Squirrel & red wine chili
Wintertime is chili time, and my winter chili demands game meats when possible. Venison chili is of course a favorite, but any game will do, whether venison, grouse, rabbit, raccoon or, in this case, squirrel. I had a large bowl of squirrel loins and ribs in the fridge, which are every bit as tasty as the thighs and forequarters, but have a smaller meat to bone ratio, which makes them great for something like chili or making stock.
The other key ingredient to this particular chili is a wine I made from some grapes my friend Marty gave me last year. The wine itself was good, and I thought it would nicely compliment the rich, dark meat goodness of the squirrel. My Dad also gave me a giant can of red beans the other day from a dented can store he frequents near his cottage, so I didn't need to soak or cook any dried beans.
Chili lends itself to improvisation, and that's what this recipe is, but it's pretty close to the recipe I used to win a little chili competition a few years ago.
Ingredients (quantities are very loose for this, and depend on what I've got on hand and what suits my mood at the time):
- Meat - could be anything or any combination of things. I used a couple pounds of squirrel, a few pieces of thick bacon, and a bit of ground beef. Sausage, like venison sausage, also works real well.
- Beans - any kind or combination of beans. I've made this with northern beans, white beans, black beans, etc. For this batch I used a couple cups of canned dark red kidney beans, rinsed.
- Diced tomatoes - one 28 oz. can.
- Tomato sauce - one pint jar of homemade sauce.
- Tomato paste - 3 or 4 tbl.
- Green salsa - homemade, 1/2 cup.
- Sweet corn - 1 cup.
- Mushrooms - about 2 cups sliced.
- Celery - 1/2 cup, diced
- Onion - 2 or 3 medium sized, roughly chopped.
- Garlic - several cloves (maybe half-a-head), diced.
- Hot peppers - a few, sliced small
- Spices and flavorings - smoked salt, pepper, pimenton, cayenne, cumin, bay leaf, hot sauce, couple tsp fish sauce.
- Red wine - couple cups.
- Corn starch or flour to thicken.
- Cook meat in a skillet in bacon fat, low and slow until tender and seasoned with salt, pepper and cayenne. Separate meat from any bones. Chop it up to the size you prefer.
- Add meat to a large kettle. Toss the mushrooms, celery and onions into the still-hot skillet, leaving the fond from the meat in the pan, season as you see fit, and cook until they start to soften. Add the garlic and peppers and cook for a few more minutes.
- Add skillet contents to the kettle of meat and begin heating at a medium temperature.
- Add beans, sweet corn, salsa, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and paste, fish sauce, hot sauce, red wine. Simmer until all the ingredients get friendly with one another. You can thicken the chili if you feel the need, by stirring in a bit of flour or corn starch. I'm constantly tasting and adding seasoning or heat (hot sauce) as I go along. I also made a small quantity of broth from the squirrel bones while preparing the chili, in case I felt I needed to add more liquid. I didn't need it, so I'll use it in some other manner, probably in a soup.
I turn the heat down to the lowest setting and let the pot sit on the stove for a few hours, slowly getting better and better, visiting to fill a bowl every now and again. Of course you can add cheese and/or sour cream when you dish it up. It just gets better the longer it sits.