Bison & Heirloom Bean Chili with Poached Egg

Bison Chili with Poached Egg

Bison & Heirloom Bean Chili with Poached Egg

What food did Elizabeth Taylor have shipped to her while filming Cleopatra on the set in Rome?

Ten quarts of chili. Yes, chili from Chasen’s Restaurant in West Hollywood! When she could pretty much order up anything she fancied, she chose the humble bowl of chili. That spicy stew with a history that goes back to the American frontier days has endless variations. Based on geography, legend, personal taste, and availability of ingredients recipes for chili vary widely but the passion for this beloved dish does not.

Bison & Heirloom Bean Chili with Poached Egg

Bison & Heirloom Bean Chili Recipe

Quite possibly more flavorful than beef, and perhaps a bit sweeter, I use ground bison as the meat in this chili recipe. At the turn of the 20th century bison were on the brink of extinction. Theodore Roosevelt and others formed the American Bison Society to help save the  species but it wasn’t until recently when ranchers and the meat industry successfully marketed bison, that the North American population reached over a half-million.

Lower in fat and cholesterol, higher in protein and iron than beef, bison is raised without antibiotics or hormones. They roam wild producing meat that is naturally leaner than cattle. Bison is, however, more expensive than ground beef due to the smaller supply and the higher expense to bring the product to market.

Heirloom Beans are superior to common beans. Untouched by genetic science and cultivated for thousands of years – there are over 10,000 varieties of heirloom beans and legumes. The cranberry bean is pale pink with maroon markings. When cooked it is plump, rich, and earthy. Its velvety texture makes it a perfect bean for stews.

Quality ingredients are the key to a fabulous finished dish. Heirloom cranberry beans and flavorful wild bison make this chili one that could be a contender in the next chili cook-off! I use smoked paprika and chili de arbol powder to balance the chili with sweet smoke, earth, and heat notes. And I eschew the ubiquitous shredded cheese and diced onion topping for a silky poached egg. The runny yolk adds richness to the spicy stew.

Bison & Heirloom Bean Chili with Poached Egg


1/2 pound dry cranberry beans (about 1 cup)

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice

olive oil for sautéing

1 medium green bell pepper, diced

1 medium onion, diced

1 jalapeño chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup parsley, chopped (reserve some for garnish)

1 cup beef stock

4 tablespoons tomato paste

1 pound ground bison

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

1 tablespoon chili de arbol powder

1 teasoon salt, plus more to taste

1 teaspoon cumin seeds, dry-toasted

1 teaspoon ground cumin

poached eggs

Bison & Heirloom Bean Chili with Poached Egg


Place rinsed, picked-over cranberry beans in a heavy-bottomed pot. Cover with water. Boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered for one hour. Drain and rinse beans. Place soaked beans back in the pot and cover with water 2 inches above the beans. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer covered, for one hour or until the beans are tender taking care not to overcook. Drain beans.

Meanwhile, sauté green pepper and onion in a bit of olive oil, when almost tender, add jalapeño and garlic and cook for a few more minutes. Place this mixture in the heavy-bottomed pot. Add diced tomato, parsley, paprika, chili powder, salt, and cumin. Blend tomato paste with one cup of hot beef stock. Add this mixture to the vegetables.

Heat a splash of olive oil in the sauté pan. Add ground bison, broken up into bite-sized pieces. Cook until browned. Add bison to the vegetable mixture. Finally, add beans, mix it all together, taking care not to break up the beans. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust the salt. Ladle chili into bowls and top with a poached egg. Finish with a sprinkling of chopped parsley.

Bison & Heirloom Bean Chili with Poached Egg

My recipe was loosely adapted from the Chasen’s Recipe, the famous chili that was shipped to Elizabeth Taylor in Italy back in 1962.

6 thoughts on “Bison & Heirloom Bean Chili with Poached Egg”

  1. I bought some bison meat recently and made hamburgers with it and found that if you cook it too much it is very dry. Turning it into chili sounds like a perfect solution – especially with that runny egg on top.

    1. Thanks for the compliment Greg. This chili was a good one… Also, in answer to your last question – I did get to sit down and enjoy the meal at the Palos Verdes Pastoral Dinner. Have you been to Terranea? Mar’Sel restaurant is great under Chef Rebecca Merhej’s lead. And it is so beautiful there.

      I’ve been a bit challenged with responding here – my kitchen is in complete remodel. Cabinets went in yesterday, less than 2 week to go.

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