Fall is undoubtedly my favorite time of year.I love the cooler, cozy temperatures. The nudge toward slowing the pace from summer.The earthy warmth of the food.
One of my favorite annual activities in the fall is going to Rocky Mountain National Park to watch ‘The Rut’.Beginning in mid September the elk, who have been living at higher, cooler altitudes, come down to the mountain meadows to ‘score chicks’ basically.The big bull elk spar with each other and gather their harems of female elk.
The entire ritual (referred to as ‘rutting’) is a spectacle to behold.The highlight by far is their ‘bugling’, the unearthly call made by the bull elk.It’s indescribable with words.It sounds like a cross between a high pitched whistle, a shriek and a sound you’d expect a mermaid to make, or maybe like a broken clarinet.The meadows are still, the air heavy and crisp, making their munching of grasses, clattering of battling antlers and bugling as pronounced as someone yelling in a hushed library.
I’m including this short You Tube video as a chance for you to hear the bugling personally:
The best time to watch The Rut is at dusk. Having watched in the rain and snow, I always pack warm food and chili seems perfect.Not too fussy, always soul-warming and easy to manage.I came up with a recipe for the occasion based on all the vegetables available right now and with the type of heat I like; slow and simmering (not blowing smoke out your ears).
BIG RED BARN CHILI
I’m a firm believer in cooking chili the day prior to allow the flavors to blend well.In this case the heat calmed some by day 2 and the flavor had more depth.If you prefer more heat when eating, a dash of Tabasco or Pico-Pica sauce will brighten everything up.
·2 tablespoon olive oil
·1 ½ pounds sirloin, cut into bit sized pieces
·1 large yellow onion, chopped
·2 large carrots, diced or shredded
·1 quart tomatoes with liquid, diced
·1-15 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
·1-15 ounce can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
·2 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen/thawed
·1 EACH (3 total) yellow, red and orange bell pepper
·2 Anaheim chiles
·1 tablespoon adobo sauce
·1 tablespoon chili powder (choose the heat level you prefer)
·2-3 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
·1 teaspoon ground cumin
·1 teaspoon granulated sugar
·1 teaspoon paprika
·1 teaspoon garlic powder
·Salt and pepper to taste
·Suggested garnishes: sour cream, shredded cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese, sliced scallions.
Note:always be cautious when handling chiles.Anaheim chiles are mild though if you substitute spicier chiles wearing gloves while coring or chopping can save accidental contact with eyes, nose or mouth which can be painful!
1.Roast the three bell peppers and Anaheim chiles (see below for roasting methods).Allow to cool and chop.
2.In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium high heat.Add the sirloin and brown on all sides (do not cook through).Remove from pan.
3.Add the remaining tablespoon olive oil, heat and add the onions and sauté for three minutes or until onions begin to become translucent.
4.Add remaining ingredients, including the browned sirloin (except salt and pepper).Turn heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour.Add salt and pepper to taste.
Roasted Peppers or Chiles:
There are several simple ways to roast peppers and chiles which completely changes their flavor.
1.Over a gas burner, gas grill or charcoal flame:with long heat-proof tongs, hold the pepper or chile low over the flame, rotating it until it completely blackens on all sides.Place in a bowl and cover with cling wrap OR in a Ziploc bag and seal.Allow to sweat for at least 10 minutes.*When cool enough to handle, rub the skin off by hand or with a cloth kitchen towel, or under running water (there is debate about the latter costing some flavor but I think it’s marginal).Core, seed and chop.
2.In the oven:place peppers/chiles on a baking sheet under a heated broiler.As peppers blister and blacken, turn with tongs until the entire pepper/chile is charred.Remove and follow directions above at the asterisk.
Wrapping squares of cornbread minimizes mess, makes it very portable and adds some fun to the meal.(No ‘Martha’ comments, please).
This is a typical scene.A young, rogue bull elk catches the scent of a harem. He hightails his testosterone-filled self over to the scene only to realize the bull elk at the helm is much bigger and older (you can count the ‘points’ on his antlers to see his age).The younger bull elk then averts his vision, and walks right past the harem as though he does not notice they are there.Often the established bull at the head of the harem saunters after him at a lazy pace to ensure he moves completely out of the territory.