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Healthy Cooking: For lean protein, bison out-chickens chicken

Tired of chicken? Ground bison is a super-lean, high-protein red meat, and Bison Chili is a great way to feed your family and visitors over the holidays. CONTRIBUTED BY KELLIE HYNES
Tired of chicken? Ground bison is a super-lean, high-protein red meat, and Bison Chili is a great way to feed your family and visitors over the holidays. CONTRIBUTED BY KELLIE HYNES

How many times can you serve chicken in a week? Four? Is four too often? Low-fat, high-protein chicken plays a recurring role in my family’s kitchen. While it’s generally well-received, my people aren’t sprinting to the table hoping for more. So when my butcher suggested I try bison, I jumped at the opportunity to make something as healthy as chicken, but not, you know, chicken.

You need to skip to the last paragraph right now to learn where you, too, can purchase this wonder meat. Because, friends, bison tastes like a beefed-up version of the best beef you’ve ever enjoyed. It’s full-bodied and flavorful, not gamy. And it’s packed with all of the nutritious protein found in chicken, with even less fat and fewer calories.

You can substitute bison for the beef in many of your favorite recipes. I find braising allows the lean meat to stay tender. Hence my new favorite home-for-the-holidays recipe: bison chili. The bison’s robust, savory flavors are paired with sweet-leaning spices that appeal to even heat-sensitive palates. And this chili tastes even better on the second and third day, which is helpful when the gang’s plans change on the fly.

Because the bison is so lean, we brown it in a little heart-healthy olive oil. Then saute the contents of your crisper drawer. In addition to the usual chili veggies, bell peppers, zucchini, spinach and even mushrooms are welcome. Low-sodium beef broth is the base; I also like to add a cup of wine for brightness. If you’d prefer to do without, simply add an extra cup of broth instead. While beans are a controversial choice in chili, I add them for extra fiber and protein. To serve, skip the typical dairy toppings and offer more produce, like avocados, green onions or fresh cilantro. Sides of jalapenos, Sriracha or Tabasco sauce are good for folks who like chili that sets their mouths on fire. When it comes to this chili, the only way you can make a mistake is if you don’t serve enough.

Even though they are two different animals, the words “bison” and “buffalo” are used interchangeably in most North American meat markets. Patton’s Meat Market in Duluth sells ground buffalo by the pound, allowing you to easily double or triple this recipe as needed. If you prefer to make your chili with diced roast cuts, call Rusty Bowers at Pine Street Market in Avondale Estates and ask him to special order bison stew meat. His bison is sourced from Joyce Farms, which raises heritage bison that are exclusively grass fed.

Ground bison is a super-lean, high-protein red meat. The rich, savory flavors add new depth to your favorite chili recipe. CONTRIBUTED BY KELLIE HYNES
Ground bison is a super-lean, high-protein red meat. The rich, savory flavors add new depth to your favorite chili recipe. CONTRIBUTED BY KELLIE HYNES

Recipe: Bison Chili
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound ground bison/buffalo
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 large white onion, diced
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons ground chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 3 cups lower-sodium beef broth
  • 1 (15-ounce) can kidney or black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15.5-ounce) can no salt added diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (optional)
  • Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown the ground bison for 3 minutes until no longer pink, breaking up the chunks with a wooden spoon. Spoon the bison into a bowl and set aside.
  • Without wiping out the skillet, add remaining 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Brown the carrots and bell pepper for 3 minutes. Add the onion and celery and cook for 5 minutes more. Stir in the garlic and cook an additional 30 seconds. Sprinkle the vegetables with chili powder, cumin and smoked paprika and stir. Add the red wine and scrape up any burned bits. Continue to stir until the wine has nearly evaporated. Add the broth, beans and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, return the bison to the skillet, and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquids reduce and the vegetables are the desired tenderness.
  • For best results, allow the chili to cool and refrigerate overnight before serving. After reheating, taste and adjust seasonings, adding lemon juice if desired. Serve hot with avocado, jalapeno slices, green onions or chopped fresh cilantro for garnish. Serves 6.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving: 220 calories (percent of calories from fat, 21), 13 grams protein, 23 grams carbohydrates, 8 grams fiber, 4 grams fat (1 gram saturated), 17 milligrams cholesterol, 357 milligrams sodium.

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