Bison is an excellent alternative to ground beef, mostly because it's nice to change things up a bit. Of course if you can't access bison meat you can always use ground beef or ground turkey, of course of the highest quality. A true chili must also have beans so I used an heirloom variety I had on hand, anasazi beans, but of course you can choose any bean like black beans or pinto. What makes this chili so special is the hidden butternut squash, so you can't replace that!
I love it because people who say they don't like squash still love this chili. Sometimes winter squashes can be daunting even for those who like the flavors because cutting into a raw, hard squash can be difficult. The squash in this recipe is cooked in the oven so that it is soft when you cut it open and the flesh simply scoops right out. The consistency is like mash potatoes and mixes right into the chili making it have a thick texture. Plus you get all the amazing health benefits of butternut squash! More on this cooking tip to come. For now we'll focus on this chili recipe.
1lb bison meat, preferably grass-fed
1/2C anasazi beans, soaked and boiled
1 small butternut squash
1 medium sized onion
5 cloves of garlic
2 28oz cans crushed tomatoes
2T chili powder
pinch of sea salt
freshly cracked black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 350° and place whole squash in oven dish or directly on rack.
2. Place soaked beans in pot with water, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer.
3. Dice onions and garlic. Brown the meat with onions, garlic and chili powder.
4. After the beans have been cooking for about 20-30 minutes and the meat is browned, strain the water from the pot leaving in the beans. Add the meat to the pot with the tomatoes, paprika, oregano, cumin, and sea salt. Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer.
5. When a knife pierces through the squash very easily, it is ready about 35-45 minutes depending on the size. Cut it in half, scoop and discard the seeds. Using a big spoon scoop out all the soft flesh and add to the pot of chili. If some parts of the squash are harder, dice into very small pieces before adding to the pot. Discard the skin.
6. Let cook for at least another 10 minutes letting all the flavors mingle. Ladle into deep bowls and top with chopped red onion, grass-fed cheddar cheese and freshly cracked black pepper.
Have a Happy New Year!