Pronghorn Pumpkin Beer Chili

PronghornChiliBowl“I am the kind of person who really will drive hours for a bowl of chili. I’m not a three-star restaurant kind of a person; I’m just a food person.” ~ Nora Ephron

Yesterday while driving around on the mountain in search of deer, I started thinking about how much I just plain love fall. I find myself actually anticipating its arrival, which is such an abstract idea. I am anticipating the arrival of something that has no official starting date or time. I mean sure, there is the autumnal equinox, which this year falls on September 22nd, and that is the first day of fall by a calendar standard. But just because September 22nd happens doesn’t mean fall has officially started. There have been year’s here in Southern Utah where it is still 95 degrees out, and that doesn’t feel very fall like, if you ask me.

Anyway, I think fall is upon us, and this got me thinking about all the things I love about fall. There are the obvious ones: the leaves melting from green to brilliant shades of red, orange, and yellow; the temperature dipping from hot to cool and leading to evenings where a jacket is necessary when venturing outside; the start of a new school year.

And then there are all these other loves I have for fall, like pumpkins and pumpkin style food and drink, fall fruit harvests like apples, peaches, and pears, warm pots of soups and stews and chili, backyard fires with marshmallows melting on sticks, pulling out fuzzy socks to cover my cold toes, and elk bugling! It is just a beautiful time of year.

PronghornChiliGrinderSo, in anticipation of another amazing fall season, I want to share my latest love: pronghorn pumpkin beer chili!

For this hearty chili, I used pronghorn, but elk or deer would be excellent as well. I took a package I had labeled as “sausage cuts” and ran it through the grinder. When I am cleaning my animals, I package steaks, roasts, and scraps all separately. Scraps, or sausage cuts as I labeled it this time, are those small pieces that might have too much tendon for a roast or be too small for a steak but are worth keeping. Chili is a great utilization of these types of cuts. I don’t even bother to remove the tendons since I am grinding the entire piece. I also didn’t add any extra fat to the mix, as I would if I were grinding burger or sausage. I like leaner meat for my chili. I ground up about a pound of meat.

PronghornChiliPeppersIn a large skillet over medium high heat, I added a tablespoon of olive oil and started to saute my onion and garlic. You can use whatever type of oil you want (vegetable, canola, etc). I only added the oil to keep the onions and garlic from burning to the pan. Cook the chopped onion and garlic for two or three minutes, just enough to soften them up.

To the onion and garlic, add three diced bell peppers. Usually when I make chili, I like to add yellow, orange, and red bell peppers to the pot. I do this because I believe of you eat as much with your eyes as your mouth, and the colors the peppers add are very visually appealing.  I also like the slightly sweet flavor that the vibrant colored peppers add to the dish. This time, I went against my norm and used green bell peppers. My garden has been doing incredibly well this time, as opposed to the previous years where it has mostly died, and I have an overload of green bell peppers. And while I love the addition of the colored peppers, nothing can beat throwing in a homegrown ingredient! So, I used six of my garden peppers because they are a bit smaller in size than what one can pick up at the super market. Cook the peppers and onions for another three minutes.

 

Next, add the pronghorn to the pan. Cook for five to seven minutes, until the meat has browned. I also added a half teaspoon of salt and pepper to the mixture at this point. After the meat has heated through, turn the heat up to high and pour in an entire bottle of pumpkin ale beer. The beer will not only add flavor to the mixture, but also will deglaze the pan, allowing you to stir up all the goodness from your meat and onions that is starting to stick to the bottom of the pan. Stir the beer around for about a minute, and then drop the heat down to low.

PronghornChlilPumpkinAle

In a large crock pot, add three cans of drained beans. You can add three of the same type or mix it up. For this batch, I used two cans of black beans and a can of red kidney beans. You could also use pinto, navy, or chili beans. You also might be someone that enjoys a lot of beans in your chili, and if you are then go ahead and drop in another can. This is chili, you can’t go wrong!

To the beans, add a can of pureed pumpkin, chili powder, cumin, oregano, coriander, salt, Worcestershire sauce, and some tomato paste. Give all that a little stir and pour in the meat, pepper, and onion mixture. If you like chili with a little kick to it, then you can also add a tablespoon of hot sauce. You could also mince up a jalapeno and add that. Things are sounding good, huh?

Alright, let’s continue with developing the flavors of this pumpkin themed chili! So, normally tomatoes are added to chili. Most recipes call for a 28 ounce can (the big boy cans!) of crushed tomatoes. That is a great way to go. But like I said before, my garden is doing really well this summer. I have been processing a lot of tomatoes, and it is super easy. I literally go out and pick a dozen or so tomatoes, squish them up, pack them into a quart sized freezer bag, and stick them into the freezer. I then have garden tomatoes all winter long for soups and chili. When the time comes to use them, I don’t even bother to defrost the bag. I break the bag off from around the tomatoes, and drop the entire block into the crock pot. It works super great, adds amazing depth of flavor to the chili, and I get a little moment of satisfaction in using something I grew myself (I am not much of a gardener, so these moments are rare and I must savor them to the fullest).

PronghornChiliTomatoes

So, after the tomatoes have been added, it is time for the secret ingredients: cinnamon and nutmeg. I know, I know, cinnamon in chili sounds a bit weird. And nutmeg sounds just plain wrong! But this isn’t traditional chili; this is pumpkin chili. And cinnamon and nutmeg go hand in hand with pumpkin. The pumpkin adds a really subtle sweet flavor to the hearty, savory flavors of the chili and the cinnamon and nutmeg help develop and build this sweetness. So, drop in that teaspoon of each.

Set the crock pot to low and let it go for six to eight hours. If you are a little short on time, you could also set it on high and it will be ready in about four hours. Don’t forget to get some grated cheddar cheese, sour cream, chopped onions, and whatever else you like for chili toppings. Oh, and of course corn bread makes a great side for dunking into a hot, steamy bowl of this chili!

Imagine now it is six to eight hours later, and you come home from work to a house smelling just like fall, with the sweet hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, and pumpkin. Mmmm…sounds good right? You better get started on this chili!

PronghornChiliFinal

Happy Hunting!

Pronghorn Pumpkin Beer Chili

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 8 hours

6-8

Pronghorn Pumpkin Beer Chili

Ingredients

  • 1 Pound Ground Pronghorn, Deer, or Elk Meat
  • 1 Large Onion, Chopped
  • 3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1 Tablespoon Oil (Olive, Vegetable, Canola, etc)
  • 3 Large Bell Peppers (Any Color)
  • 1 Bottle Pumpkin Ale Beer
  • 3 Cans Beans (Black, Kidney, Pinto, Navy, Chili, etc)
  • 1 Can Pureed Pumpkin
  • 1 28 Oz Can Crushed Tomatoes
  • 2 Tablespoons Chili Powder
  • 1 Tablespoon Cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon Oregano
  • 1 Tablespoon Coriander
  • 1 Tablespoon Salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
  • 1 Tablespoon Hot Sauce (Optional)
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons nutmeg

Instructions

  1. In a large skillet over medium high heat, add oil.
  2. To heated oil, add chopped onions and garlic. Cook for two to three minutes.
  3. Add chopped bell peppers and cook additional two to three minutes.
  4. Add ground pronghorn and cook until browned, five to seven minutes.
  5. Turn heat up to high, and pour in entire bottle of pumpkin ale. Let cook for a minute and stir to break browned bits from bottom of pan. Turn pan to low and set aside.
  6. To a large crockpot, add remaining ingredients.
  7. Add meat and pepper mixture to crock pot. Stir.
  8. Set crock pot to low for six to eight hours.
  9. Enjoy with toppings such as shredded cheese, sour cream, diced onions.
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Carne Asada Pronghorn!

CarneAsadaIngredients
Ingredients for the carne asada marinade can vary greatly. For this version, I used oranges, lemons, limes, coconut aminos, fresh cilantro, garlic, cumin, paprika, chipotle sauce, oregano, black pepper, and olive oil.

“My favorite memories growing up in North Carolina were hunting and fishing with my father and brothers. There, I developed a deep appreciation for protecting land and waterways. There, I learned outdoorsmanship.” ~ Louis Bacon

When translated directly to English, carne asada means “grilled meat.” However, the term in Spanish can mean several things. Carne refers to meat and asada refers to barbeque techniques as well as idea of social gatherings that occur when a barbeque is held. So the term can not only refer to the actual grilling of meats, but also to the idea of a social gathering to share and enjoy a family meal.

I found this second definition particularly thought-provoking. Gathering to share a meal with good company is a universal language and a tradition important to many cultures. In the United States, we have holidays dedicated to just this tradition. At Thanksgiving, families and friends gather to share recipes, stories, and traditions around a table stuffed with turkey, mashed potatoes, and whatever casserole has been passed through the family for generations. In Mexico, families gather to show respect for the departed during Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) by constructing altars in their homes. The altars are adorned with the deceased’s favorite foods, drinks, and treats. In Italy, the Feast of Seven Fishes is celebrated on Christmas Eve. This dining event, which dates back to Medieval times, hosts a seven course meal centered entirely around fish. The list is endless and includes all cultures.

Barbeques are just simpler versions of these usually oversized traditions. I know for myself, if I am going to fire up the grill I suddenly start inviting the entire neighborhood. It doesn’t matter how last minute the plans are, or how simple the meal is going to be. If I am just throwing a couple of burgers on, I still feel the need to invite my parents over. If I am preparing some grilled kabobs, I am also calling my friends over to share in the event. Barbeque just begs for you to call up friends, share some stories, and enjoy an evening out in the backyard.

I had never made carne asada before. I have tried it several times in different restaurants, and it is always good. When I started looking for some different recipes on how to prepare the meat, I came across the origin and definition of the word carne asada. That translation of “social gathering” made the meal seem even more special. And in true barbequing fashion, I called my family and invited everyone over for an evening of carne asada, story sharing, and a break in the backyard from the rest of the world. Ahhhh, nothing like a backyard barbeque!

CarneAsadaGarlic
A little trick I learned awhile ago is when mincing garlic you can also just grate it with a plane file. This is a bit faster than mincing and you don’t have to dirty an entire cutting board just for garlic.

Traditionally, carne asada is prepared from beef steak. The cuts used are usually the more tender steaks, such as skirt, flank, or flap steak. The meat marinades for at least 24 hours, but sometimes for a couple of days. It is grilled over an open flame at a high temperature in order to char the flavors of the marinade and seal in the juices. After searing the meat, it is cooked to well-done. It is typically served on a tortilla with salsa, guacamole, beans, and onions.

Putting the steaks in a Ziploc bag make for easy storage in the fridge. It also creates an easy way to really massage the marinade into the meat.

To create a twist on the traditional carne asada, I decided to make it using pronghorn! Pronghorn is an amazing meat to use for carne asada. It is extremely tender, and takes the marinade really well. For this recipe, I used two cuts of some backstrap and then also a flank steak. It was about two pounds worth of meat, perfect for sharing with a group of six.

The key to a great carne asada is allowing the meat plenty of time to marinade. I set my marinating meat in the fridge 24 hours before I was planning on grilling it. If you are pressed for time, or just decide you want to make this the morning before your barbeque, I think 12 hours would be fine. You could also go longer than 24 hours too.

There is no strict way to marinade carne asada. Different recipes call for different ingredients, and as with most marinades, you could also add things as you go along. I like to taste my marinades and then add to them as the flavors start to develop. Some marinades call for lemon and lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, and a variety of spice rubs. I like my carne asada to have a little heat to it, but also a subtle hint of sweetness.

For my marinade, I juiced two oranges, a lemon, and two limes. To the juice, I added half of cup of coconut aminos, which is where the little bit of sweetness comes from, four cloves of garlic, three tablespoons of chipotle sauce, chili powder, cumin, oregano, black pepper, and sweet paprika. I chopped up a handful of cilantro and then whisked in a half a cup of extra virgin olive oil. Set aside a cup of the marinade for serving alongside the meat. I placed the cuts of meat in a large freezer bag, poured the marinade in, gave everything a nice massage, and placed it in the fridge for the next day.

CarneAsadaMarinade

 

Preheat the grill really hot. I got mine up to about 550 Fahrenheit. I also have one other little tip before you throw the meat on the grill. Pull the meat out of the fridge about fifteen or twenty minutes before you are going to start cooking. Allow the meat to come to room temperature. This will take the cool from the fridge off the meat and allow you to get a more even heat throughout the steaks. Place the steaks directly on the heat source and cook on each side for one to two minutes. You are looking for grill marks and even a little char on the steaks.

CarneAsadaGrill

After searing the steaks, move them to an area on the grill with less direct heat. This may be off to the side, away from the flame, or you may have an upper rack level on your grill. My grill has this upper rack, so I moved them there. Close the lid and allow the steaks to slow cook for a few more minutes. How long you allow them to cook will depend on the steaks’ thickness. My steaks were about an inch to an inch and a half thick, so I cooked them for seven to ten minutes. Once the steaks reached medium, which I tested with a meat thermometer, I pulled them. Place aluminum foil over the steaks, creating kind of a tent with the foil, and allow them to sit for five more minutes. Allowing the meat to sit for a few minutes gives them a chance to finish cooking, which brought my steaks to about medium-well, and also helps to seal in the juices. If you cut the steaks immediately after pulling them off the grill, the juices rush out of the steak and that is a very sad thing! The meat will also be easier to cut if you let it cool down a bit, and you won’t tear it with the knife.

CarneAsadaSlicesWorking across the grain of the meat, slice the steak into quarter-inch thick slices.

To serve the carne asada, lightly grill up some corn tortillas. You could also use flour if you prefer them. Place a few slices of meat on the tortilla and pile on your favorite toppings. I sliced up some fresh jalapenos for extra heat. I also offered more fresh cilantro, grilled bell peppers and onions, shredded cabbage, salsa, sour cream, guacamole, and queso fresco. Oh! And don’t forget to spoon on some of that marinade you set aside!  It is an amazing little pop of flavor!

Happy Hunting!

CarneAsadaFinalPlate

Carne Asada Pronghorn!

Carne Asada Pronghorn!

Ingredients

    For Marinade
  • 2 pounds pronghorn steaks
  • 2 oranges, juiced
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 1/2 cup coconut aminos (If you can't find this, you could also use soy sauce. It just won't add the slight sweetness coconut aminos will)
  • 4 cloves garlic, grated
  • 3 tablespoons chipotle sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 olive oil
    Toppings for carne asada
  • Tortillas, corn or flour
  • Shredded cabbage
  • Salsa
  • Sour Cream
  • Guacamole
  • Grilled Onions
  • Grilled Bell Peppers
  • Queso Fresco
  • Chopped Fresh Cilantro
  • Sliced Jalapenos

Instructions

  1. Start your meat marinating 24 hours before you plan on grilling.
  2. For the marinade, add the orange juice, lemon juice, and lime juice to a medium size bowl. Add coconut aminos, grated garlic, chipotle sauce, chili powder, cumin, black pepper, paprika, and oregano to the bowl.
  3. Chop and drop in the cilantro.
  4. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Whisk until fully incorporated.
  5. Set aside one cup of the marinade for serving with the meat.
  6. In a large freezer bag, add the steaks and marinade. Massage gently and place in fridge for 24 hours.
  7. When ready to grill, set the meat out about fifteen minutes before hand.
  8. Preheat the grill to 550 degrees.
  9. Place steaks directly on heat source. Sear meat for one minute per side. You are looking for grill marks and char.
  10. Move the steaks to an area with less direct heat, such as the sides of the grill or an upper rack. Close the lid and allow to cook for seven to ten minutes, depending on the thickness of the meat and how well-done you desire the steaks.
  11. Remove the meat from the grill and tent with aluminum foil. Allow to sit for five minutes.
  12. Thinly slice steaks and serve with desired toppings on tortillas!
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Pronghorn Wellington: Fancy Smancy!

“Too many people just eat to consume calories. Try dining for a change.” ~ John Walters FinalPlateWellington

There is a restaurant here that serves American Waygu Beef, considered the “butter knife beef” because it is so tender and moist that in theory you can cut it with nothing more than a butter knife. I have been there once. I did order the Waygu, and it lived up to its name. I was impressed, and I felt ever-so fancy dining in the candlelit rustic style restaurant. It was a fancy night, with the prime selection of meats, beautiful bottles of full-bodied red wine poured into large, globe wine glasses, and rich, chocolate desserts to close the meal. It was one of those times you sit back in the chair, close your eyes, and simply sigh at how a meal could possibly be so wonderful. And then the bill came. Ouch.

Taking someone out for a special occasion dinner is great, but man can it hurt the old pocketbook. I mean, some meals can put you back an entire grocery shopping bills worth. One of my favorite things about cooking with wild game is I have developed a desire to push the limits and stereotypes of what wild game can do. I am a huge fan of creating soups and chilis out of my game. The flavors are so complex, rustic, and savory, but thinking beyond that, for me, means really thinking about the flavor of the meat and how to pull that flavor out without masking it behind the many ingredients of a soup or chili.

Growing up, wild game at my house was served as a breakfast meat. And let’s be honest, there is little that is fancy about breakfast meat. Many people process their wild game for sausages or hamburger meat, which don’t get me wrong are AMAZING, but you can take things so much further with a little imagination and research. To start thinking out of the box, I looked towards creating an experience for my diners with the wild game as the highlight. I thought about the evening at the steakhouse with the Waygu and the fine wine, and instantly I wanted to recreate the experience at home. I thought about a “fancy smancy” meal that I could pull off, because I am not a fine dining cook by any means, and beef Wellington came to mind. Beef Wellington is not something you just whip up any night of the week, I mean just the name says “special occasion.” Sounds fancy, right? And what sounds more fancy than beef wellington? Pronghorn Wellington!

Pronghorn, or it is also commonly called antelope, typically inhabit wide open terrain. They are an incredibly fast animal and noticeable because of their burnt orange hide with large white rumps and stripes across their chest. I harvested my first buck last fall. I had heard horror stories about the meat having a pungent odor that carried over into the flavor of the meat. Many people told me that caring for the meat properly would eliminate this problem. The tips I received were to immediately remove the hide, taking care to not let the fur touch the meat, and then to place the meat directly on ice. During my hunt, I kept a cooler full of ice for this purpose.

I do not notice any type of odor or odd flavor with my pronghorn. The meat is flavorful and some of the most tender I have ever eaten. Pronghorn is a beautiful, rich red color. It is a much darker ruby color than I have found in elk or deer. And I will say it again, it is oh-so tender. Amazingly tender. A thick cut slice of pronghorn is a perfect meat for this elegant Wellington style dinner. If you do not have pronghorn, this recipe would also be amazing with deer or elk. I haven’t ever had it before, but I am sure you could also try moose.

To start, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Also, heat a heavy bottomed skillet, cast iron if you have it, over medium-high heat.

AntelopeCuts Before I cook meat like pronghorn, elk, or deer, I let the meat rest at room temperature for at least 15 minutes, but preferable thirty. Allowing the meat to rest will ensure more even cooking. I used the backstrap from my pronghorn for this recipe because I like how the meat easily cuts into individual, thick-cut steaks. Cut the meat about an inch and half to two inches thick and season with salt and pepper. Add some olive oil to your heated pan and gently place the steaks. Once you have set the meat down, do not attempt to move it for a few minutes or you will end up with ripped meat because it is so tender. Cook the steaks for about three minutes, and then flip and repeat. Pull the steaks from the pan and allow them to sit for a few minutes.

Next, prepare the puff pastry shell for the Wellington. Puff pastry is a very light, flaky dough. You will notice when working with it that is several paper thin layers pressed together. The dough is very buttery and the space between these layers puff up from the steam created by the boiling butter during baking. The results is a very light, crusty pastry. Making puff pastry is a very labor intensive duty and not something a beginner baker can easily pull off. I just buy the frozen stuff at the super market. I would like to stress that the dough is frozen, because I often forget to set it out to thaw before I get started and then end up waiting on frozen dough.

Sprinkle a light layer of flour over the top of the thawed puff pastry dough and use a rolling pin to thin the dough a bit. No need to get wild here. Just thin the dough out enough so you can wrap it easily around the steaks. Cut the dough into four equal squares. In the center of each square, place a little pile of arugula and some of the gorgonzola cheese crumbles. Place the beautifully seared pronghorn steak on top of the arugula nest and fold the pastry dough around each little bundle. Pinch the edges of the dough together and brush the entire package with an egg wash.

PuffPastryWellington WrappedWellington EggWashWellington Place the Wellingtons seams down on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Cut a small vent on the top of each pastry bundle and bake for 12 minutes. The puff pastry dough should look golden brown and flaky. Allow the bundles to rest for a few minutes and then serve ’em up! I like to do a side of broccoli with this meal. Roasted red potatoes would also be nice. Another suggestion is simply slices of beefsteak tomatoes lightly seasoned with salt, pepper, and a touch of olive oil.

One of my favorite things about this recipe is it creates a perfectly cooked slice of meat. The sear you first put on the meat creates a savory, slight crust on the meat, and finishing the meat in the oven allows for a perfect medium-rare steak. Pronghorn, like elk or deer, is best served on the rare side. Over cooking the meat results in a much tougher, gamier flavor, which most people dislike.

Simply put, this meal is elegant. Pair the Wellington with a nice glass of red wine, such as a cabernet or pinot noir, light a few candles, finish the meal with a decadent chocolate dessert, and then sit back, close your eyes, and simply sigh at how wonderful this meal was. And I promise, that moment won’t be ruined by a horrendous bill!

Pronghorn Wellington

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 18 minutes

Total Time: 33 minutes

4

Pronghorn Wellington

Ingredients

  • 4 Pronghorn Steaks, one and half to two inches thick
  • Two Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • One Sheet Frozen Puff Pastry
  • One Cup Arugula
  • 8 Ounces Gorgonzola Crumbles
  • Egg Wash

Instructions

  1. Allow pronghorn steaks to rest while the oven preheats to 425 and a large heavy bottomed skillet preheats on the stove top.
  2. Once the skillet is preheated, add the olive oil. Season the pronghorn steaks with salt and pepper then gently place in heated oil. Do not disturb the meat once settled, and cook for three minutes per side. Pull from the heat and allow to rest on a plate.
  3. Be sure to thaw the puff pastry dough before working with it. Sprinkle the pastry dough surface lightly with flour and roll the dough out enough to wrap around each steak. Cut into four equal squares.
  4. In the center of each square, place a pile of arugula and gorgonzola crumbles. Set the steak on top of the arugula nest and wrap the dough completely around the steak. Pinch at the seams. Brush the entire bundle with an egg wash.
  5. Place the bundles on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and cut a small vent on the top of each. Bake in the preheated oven for 12 minutes. Enjoy!
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