Last weekend I was out and about doing “research” for an upcoming piece on beer, and so I called my buddy Mike to see if he wanted to join me on one of my stops. He did. When I picked him up, he gave me a tour of their new (not so new, really, but the first time I’ve been there) place, including their enviable barn/shop/still room out back. They plant a few things just for the deer, and if he hasn’t got one the hard way by the end of the season, he just leans out the window and shoots one of the dozen or so grazing in the back yard come season’s end.
So when I dropped him off, running late to get home for dinner, they hooked me up not only with elderberry jam and a steaming container of just-made venison stew but also with frozen backstrap and ground meat to boot. Soon enough–last night, to be exact–the latter found itself pressed into service as chili. Particularly good chili at that, due to some prescient stock-making by yours truly the night before. We had a bunch of beef bones and trimmings in the freezer, and noodle soup was in order, so I roasted the bones and then simmered them with the trimmings, charred onion, carrot, peppercorns, and parsley stalks for three hours or so. I removed the edible meat and strained the stock to make some nice soba soup with beef, caramelized oyster mushrooms, kimchi, and shredded kale.
The remainder of the stock got reduced for about six more hours and then stored in the fridge. When it came time to make the chili, said stock provided a much-needed foundation; I added it to the venison, spices, and minced onion after a bit of a sautée and let it simmer while the white kidney beans pressure-cooked to al dentitude. Some tomato paste, more herbs and spices (including 5-spice, pimentón, piment d’Espelette, cumin, and ancho powder) and another hour or so of simmering bought it to a happy place of harmony and depth but without too much heat. (The child precludes spicy dishes; we add capsaicin after the fact with a variety of condiments, some homemade). In this case, it was from a small jar of Yammi (¡con aji!) brand chili paste brought especially for us from Peru by another friend last fall.
But not too much; as good as this hot sauce is, I didn’t want to cock-block the wine- a 2008 Cerghino/Smith Cabernet Franc. It’s 90% Cab Franc from the NY Finger Lakes bolstered by 10% Cali Petite Sirah, so the tangy, low-alcohol tartness is fattened up a bit with their almost cartoonishly purple Petite juice and its attendant white peach/apricot-scented jammy win. Smooth tannins wrapped right around the chili; this is a meat-lover’s wine. I think it might be better still with a lower percentage of Petite–the disparity in influence is kind of shocking–but I trust their judgement. 90% local is OK by me. Full disclosure: they gave me this bottle, so it matched the gifted theme in a couple of ways.