those oh so tasty Maillard/acrylamide/or-whatever-it-is bits. Add in the red palm oil here too, to give an earthiness, a little color, and all those vitamins and anitoxidants.

Add the sauce.
Once you’re done with Nom Nom Paleo’s onion carmelizing boot camp and your sweet potatoes are mostly but not all the way done, pour in the tomato sauce and stir it all up. Note that the more vigourously you stir the sweet potatoes during their time in the pot, the more they will break apart and threaten to mush. That may be what you want, as it will thicken the chili, but I went for nice chunks to bite into. Let the sauce go for about a half hour to incorporate and reduce a little. Make sure it doesn’t burn at the bottom, you know your burner. The sauce might get a little excited so when you’re happy with the amount of reduction, you’ll probably need a lid. You don’t wanna shoot your sauce all over the stove. Nobody wants to clean that up.

Add in copious amounts of chili powder THAT IS NOT SPICY. Sometimes it is and that would be quite the surprise. Add cumin powder to taste as well. I bulked it up with broth because I was making it for a chili cook-off, but you don’t have to. If you do, please use better broth than I did. Like that dark broth from the roast we made in the crock pot the week before. That would of been so yummy to use. But alas I had already eaten it all for breakfast on a few days. Cereal or oatmeal for breakfast? (We all know better around here.) Bacon and eggs right when you jump out of bed? You should try try homemade broth if either of those sound wrong to you or make you tired. (I love you bacon and will eat you for second breakfast, but wake me up slowly with some bone broth.)

Add the bison.
Oh, right. Your sauce should be ready now. Put in the ground bison and stir to break it up. It’s a beautiful red meat that will cook up quick. Seriously you don’t need to cook it long. It’s scary. But it will be moist and delicious.

Well that’s it for the chili. Pretty easy really. You don’t have to get into the finer points of spices and stuff, you can just toss what you have in there. Go ahead and substitute away. And share if you have your own variation on the spice blend. (Hing. I thought a little asafoetida would be good too.) As always let me know if I’m doing something wrong. Like lying about the time to caramelize onions. Really, why would people make up a number like 5 minutes? Always overestimate, people. And remember that cooked tomato dishes are always better the second day!