As a hunter and wild-game fanatic, I’ve found that mainstream chefs often have the best wild game recipes without even knowing it. What I mean is, their carefully rendered formulas for beef, lamb, pork, etc. are often quite adaptable for such critters as deer, elk, and caribou. Once these chefs gain a little familiarity with the idiosyncrasies of game meat, they’re able to adjust their preparations into some of the finest, most inventive wild game dishes out there. One chef who excels at this is Chef Matthew Weingarten, the executive chef at Inside Park at St. Bart’s. Over the past few years we’ve spent many nights tinkering with hundreds of pounds of such things as black bear, wild hog, elk, whitetail deer, and Canada geese, looking for ways to produce quality game dishes based on the modern styles and methods of cutting-edge chefs. The following recipe is one such creation of Chef Weingarten’s, and it’s the perfect recipe for hunters to cook up on Super Bowl Sunday. By serving this great dish to non-hunting sports fans, you’ll be acting as an ambassador for hunting and the wild-game lifestyle. Dig in! –Steven Rinella

Cocoa and Game Meat Chili

Three things separate this chili from the common fray:
1. It’s made with whole dried chilis and there is no comparison between supermarket chili powder and fresh toasted and ground chilis. It’s like comparing a freshly roasted cup of coffee to Sanka.
2. It combines a unique blend of new and old world spices such as cocoa, cinnamon, allspice and cumin.
3. It’s made with cubed rather than ground meat.
And of course it is also made with fresh shot game such as venison, moose or elk, so technically that is four.

Ingredients

Serves: 12 entrée size portions or 24 as an addition to chips and Super Bowl fare

1 lb of dried kidney beans,  soaked overnight in 3 quarts of water
2 lbs cubed Game meat,  cut into approximately ¾ inch squares
1/4 lb good quality bacon,  diced
2 medium sized onions,  diced
1 jalapeno pepper,  minced
10 cloves garlic,  minced
2 12oz cans of chopped tomatoes
1 to 2 chipotle chiles in adobo, minced
1 quart stock (chicken, beef or Game)
4 dried ancho chili peppers, toasted and chopped
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 ½ Tablespoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon ground juniper
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 bunch of cilantro
4 sprigs fresh oregano
Water to cover
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons baking soda
Freshly ground black pepper
Salt

Directions

  1. Add the baking soda to the water and soak the kidney beans overnight, 8 to 12 hours.
  2. Season the meat all over with salt and pepper. Hold aside and allow to come to room temperature.
  3. In a large stock pot, add the ancho chiles and toast over medium/high heat until very aromatic and dark brown all over. Remove to a bowl and set aside.
  4. Add the bacon to the pot along with the 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil and render it until it is crispy, 3 to 5 minutes. Once crisp, remove bacon and set aside.
  5. Working in batches, brown off your game meat cubes never crowding the pan more than one layer deep. As a batch is browned remove it and place alongside your rendered bacon.  Continue like this until all of the meat is thoroughly browned.
  6. Now using the same fat, reduce heat to medium/low and toss in your onions, garlic, jalapeno pepper and sweat until translucent and aromatic, about 5 minutes. While the vegetables are cooking, place the ancho chiles on a cutting board, remove the stems and finely chop up the rest of the chiles seeds and all. Add the toasted, chopped chiles to the pot along with the cocoa powder, spices and sugar. Stir to evenly incorporate.
  7. Re-introduce all the meat and bacon back into the pot, adding any juices that may have collected while it was resting. Toss the cubes to coat them with the spices and aromatics and cook for 5 minutes.
  8. Add the drained and rinsed beans, canned tomatoes, chipotle pepper(s), stock and 2 quarts of water to the pot scrapping the bottom with a wooden spoon to lift up any pieces of caramelized meat that may be stuck at bottom of the pot. Turn the heat to high and bring the chili to a boil.
  9. Place the bunch of cilantro and sprigs of oregano in a square of rinsed cheesecloth. Bring corners together and tie into a pouch with butchers twine and submerge into the boiling chili. Reduce to a simmer, leaving the lid on halfway.
  10. Cook for 2 to 2 ½ hours on low heat or until both the beans and the meat are tender and the sauce is chili-thick.
  11. Remove sachet of herbs, taste for seasoning and add salt, pepper and as many dashes of Tabasco as you would like.

Serve in bowls with some fresh sliced green onions, cheese and sour cream, or alongside a nice big plate of nachos.

Recipe courtesy of Chef Matthew Weingarten, Inside Park at St. Bart’s