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Monday, November 02, 2015

Bison Black Bean Chili Recipe

Bison Black Bean Chili
A few years ago I heard Ted Turner speak about bison at the Sustainable Food Institute at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. He slipped in, spoke was very opinionated and went over his allotted time, but he certainly was engaging.Attendees learned he is one of the largest landowners in North America, a proponent of conservation and a big believer in bison. He talked about bison as a means to both economic viability and environmental sustainability. Turner has a staggering 51,000 bison on his land, which is over 10% of the entire population in North America. He also runs Ted's Montana Grill where he serves bison. 

Bison are an integral part of the prairie ecosystem, grazing in herds and fertilizing plant cover. The natural behavior of bison is still very much intact because unlike cows, they are not domesticated. Bison meat is naturally lean and is a good source of protein, iron, zinc and selenium.

If you've never cooked bison before and can find it in ground form, try using it in chili. The bison itself tastes very similar to beef but is a bit richer and less fatty. This chili is mostly beans, but flavored with chiles, chile powder and spices, onion, garlic and fire roasted canned tomatoes. I generally prefer buying whole tomatoes rather than diced ones, they break up and cook down more easily than diced. Chili is one of those dishes that just gets better over time as the beans soften and the flavors meld together. I serve it with plenty of toppings--grated jack cheese, chopped green onions and cilantro and sometimes a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt.

Note: I don't recommend soaking the beans

Black Bean & Bison Chili 
Serves 6-8 

1 pound dry black beans
1 pound ground bison meat
1 onion (white or yellow) diced
3 cloved garlic, minced 
1 red or yellow bell pepper, diced
2 roasted peeled Hatch chiles (mild, medium or hot), optional 
2 Tablespoons chili powder (mild, medium or hot)
2 teaspoons cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon ground oregano
28 ounce can whole fire roasted tomatoes and their juice
1 Tablespoon tomato paste

Place the sorted black beans in a large Dutch oven and cover with about 10 cups of water. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, until tender. 

In a large pot combine the bison, onion, garlic and peppers. Cook, crumbling the meat until the meat browns and vegetables soften. Add the spices and cook for another 2 minutes then crush the tomatoes with your hands and add them and the juices to the mixture. 

Add the cooked beans and 2 cups of the bean cooking water and the tomato paste to the meat mixture, partially cover the pot and simmer gently for 30 minutes or until thick. Season to taste with salt.