Growing up in Louisiana surrounded by deer hunting friends and family, deer (or venison) is an meat very familiar to me. Every year, right around November when hunting season began, freezers would fill up with venison later to be converted to hamburgers, steaks, sausages, gumbos, and stews. I myself was not much of a deer hunter. As a kid I remember sitting up in a deer stand at my Uncle’s camp, freezing my keister off, wishing I was at home watching cartoons. I was a very active, energetic kid that loved the outdoors, but I also loved not sitting in one spot and being bored for several hours on end even more.
By far the most common venison dish available was chili. I have had many venison chilis that were delicious in my lifetime, but none better than this recipe. The secret: a list of umami packed ingredients. Umami is a savory taste that binds to receptors specific for glutamates. This taste is often responsible for the mouth watering “beefiness” present in beef stews, and so many other dishes.
So let’s look at the ingredients that make this chili so special:
- The Chili Peppers The most important ingredient in a chili. Throw out the powders and use dried and fresh varieties when available. The right combination of chilis will take you a long ways. Here, I’m using a combination of dried New Mexican Peppers, dried Guajillo pepper and fresh jalapenos. The New Mexico chile pepper flavor has been described as lightly pungent similar to an onion, or like garlic with a subtly sweet, spicy, crisp, and smoky taste. Guajillo chiles are more mild with “fruity” aromas. And of course, the classic jalapeno.
- Umami Packed Ingredients These are going to help you win the chili cook offs, because know one else will be using them. The soy sauce, tomato paste, and marmite (yeast extract) are all jam packed with umami. So is the dried mushroom powder, but I wanted to mention it separately since I am so proud of it. I just bought a package of dried forest blend mushroom from the store, and then hit them in the blender until a powder formed. Mushrooms are packed with umami and it’s just another creative way to add flavor to your dish. The anchovy paste is rich in nucleotides, which work in synergy with the other glutamate rich ingredients.
- Spice Blend You can find the recipe to my spice blend here and in the recipe below. It’s excellent for chilis and many latin preparations.
Now let’s create the chili spiked broth. Toast 3 dried New Mexican and Guajillo chile peppers in a skillet until dark and very aromatic. Off to the side, simmer 1 qt of beef broth with 2 tbsp of soy sauce and 2 tsp of marmite. Combine with the toasted chiles and let sit until the peppers get soft. Add to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth, set aside. In a heavy bottom pot, preheat a tbsp of canola oil and brown the ground venison and set aside. Add a little more oil, then add diced onions and sautee until transclucent. Add the garlic and jalapenos and sautee for another minute and a half. Add the anchovy and tomato paste and sautee until a deep, nutty aroma develops. Add the venison, bay leaves, dried mushroom powder, seasoning blend, and broth all to the pot. Bring to a boil and then let simmer for about an hour. Fold in the sliced green onions, then taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly.
Ladle in a bowl and top with sour cream and scallions. Serve!
Umami Venison Chile
3 lbs of ground venison
3 dried New Mexican Chile Peppers
3 dried Guajillo Chile Peppers
3 fresh jalapenos, diced
4 garlic cloves, sliced
2 medium yellow onions, diced
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp anchovy paste
1 qt beef broth
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp marmite
1/2 cup dried mushroom powder
3 bay leaves
1/2 cup of chopped green onions
2 -12oz cans of red kidney beans
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tbsp of paprika
1 tbsp of ground coriander
1 tbsp of ground cumin
1 tbsp of onion powder
1 tbsp of garlic powder
1 tbsp of dried oregano
1/2 tbsp of ground cinnamon
1 tbsp of orange zest
For the broth
In a sauce pot, combine the beef broth with the soy sauce and marmite, and bring to a simmer. Toast both the dried chiles in a skillet until dark and very aromatic. Remove the chiles, place in a bowl, and cover with the broth until the chiles get soft. Place the whole broth mixture in a food processor or blender and puree until very smooth. Set aside.
For the chile
Combine all dry spice ingredients and set aside. In a soup pot or a stock pot, brown the ground venison and set aside. Add the garlic and onions, and sautee until the onions are translucent. Add the jalapenos and sautee for another minute. Add the tomato and anchovy paste and cook until a deep nutty aroma develops. Add the mushroom powder, dry seasoning blend, venison, bay leaves and broth. Bring to a boil, and then let simmer gently for about 1 1/2 hours. Fold in 1 cups of sliced green onions at the end. Ladle into a bowl and then top with sour cream and more green onions.