It May Be Cold Out There, but It’s Chili In Here!

January 7, 2014 § 1 Comment

Snow day lunch

Snow day lunch

A while back, Becky expressed an interest in taking art lessons. I’m certainly not going to discourage that, but we had a tough time finding them at a place and time that would work for us (SaHMs are the rule around here, so most stuff is after-school type hours, unfortunately). I was finally able to find a reasonably local place with a class time that works for us, and she’s been having a great time with it. While she does her art lessons I get to go wander the town, which is quite lovely and chock full of fun little stores (there’s even a yarn store, y’all!).

One of my favorites is the local butcher who, in addition to having amazingly delicious hot dogs and all kinds of German specialty items, offers exotic meats including venison. So this year for Christmas Eve I decided to revive a tradition from my childhood: Venison Chili. For as long as I can remember, my dad made his chili for Christmas Eve. The beans were soaked overnight, and then the chili cooked all day. In the evening, friends and family would come over and we would all have chili and then gather around the tree and open presents.*

Once, years ago, I asked for the recipe for the famous chili and received a copy…but the chili came out nothing like I remembered it. My dad did tell me that he used cubed up pork and beef in addition to the venison, and so I did that, too, but what I ended up with bore only the vaguest resemblance to the chili of my youth. I strongly suspect that this is because after years of making it, Dad didn’t follow the recipe much anymore.

This time, with years more experience and confidence under my belt, I decided to follow Dad’s lead and just wing it. And — with the exception of the beans, which didn’t soften quite enough for some reason — what I ended up with was pretty much exactly what I remember. The only thing that was missing was the traditional flour tortillas we always served along side it to cut the heat (heaven help the guest who tried to doctor Dad’s chili with ketchup to make it a little milder!), but we had some nommy gluten free cheese bread (next Tuesday’s recipe!) that worked just fine as an alternative.  As an extra bonus, the chili stores and reheats really well — the picture is from  a few days later, alongside some cheese grits (recipe for cheese grits: Make grits. Add cheese to taste.).

* Yes, we opened presents on Christmas Eve. That’s when everyone could get together. Santa came Christmas morning, and he brought mostly small gifts that fit in stockings and oddly shaped things that would have been a pain to wrap. Santa didn’t wrap presents.

Dad’s Christmas Eve Special Venison Chili

Hot chili may be an oxymoron, but it’s a delicious one!


  • app. 1lb sirloin tips, cubed
  • app. 1lb pork, cubed (I used a loin)
  • app. 1lb venison, cubed (I used a shoulder )
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 large cans whole tomatoes
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 32 oz. beef broth
  • 2 cans pinto beans OR 1lb dry beans, soaked overnight
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • Handful fresh herbs: sage, parsley, a little oregano

In a large pan, brown sirloin tips, then pork, then venison (leave the fat in the pan to use when browning the venison).

When finishing up the venison, toss in the garlic to soften.

Puree tomatoes.

Transfer all meats (and the garlic) to a large stockpot. Add beans.

Sprinkle chili powder over meat and beans.

Add tomatoes, tomato paste and half the broth to the pot. Toss in herbs.

Simmer gently over low heat, stirring occasionally, for at least 3-4 hours (the longer the better). Much like spaghetti sauce, if you need to run out for something, just turn off the heat under the pot and then start it up again when you get back.

Add broth as needed, then water if necessary after you’ve added all the broth. You want a nice, thick consistency somewhere between soup and stew.

Serve warm.


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