If you attended this year's Celebrity-Political Chili Cook-Off on Wednesday at Avion on the Water, hopefully you got a chance to try my "Velvet Buffalo" chili, which used chocolate to smooth out the texture of the bison slow-simmered with smoky peppers.
It was a chance to get face-time with local newsmakers, potential readers who still may not be familiar with our mission and role in the Valley's local news ecosystem — but also a chance to defend our title for "Most Original Chili," which we won at the last chili cook-off in 2019.
As I did with the Chipotle-Honey Chorizo Chili that brought home our trophy, I slightly re-engineered another recipe that I liked by adding extra flair like the cinnamon, cloves or allspice that I usually tend to put in my chili and adjusting the instructions for stove-cooking, rather than the crockpot.
It also went through several iterations, just like our last cook-off entry. My first attempt at a chocolate-bison chili used strongly brewed coffee and a little bit of stout for an extra-bold body. Turns out it was a bit too much body, as it ended up more akin to a tarry sludge that simply muddled the various flavors within.
Unfortunately, we lost "Most Original" honors to Mahoning County Engineer Pat Ginnetti. But that won't stop me from bringing a new, intriguing or somewhat unorthodox chili recipe each year.
Have any thoughts on what meats or special ingredients I should try next year? What's your "secret" chili ingredient? Let us know in the comments below!
Here's the recipe for the almost-award-winning bison-chocolate chili we served up Wednesday:
"The Velvet Buffalo"
- 1 lb. ground bison
- 1 ½ oz. bittersweet chocolate, grated
- 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp. ancho chili powder OR 1 ½ tbsp. dried ancho peppers, ground
- ½ tbsp. cumin powder
- 2 tsp. chipotle powder OR 1 tbsp. dried chipotle peppers, ground
- ½ tsp. cinnamon
- ¼ tsp. cloves
- 1 cup water
- 1 tbsp. flour
- 1 tbsp. cane sugar
- One 14 oz. can crushed tomatoes
- One 14 oz. can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil on medium-high heat in saute pan. Add 1 diced small onion, 1 diced red bell pepper and 1 tbsp. flour. Saute until peppers have softened.
- Add 2 minced cloves of garlic, 1 tbsp. ancho chili powder (or 1 ½ tbsp. ground dried ancho peppers), ½ tbsp. cumin powder and 2 tsp. chipotle powder (or 1 tbsp. ground dried chipotle peppers) and stir to combine. Saute until fragrant.
- Stir in 1 cup water to deglaze. Then transfer contents of pan to pot.
- Brown 1 lb. ground bison in saute pan on medium heat. Drain most of the fat, then transfer contents of pan to pot.
- Add 1 ½ oz. grated bittersweet chocolate, one 14 oz. can of crushed tomatoes and 1 tbsp. cane sugar to large pot and stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste (I recommend 1 tsp. of each).
- Cook on medium-low heat for 3 hours, stirring every 20 minutes to prevent burning.
- Stir in one drained and rinsed 14 oz. can of red kidney beans, ½ tsp. cinnamon and ¼ tsp. cloves. Add more cane sugar (1 tsp. at a time) to reach desired sweetness.
- Simmer on low heat for 2 hours, stirring at least every 20 minutes to prevent burning.