There are five main styles of American barbecue: Carolina, Memphis, Kansas City, Texas, and Hawaiian. Each style has its own unique properties, techniques, and ingredients. The word barbecue is derived from the Taino tribe of the Caribbean, where they described the process of grilling and smoking meat over a fire as “barbacoa.” As barbecue was popularized throughout the American south, the culture developed into much more than a way to cook meat.
While Alaska is far from the south, I would argue that it deserves a place at the American barbecue table. The people of Alaska have been smoking salmon and other meats for centuries. Many local hunters are proud to boast their favorite ways of grilling, smoking, and braising their bounties—everything from caribou sausages and briskets to moose ribs and smoked duck. The foundation of barbecue culture has lived in Alaska for centuries, we just need to fill in the gaps.
As mentioned before, barbecue became more than a way to cook meat. It became a community and a way of life for some. Sauces found their way either on top of or beside the featured proteins. Side dishes began popping up and forming such a strong relationship with the food and the culture that they became part of the greater barbecue lexicon. Dishes like collard greens, baked beans, and mac and cheese began to sit hand-in-hand with brisket and smoked sausage; these are the gaps Alaska’s barbecue culture needs to fill. I would like to attempt filling some of these gaps beginning with an American barbecue favorite: chili and cornbread. Though you may have seen a thousand recipes for the simple stew, I assure you you’ve never seen a recipe like my Mountain Goat Chili with Alaskan Beets. The beets provide a deep red color and a sweetness to counter the spice. If you don’t have access to goat, lamb would make a fine substitute.
Mountain Goat Chili with Alaskan Beets
For the cornbread
- 1¼ c flour
- ¾ c cornmeal
- ¼ c sugar
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 c milk
- ¼ c oil
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 c corn
- ½ c shredded cheddar cheese
In a skillet over high heat, add corn and cook until browned; this may take 5-6 minutes. Set aside and let cool. Combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl and whisk together. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add milk, egg, and oil. Whisk until just barely combined, then add cheese and roasted corn. Finish mixing until batter is formed, pour into a buttered 8-inch cake pan or skillet and bake at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when poked in the center.
For the chili
- 3 pounds leg of goat or lamb roast, trimmed into 1” pieces reserving bone
- 3 c dried black beans, soaked overnight
- 2 medium yellow onions, diced
- 1 red beet, peeled and shredded with box grater
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 bottle Alaskan amber
- 3 c chicken stock
- 2 cans diced tomatoes
- ½ c jalapeno slices, diced
- 6 oz baking chocolate, chopped finely
- 1 Tbsp peanut butter
- 6 Tbsp chili powder, divided
- 1 Tbsp garlic powder
- 3 Tbsp cumin
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 6 sprigs of rosemary, finely chopped
- 3 bay leaves
- Salt and pepper to taste
Cook beans in simmering water for an hour or until soft, add a tablespoon of salt to the water. Peel beet and shred with a box grater. Season the cubed meat with salt and pepper and sear in a smoking-hot soup pot in batches. To not crowd the pan, transfer to a plate. In the same pot add onions and shredded beet, cook until onions are translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Add 3 Tbsp chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, cayenne, fresh garlic, jalapenos, rosemary, and bay leaves, and cook for one minute to awaken the flavors. Add the Alaskan amber and deglaze the pot, reducing to 1-2 tablespoons. Add chicken stock and tomatoes then bring to a simmer. Add the seared meat back to the stew, bone and all, this will provide a deep, rich flavor. Also add the baking chocolate and peanut butter, simmer on low for at least 1 hour stirring occasionally. Add cooked beans and remaining chili powder, if desired. Continue simmering from 30-45 minutes, taste for salt, pepper, and spice. I like to serve my chili with cilantro and sour cream, but it’s enjoyed differently all over the world, so grab a bowl and enjoy however you prefer.