Buffalo is a naturally lean meat without as much of the flavor-enhancing fat of beef, so Chef Jim Brady took that into account when he entered the Chipster Thundering Buffalo Chili Cook-Off on Saturday, Aug. 3.
“You want to add quite a bit of flavor to it, so that’s why I smoke the meat,” Brady said of his prize-winning buffalo-chili recipe that is sometimes on the menu at the Buffalo Jump Saloon and Steakhouse. The flavor boost can also be provided by marinating the meat or pumping up the amount of spice.
“I like to spice it up pretty good,” Brady said.
It was easy for Brady to decide to participate in the inaugural chili contest, despite coming at a busy time of year for the Beulah, Wyo., restaurant.
“We’re super busy all through the rally but I’ve got time for that,” he said of the Meals on Wheels fundraiser that helped raise money for the Western South Dakota Senior Services meals program that delivers 180 meals to homebound seniors every weekday in Rapid City alone.
“And given our name, of course we’re going to do that contest. A buffalo cook-off at the Buffalo Chip?”
It was also a “no-brainer” for Marcia Mayer of WSDSS Meals Program, who said “yes” when Buffalo Chip owner Rod Woodruff asked her organization to be the fundraising beneficiary of a cookoff at the Chip. “It’s about raising some awareness as well as raising some funds,” Mayer said.
One out of seven senior citizens goes hungry every day in the U.S., and hundreds of bikers enjoying chili at the Buffalo Chip campground is a good platform to educate and inform people about that statistic, Mayer knows.
Some 26 national broadcast crews filmed at the Chip this year, including the Travel Channel’s “Food Paradise.”
“The Buffalo Chip appreciates the opportunity to assist in raising money for Meals on Wheels by hosting this Buffalo Chili cook-off,” said Woodruff.
For a minimum $5 suggested donation, bikers got to taste-test all chili contestants and vote for their favorite. Western Buffalo in Rapid City and Black Hills Corp. provided donations for 10 pounds of ground buffalo meat per contestant.
Mayer wasn’t surprised that rallygoers were so generous in the fight against elderly hunger in America. She’s seen motorcyclists give back to their community before.
On July 26, the Black Hills Area Bikers helped deliver, on the backs of their motorcycles, about 100 meals to the homes of elderly people. “We had about 25 bikers on 20 bikes delivering meals,” Mayer said. Along with several Roller Derby women on skates who delivered meals at senior apartment complexes, the day was a true “meals on wheels” experience, she said.
“This was a way to show what a good job bikers do — they actually are giving back to the community,” she said of rallygoers who sometimes get more blame than credit during the Sturgis rally.
Two bikers from Florida and San Diego who were in town early for the rally called and asked if they could come out and help deliver meals, after seeing a flier for the event at the local Harley Davidson dealership. “It truly made a difference,” Mayer said of the elderly clients and others who enjoyed the day.
Meals on Wheels volunteer Penny Wellman of Rapid City knows what a good cause the meals program is, so even though she had never made more than a gallon of chili at a time, she entered the buffalo chili cookoff. Wellman has delivered meals to elderly people for two years, and currently has 11 clients she visits each day, but this was her first chili cookoff. “Never in my life had I made five gallons and I discovered my regular recipe doesn’t even make a gallon,” she said.
Like Brady, Wellman modified her regular beef chili recipe to compensate for less fat in the ground buffalo. “It’s so lean, there is no fat,” she said of buffalo.
She added extra heat and spice, but keeps the beans to a minimum.
“We don't put a lot of beans in it,” she said of the family recipe that was developed while the Wellmans were living in Texas. “And in Texas, it isn’t chili if it has beans in it.”
Brady prefers beans. “I like to use a variety of beans — kidney, pinto, white — so it’s not so dull,” he said of his buffalo chili.
He also insists on the best-quality canned tomato possible. “Use a good tomato product. I like San Marzano whole tomatoes. It’s a really good product and I use it for all my pasta sauces,”
While not revealing his exact spice mixture, Brady offers this recipe for chili mix:
1 part each: oregano, garlic, paprika, cayenne pepper and chili powder
2 parts each: salt and pepper
This chili recipe, created by food blogger Jennifer Steinhauer, first appeared on the Food52 food blog at: food52.com
Just Good Chili
1 to 2 tablespoons oil
1 pound ground buffalo meat (or turkey or beef)
1 pound sirloin, cubed
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 bottle of beer (preferably Fat Tire)
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
2 cups beef stock
1 cup coffee (strong is best)
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon chili sauce
1/2 finely chopped chili of choice (serrano, jalapeno or other)
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 tablespoon heaping of cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon heaping of coriander
1 teaspoon salt
2 15-ounce cans kidney beans
1 15-ounce can white beans
5 large carrots, chopped into discs
1. In large stock pot or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium flame and brown meat, sirloin chunks first, then the ground.
2. When meat is lightly browned, throw on the onions.
3. Take two large sips from the beer.
4. Add remaining beer plus, tomatoes, beef stock, coffee and tomato paste.
5. Add the sugar, spices and kidney beans. Reduce flame to low and let simmer for an hour.
6. Add white beans and carrots simmer for another hour or two; longer will be better.
Season as needed.