Sunday, March 25, 2012

Moose Chili

There really is no place in the world like Alaska, and my first two weekends in March were a testament to the beauty and wonder of my home state.  It's a place where men are men, women (almost!) win the Iditarod, and moose meat makes the best chili.

It doesn't get much better than the first weekend in March, which ushers the start of the Iditarod sled dog race.  I traveled out to a friend's cabin in Willow, about an hour north of Anchorage, with my girl's Marika and Erica to watch the start of Iditarod 2012.  Because Mother Nature LOVES a good dog sled race, she blessed us with incredible weather.  It was idyllic--bluebird skies and 20 degrees-- a perfect way to enjoy The Last Great Race! We gathered on Long Lake with friends and family to watch the mushers charge by, smiles on their faces, to begin one of the most grueling races left on Earth. 

Thousands of fellow Alaskans lined the trail along the first few miles of the race. Friends and family out to enjoy the gorgeous weather, good food and drink, and to cheer exuberantly as each musher raced by.  We rooted as wildly for household names like veterans Martin Buser and DeeDee Jonrowe as we did for the lesser known mushers whose only goal was to finish.

Here's a shot of Marika slapping a high five to her idol, Lance Mackey!

Marika was popular along the trail, dressed in her favorite down Skhoop skirt.  Even DeeDee Jonrowe shouted to her from her sled, "Love your skirt!"

Another notable highlight: when a musher shouted to the three of us ladies, "Hey, it's Charlie's Angels!" 

This was the look on my face for most of the day.  Dog mushing and sunshine (and my new blue earflap hat) makes me happy.

As if the Iditarod wasn't enough, the following weekend I spent time cross-country skiing in Talkeetna, Alaska, just an hour and a half (and a world away) outside Anchorage.  Talkeetna is perhaps one of the quirkiest and friendliest of little Alaskan towns.  They treat you like family here.  Especially at the Talkeetna Roadhouse, which has some of the tastiest food in all of Alaska (I’m still dreaming about the buttery patty melt pasty and the delicious sourdough pancakes!) 

Erica and I take a break from skiing for a pretty pic

There is something to be said for a place that has a backdrop like this.  Hello, McKinley! 

With all of these uniquely Alaskan adventures, I think I must have been in a nostalgic mood when I decided to whip up a batch of moose chili.  This quintessential Alaskan meal finds itself on almost every family's table during the cold winter months.  Moose meat is delicious and lean, and if you're lucky enough to get one during the season (as all Alaskan's know: never make plans during the first three weeks of September) then you can enjoy a huge steaming pot of this in no time.  If you didn't get your own moose this season, substitute lean ground beef or just do what I do: barter with promises of dinner and homemade raspberry jam.  Works like a charm!

Now, I realize this is a long list of ingredients.  But trust me when I say that this one is worth it!  Once you prep all the veggies, it goes pretty quickly. I love chili, and I love it more when it's hearty and healthy. This recipe is the best I've come up with.  Full of veggies, spices, and a good glug of Alaskan White beer.  The brown sugar rounds out the flavor beautifully.  And it freezes great, too! 

Moose Chili

2 T. olive oil
1 1b. ground moose meat (or lean ground beef)
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 green bell peppers, chopped
3 c. mushrooms (about 6-8), stems removed and chopped
2 small carrots, scrubbed and chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 T. chili powder, divided
1 1/2 T. cumin
3/4 t. ground chipotle (more for spicier, less for mild)
salt, to taste
2-14.5 oz. cans diced tomatoes
2 c. vegetable juice
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
2-15.5 oz. cans chili hot beans
1- 15 oz. can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1- 15 oz. can butter beans, drained and rinsed
1 rounded teaspoon dried oregano
1 rounded teaspoon dried basil
1 c. Alaskan White or Alaskan Amber beer
1-7 oz. can green chilies
1 1/2 T. brown sugar

Optional toppings:
chopped onion
shredded cheddar cheese
chopped cilantro
sour cream

Prep the veggies first.  Add olive oil to a large dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the ground moose meat, 1 tablespoon of chili powder and a good pinch of salt (about 1 teaspoon).  Brown the moose meat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to break up the meat.

Add all of the veggies and cook until they have softened, about 20-25 minutes, stirring often.  Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil, stirring often so that it doesn’t burn.  Turn down to medium low and simmer for an hour or so, or until chili thickens to your liking.  Top with chopped onions, shreds of cheddar cheese, sour cream, and a sprinkling of chopped cilantro.

Enjoy! xo H


Jolene said...

I just stopped by your site to grab the link to share with a friend. We've made your Moose Chili recipe many, many times and love it every time! We've made it with moose, elk, venison and beef all with fantastic results. Thank you for sharing!

Heidi said...

I'm so happy to hear that, Jolene! Keep visiting. :)