There are as many ways to make chili as there are wild game cooks. Do you use ground elk or chunked? Maybe a combination of the two? Some cooks prefer beans in their chili plus are fiercely loyal to black or kidney or pinto beans. Others insist chili should be bean-free. And, of course, do you use tomatoes or not? There is no one right way to make chili, which might explain why there are so many chili cook-offs.
My version of elk chili uses ground elk and plenty of it. It also incorporates common ingredients like onions, garlic, diced tomatoes, broth and red wine. This blend of flavors adds a complex flavor, which combines mildly hot, sweet and fruity elements in each bite.
But like any chili, there needs to be a signature ingredient. For me, I add diced sweet potatoes and hominy. It might sound more like a stew, but trust me, the diced sweet potatoes stay firm and take on flavor from the thick red sauce. The hominy adds texture and subtle hints of corn to the overall base.
Garnish with shredded cheese, green onion, cilantro and a dollop of sour cream, and everyone will be mopping the bottom of the bowl.
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 90 minutes
4 tablespoons canola oil, divided
2 large yellow onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups white sweet potatoes, peeled and diced ½-inch
1 (30 ounce) can white hominy, rinsed and drained
3 (14.5 ounce) cans petite diced tomatoes, or 5 cups fresh
3 cups beef broth
1 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ancho chili powder
2 teaspoons oregano
2 teaspoons coriander
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Cilantro, roughly chopped
Green onions, chopped
Heat a large stock pot over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons oil. When the oil is warm add the ground elk and cook evenly until browned—about 10-12 minutes. Remove from heat and drain in a separate bowl.
Add the remaining oil to the pot along with the onions and garlic. Cook until the onions soften—about 10 minutes. Pour in all seasonings and stir to coat the onions. Add the diced sweet potatoes, hominy and cooked elk meat. Pour in beef broth, diced tomatoes and red wine. Stir to blend.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover partially with a lid and simmer for 90 minutes to allow the flavors to combine.
For a slow-cooker, follow the above directions until you get to simmering. Once meat is browned and ingredients are combined, transfer it all to the slow-cooker. Cook on high for 2-3 hours or low for 4-5, until the potatoes are soft but still intact and the sauce melds together into a delicious whole.
And always remember, cooked chili served after a night in the fridge is by far the best chili.