Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Review of Mark Sisson's Bison Chili

It's Game Time
Every winter, recipes for chili litter the internet. Teasing and taunting people to choose themas the recipe for a holiday or Super Bowl party. Chili is a crowd favorite, because it's so easy, and it's usually pretty cheap. The latest recipe taunting me was from Mark Sisson's “The Primal Blueprint Cookbook” and was simply named “Bison Chili”.

Mark runs a wildly popular blog about primal eating (similar to paleo), and this book was made from the contributions of his devoted readers. With food all-stars like bison, cocoa powder, and everyone’s favorite - bacon, I had high expectations for the recipe. I didn't mind the hour that it took to prepare. Nor did I mind the hour it simmered in the crockpot, because I thought it would be worth the wait. 

Missing the Mark 
This recipe let me down on multiple fronts: the carrots were still crunchy, the consistency was watery, and somehow the bacon was underwhelming. - I could hardly taste it. It smelled like a dish caught between a stew and a chili. Unable to choose a side it didn’t satisfy either craving. Also, the proportions were uneven for my taste. A surplus of meat overwhelmed the other ingredients. The carrots were sparse and overshadowed by mountains of ground bison; it was a vegetarian’s nightmare.

The worst part was not the disproportion of meat but was the combination of spices. In the cook book, he describes this chili as "not very spicy” – which is true. Although, bland is a more accurate adjective. The spices did not complement each other well. Paprika is a favorite spice of mine, and a trusty companion for chili, but the rest of the spices do nothing for the dish. Most of all, I am disappointed in the cocoa powder. It adds nothing to the complexity of the dish except a bitter after taste.

Cognitive Dissonance 
Don't get me wrong, I'll finish the 3lbs of chili that this recipe made, but I will not make it again. There are too many other good chili recipes to try. Even ones that aren't quite “paleo” can be altered. It's as simple as subtracting the beans from most recipes.

Did I choose the wrong cookbook this Christmas? I figured this book would keep my diet in check, but, I didn't want to sacrifice taste. Maybe I would be better off finding more recognized recipes and substituting. Maybe those physicians had it right when they chose this book as one of the worst cookbooks of 2010.

There are Always Alternatives
This was the first recipe I tried of his, so I can't be too harsh. After all, this blogger really seemed to like it, as did the reviewers on Amazon. Perhaps, there are other redeeming recipes in his book. I'll give it another shot, but this was not a good first impression. If that was my introduction to a paleo/primal meal, I would never be going back for seconds.

For a quick and tasty chili alternative try this one from allrecipes.com it uses salsa as the tomato base, which is genius, so you don't have to chop a ton of vegetables. It’s simple, cheap, and delicious.