Venison Chili

Recipe courtesy Ryan Sparks, NEBRASKAland Magazine via Nebraska Game and Parks


 4 tablespoons unsalted butter

 Red onion, chopped

 4 cloves garlic, crushed and minced

 4 tablespoons dark brown sugar

 3 cups red wine plus more for deglazing

 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar

 4 tablespoons tomato paste

 4 cups unsalted chicken stock

 ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper plus more if you like your chili spicy

 ½ teaspoon chili power

 10 slices bacon, diced

 2 pounds ground venison

 2 cups black beans, cooked and drained

 Salt to taste

 Sour cream


 Over medium heat, melt the butter in a large pot or Dutch oven. Stir in the onion and garlic, sautéing until the onions start to become translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the brown sugar and sauté for several more minutes. Then stir in the red wine, vinegar, tomato paste, chicken stock, cumin, cayenne pepper, chili powder, and salt. Simmer until the mixture is reduced by half, about 45 minutes.

 While the wine base is reducing, add the bacon to a large cast iron pan over medium/high heat. Cook the bacon until browned and then push it to the back of the pan. Add a quarter of the ground venison, stirring and breaking lumps with a wooden spoon between each addition. Adding the meat gradually allows the excess water and liquid to evaporate, which is key for the meat to caramelize properly. Once the meat is cooked, add a quarter more of the meat, stirring and breaking lumps as you go. Repeat with the remaining meat. When the meat is cooked and no lumps remain, set a timer to 10 minutes and keep cooking the meat, stirring from time to time. You want the meat to caramelize and even become crispy in spots. Golden bits of meat will stick to the bottom of the pot, which you will deglaze with wine later. Watch over the pan as you don’t want the meat to burn.

 Add a large splash of wine to the pan. With a flat wooden spoon, scrape all the brown bits from the bottom. Push the meat around and make sure you scrape it all off. By the time you’re finished, the wine will have evaporated. Be careful not to let the meat stick to the pot again – lower the heat if necessary. Stir in the beans and toss together. Taste for salt.

 Once the wine base has reduced by half, mix everything together and let it simmer for another 20 minutes.