JEFF TIEDEMAN: High country chowPrairie meets the mountains in elk hunting trip’s fare
Have you ever made chili for a crowd?
There’s one thing for certain for those who’ve undertaken this endeavor: You probably won’t get a taste consensus.
Aside from the argument that chili should or shouldn’t contain beans, some people undoubtedly will complain it’s too hot while still others will say that it’s too mild.
I consider myself a sort of a chili aficionado. I rarely have come across one that has failed to pique my interest.
Personally, I like mine hot and spicy chili. Those who know me can attest to that. My 10-Alarm Chili has become somewhat of a legend among my friends and a few of my co-workers. It usually contains venison or bison, at least 10 kinds of peppers — although they hardly ever are the same 10 each time — and three or four types of beans. (The Chili Appreciation Society International wouldn’t approve, since beans or any other filler cannot be used in its official contests.)
I recently made some chili for our annual Colorado elk hunting trip. The four of us traveling from North Dakota have the responsibility of providing at least one meal while we’re up on the mountain. (The boys we hunt with from the Centennial State bring the horses, mule and a hearty appetite.) This year, I decided to make chili (as well as a batch of my Auntie Helen’s Barbecues — using ground bison — making my contribution a prairie-meets-the-mountains eating adventure).
Of course, the chili won’t be my 10-Alarm version, which would be too hot for some of my hunting companions. (Mark, are you reading this?) Instead, I made a white chili, using some pheasants and great northern beans. Not only is it quite tasty, it also translates into less fat and fewer calories than any version of chili that uses red meat.
I know that white chili defies most traditional notions. One of my co-workers thinks it’s blasphemy to use anything but beef in chili. (He grew up on a farm where they raised cattle.)
But to me, a chili made with pheasant or chicken is just as tasty as one made with red meat. Heck, I’ve even made three- and five-bean vegetarian chilis that have drawn raves from those who’ve eaten them.
The chili I made for the hunting camp has a little bite to it, thanks to chili powder and fresh jalapeno peppers (sans the seeds and ribs). The original recipe also called for a chopped poblano chili to go along with the jalapeno. (Poblanos are mild green chili peppers that resemble green bell peppers. You can find them with the other peppers in the produce section.) But I decided the jalapenos and chili powder would provide enough kick.
To me, October and November are prime time for chili, just like that other fall classic, the World Series. (Twins fans will have to wait for the 2011 season for their chance at a championship.)
Nothing hits the spot on a cool fall day like a nice bowl of hot chili. For sure, it’s one of my favorite cool- or cold-weather foods. And as everyone knows, it can get a little nippy in the Rockies.
In hindsight, I probably should have made a batch of the chili in advance and had one of my hunting buddies try it to make sure that it was OK.
I’d sure hate to bring something for the trip that could get me shot.
Tiedeman is food editor at the Herald. Reach him at 780-1136 or toll-free at (800) 477-6572, or e-mail at email@example.com.