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My Kicked-Up Cocoa-Chipotle, Espresso Stout, Black Bean, & Bison Chili

I’m a cooking nerd. I have a cookbook for sale (prelaunched last summer, it’ll be “relaunched” in the late-spring, and if you get the Gumroad PDF, you’ll get a free update when one comes out in the next three months).

This is my latest invention in the kitchen and it’s pretty awesome, plus super-healthy.

Bison is basically the highest in protein and lowest in fat when it comes to meat, and when it’s grass-fed local free range bison, you’re talking seriously flavourful low-fat high-protein. I’m trying to nix the inflammatory things in my life (like beef) and replace them with better choices (such as bison).

Bison & Black Bean chili with homemade skillet cornbread (see NY Times recipe for maple & brown butter skillet cornbread -- yum) and a lime-cilantro yogurt.

Bison & Black Bean chili with homemade skillet cornbread (see NY Times recipe for maple & brown butter skillet cornbread — yum) and a lime-cilantro yogurt.

I doled out $13 for a pound of bison reared less than an hour from town. I had a couple 19-oz cans of $2 organic black beans, two 19-ounce cans of high-grade organic tomato pulp from Italy, and a $7.90 bottle of local craft beer, Hoyne Brewing’s Voltage Espresso Stout — a seriously coffee’d beer.

All that translates to a batch of chili ringing in above $30. Zoinks. This won’t be a regular occurrence at my house, but ohmigod, hello, happy place.

Thus I would like to share with you my labour-of-love long-stewed uber-expensive chili that will make you think maybe there should be a little more high-end chili on the menu in this hipster joints around town.

Without ado:

Steff’s Kicked-up Cocoa-Chipotle,
Espresso Stout, Black Bean, & Bison Chili

Best made in a cast-iron Dutch oven. You’re gonna need a 5qt thingie for cooking this. Lid, too.

  • 1 pound bison (or organic beef or pork)
  • 1 tablespoon bacon fat or olive oil or butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped finely
  • 8 cloves of garlic
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin*
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander*
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder*
  • 1-2 canned chipotle peppers chopped finely — 2 is VERY spicy, 1 medium, go for ½ if you’re timid
  • 1-2 teaspoons adobo sauce from the canned chipotles (same heat scale — 2 very spicy, etc)
  • 750 ml espresso stout (or other strong stout but the espresso is a nice touch, beef stock if you avoid booze)
  • 2 x 19oz tomato pulp or diced tomatoes (not puree or sauce)
  • 2 x 19oz cans black beans (drained and rinsed well)
  • generous salt (taste as you go; salt absorbs over time and the flavours change, so taste it after 2 hours then every one hour, and adjust each time. Overall, I used a couple tablespoons of coarse sea salt.)
  • chopped or diced avocado to garnish
  • lime-cilantro strained yogurt (see recipe following)

Brown the bison. Reserve. Don’t bother straining the fat; there’s very little and it’s the “good” fat, plus: flavour.

Heat your bacon fat/butter/oil in the same pan. Add onions. Cook for about 5 minutes over medium. About halfway through, add your spices, cocoa, chipotle, and adobo and cook for a couple more minutes. Add the garlic, cook another minute. Deglaze the pan with your bottle of beer. It seems like a LOT of beer, but you’re cooking it down for HOURS and all that’s left is the espresso-stout flavour, not liquid.

Let it cook for 2-5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, bison, black beans, and a whack of salt. Let it come up to a light boil, then simmer on LOWEST HEAT for the next 4-6 hours. After 3 or so hours, start to cover it. Stir it regularly. It’s done when your wooden spoon stands straight up for at least a minute and the flavours seem to make a symphony of yum in your mouth.

See below for lime-cilantro yogurt.

See? The spoon stands up. It was still standing three minutes later. This is when you know it is done. Seriously.

See? The spoon stands up. It was still standing three minutes later. This is when you know it is done. Seriously.

Lime-Cilantro Strained Yogurt

You can do this with sour cream too, but I’m assuming you’re spending $13/lb for grass-fed bison because you’re trying to be healthy like I am, so let’s go for yogurt.

Now I believe in the “healthy fats are fine” axiom which means my yogurt’s a 6% fat minimum. Use Balkan Style or Greek yogurt. If you’re going for low-fat yogurt, seriously, just skip it, because that shit’s not even good for you, and the lower the fat content, the less strained yogurt you’ll have to work with. Similarly, the higher the fat, the less wasted whey to throw out at the end.

Either go for the fat and eat natural food or skip the processed low-fat crap. Sorry, but someone’s gotta straighten people out and I volunteered.

Anyhow, to make strained yogurt: Line a sieve with thick paper towel, position it over a bowl, dump your 750ml of full-fat Balkan or Greek yogurt into it, let it strain for 4 hours, and it’ll be thick and rich and you’ll not miss sour cream at all.

  • 750 ml full-fat Balkan or Greek yogurt (rinse and keep the container for storage; expiry date = yay!)
  • Juice of a large, heavy lime (heavier = juicier)
  • Cilantro to taste (I used ½ a medium bunch, plus stems)
  • Salt to taste

Puree this all together, season it, and refrigerate until needed. Good until the yogurt expires or cilantro tastes funky.

Use as a topping on chili, tacos, baked potatoes, hash browns, etc.

*If you’re scared of HOT stuff, just cut back on the chipotle and the adobo sauce. The * spices won’t really move the Richter scale. They’re all about flavour, and you like flavour, don’t you?

Pressing Pause: The Morning Before I Finished My Book

late summer nightsAnother weekend day and I’m inside, again. It’s the push to complete my book. It’s been a very, very productive weekend and I can almost taste the conclusion.

I’m pressing pause, because in a few hours this emotion may never exist again. Last night I gave birth to my first-ever book cover. Self-designed. In fact, except for a few place-holder type stock photos I’ve purchased, 100% of my first book will be by me. Self-edited, written, photographed, tested, designed, published. I felt like a kid at Christmas when I finished my long day yesterday and I could finally see what my book would look like. It finally felt real.

All Is Not How It Seems

I can fake it till I make it like the best of ’em, but inside it’s a totally different vibe going on.

Truth is, I have had very low confidence when it comes to learning new things ever since I had my head injury a decade ago. When I say “low confidence,” I cannot convey to you how low it can go. It is the “limbo” dance of self-worth, honestly. But that’s not me per se, and is rather the head injury. It’s hard to logically fight that though.

I’ve had panic attacks and other disconcerting events when “learning new things” looms. This working-toward-self-employed thing better work out, because the idea of ever having to be new at a workplace again terrifies me.

That’s just how that rolls. I know it, I accept it, and the older I get, the more I understand it.

I also know the only way to get over a lack of confidence is to move through it. Do it, make it happen — even if it’s because of a head injury. My fears were crippling for a long time. What came first, the writer’s block or the crippling anxiety? Hmm, it’s like the ebook-writer’s riddle of the 21st century.

Long Time Comin’

When I moved to Victoria in 2012, this was already a goal — to do a cookbook. It’d been the “dream” for over a year at that point. The sad thing is, why I wanted to do a cookbook was because I lost my mojo with writing. Couldn’t think of something to turn into an ebook. Any idea I had didn’t seem to have teeth to it. And what did I really have to say, anyhow?

Unbeknownst to me, writing a cookbook was way more expensive than I expected it to be, with all the recipes needing cooking 2-3 times, and such. And then there was the redundant nature, having to return to the same thing repeatedly. I fucking hate redundancy. Oh, lord.

When I write, I write and I move on. I reread it a few times that day, but then I move on. With a cookbook, it’s back over the same thing in so many ways — photographs, retesting, tweaking ingredients, and so forth. Get something “off” and it’s not just a matter of re-writing a paragraph, it’s re-budgeting, re-shopping, re-spending, re-cooking, re-eating, re-cleaning, re-writing. It can be a couple weeks before resolving the one thing.

Once I finally came up with THIS theme of summer recipes in April, a more cohesive idea hit and I finally stopped feeling like I was flailing. Direction, at last, was a beautiful and motivating thing. And the food was all stuff I’d be wanting to eat in coming weeks anyhow. Brilliant. (Which is why I have a list of recipes to make as fall approaches, for volume two in this series. Ay! I’ve created a monster!)

“Just Did It”

As a kid, my mother used to tell me that every time a new thing got hard, I turned and quit. I didn’t have follow-through, she called it. And I’d need it, she’d say, if I ever hoped to be a success. Yes, Ma.

So here I am, at the start of a day where I hope to see myself finish the book off. A book that’s been in the back of my mind for three years, maybe more. Some delay through the fault of fear, some through laziness, but most because I’ve just been working too much for other people.

Now it’s time I work more for myself. I really owe a huge thanks to EVERYONE who has been encouraging me since 2010 to write some ebooks. I’ve got some pretty amazing friends and fans and followers. Hugely grateful. Y’all fuckin’ rock.

And hey, look, Ma. Follow-through.

My cookbook will be available on this site within a week — I’m waiting on an ISBN (number) and then it’s up for grabs! $5, 60+ pages, over 25 recipes, loaded with photos. This “fish and chips” recipe below is yet another one included inside — halibut baked with young kale and leeks. I’ll amend this post when presales are arranged!

Kale & Leeks Fish en Papillotte

The Weekend Sexipe: Steff’s Chorizo & Chevre Frittata

I love making great breakfasts for lovers, but really relish making them for myself. Life’s too short to only use your A-game for others, so this has become something I’ve really come to love making for lil’ ol’ deserving me.

Because I’ve sometimes lived a sheltered life, breakfast-wise, I somehow never had my first frittata until this year. Now I’m in love. I had gone out of my way to try a brekkie at the much-vaunted (but far overpriced) Avenue Grille, and figured $9 for eggs and bacon was a fucking joke, so I might as well go big-ticket and order the special they had. Which was a $12 version of this frittata, but I pack mine with far more ingredients, and love the rich and intense flavours from upping the caramelized onions and chorizo.

Anyone I’ve served my version of the Avenue’s Chorizo & Chevre Frittata to always has seconds.

This’ll keep overnight and warms up very nicely, if you want to make it for your single self, or
shares nicely for two healthy appetites. I’ll usually do it in a larger 13″ saute pan for two people and increase all the veggies by half and the eggs to five, so I can have leftovers for me the next day, ‘cos this thing is a bit of a labour of love to have as a one-off meal. :)

Also, I make extra onions and peppers and store them for use either in other meals, or save them for the next weekend and cut the prep time in half. I’ll be including all my little tricks below. Continue reading

A Sexcipe — Balsamic Strawberries & Pepper

Had a long, doting visit with The Guy at the hospital. I’m good like that. 3-4 months of being on crutches, with limited mobility?Surgery to install a metal plate with four screws, at least? Bah.

What to bring someone in the hospital, especially a romantic foodie someone? Strawberries chopped into smaller bits, marinated in only a touch of balsamic vinegar with fresh-cracked black pepper. Beats the shit out of the mush they serve on those horrific little plastic trays.

If you’ve never tried it, you absolutely must. It’s one of the most sophisticated, delicious ways to eat strawberries, and I’ve never met a man who didn’t love them. The tartness of the vinegar and spiciness of the pepper serve to really bring out the sweetness in berries, even in the bland California ones that show up far too early in the season. It’s nothing like you imagine… fabulous.

Take a pint of fresh strawberries, chop them up into a bowl, add about a tablespoon or so of quality balsamic vinegar (if you’ve got a $3 bottle, just throw the damned thing out! Horror of horrors!), and about a half-teaspoon to a teaspoon of cracked black pepper. (Particularly good on strawberries is Black Tellicherry peppercorns.)

Let them marinate a couple hours, and serve just in a bowl, just like that. You can have some dark chocolate with it, or you can serve it with gingersnaps, that sort of thing. Almost anything works, and even alone is great. It’s a really great date dessert, and it’s never failed to get me action. ;)

The Guy loved them, although the nurse came up, leaned down and said, “You know he’s not dying, right? It’s just an ankle. He will live to see another day.” Yeah, yeah, thanks, babe.