Cooking With Dried Chiles, Part 2: Chili Con Carne
A bowl of spicy chile con carne using home-ground chili powder. Nothing's better.
Yesterday, I talked about how to turn dried, Mexican chiles into powder or paste that can be used in any number of dishes. Today, we're going to put those ingredients to use in a batch of chili con carne, Texas-style.
I haven't always made chili sans beans, the method most commonly appreciated by the chili cooks of the Longhorn state. But in recent years I've taken to trying out the various recipes posted on the International Chili Society's website, better known as the home of the annual World Chili Cookoff. The recipe of every WCC-winning bowl of chili is listed here, and if you read them all you'll start to notice a pattern: Nearly all the winners -- and most certainly all of them in recent years -- use tri-tip or sirloin tip roast (ground beef is almost never used). Also, not one of them features beans in the recipe.
The first WCC-winning chili I tried making was 2000 winner from Jim Weller called Macktown Chili.
I loved the way Weller's recipe turned out when I recreated it, but
chili being the personal and intimate dish it is, I've since modified the formula to suit my liking. Now, it's the recipe I turn to whenever I
want to make chili, even though I subtly tweak it almost every time I make it,
mostly based on what I have available.
For Super Bowl Sunday, I made a batch of Linn's Macktown using a little chile puree and a whole lot of that chili powder I made the day before.
Cubed sirloin roast or tri-tip works makes a heartier, meatier chili than ground beef.
I started with three pounds of beef sirloin tip roast, which is easier
to find and less expensive than tri-tip. The two cuts are nearest to each other and make up a big part of the bottom sirloin. Both have a great, beefy flavor. You
can't go wrong with either, in my opinion, though tri-tip is better
marbled and thus better for grilling. Since we're cooking our meat in
liquid over a period of time, not grilling, tri roast will do just fine.
Cut the meat into half-inch cubes and season conservatively with salt,
black pepper, and chili powder. Set your chili vessel (a big, stainless
steel pot works best) over high heat and add a few tablespoons of
vegetable oil. Sear the meat, working in small batches in order to not
crowd the pot (in which case you will end up boiling your meat, not
browning it). You're looking for color and flavor on the meat, mainly, and to get rid of any excess liquid that will just water down our chili.
Brown the meat in batches and resist the urge to crowd the pot.
It should take a good five or six batches to brown up all of your
sirloin, but once it's done your pot will have all sorts of lovely,
charred bits at the bottom of your pot. This is good -- that's mega flavor right there.
Keep the pan over high heat, and add another two tablespoons of oil and
one very large white onion, diced. As the onion starts to sweat, add
your spices and aromatics. For this chili, I went with:
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1.5 TBS cascabel powder
1.5 TBS ancho powder
1 TBS arbol powder
2 TBS of cascabel and ancho puree
3 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (freeze the rest of the can for a later use)
3 whole jalepenos, slit just under the stem
1/2 can of tomato paste
2 tsp. cumin
black pepper and kosher salt
Allow this mixture to sweat for five to 10 minutes, stirring
constantly. Once the onions have started to melt along with the spices
into a thick paste, you're ready for the best part: Add half a cup of dark
The beer's going to need a little time to cook off, maybe five minutes
more. Once that's done, add your browned beef back in to the pot along with:
1.5 to 2 quarts of homemade stock (a mixture of chicken and beef works best, but chicken alone will do fine)
1 large (32 oz.) can of crushed tomatoes
1 TBS of Worcestershire sauce
1 TBS of Cholula hot sauce
1 tsp. red wine vinegar
I also tossed in three large lamb bones I had in the freezer for such an occasion. Yeah, I keep lamb bones in my freezer. Is that crazy?
Bring the chili to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer slowly, covered, for 90 minutes. Now, all you have to do is wait and smell. And maybe drink another beer.
After that time has elapsed, check out the chili. You may need to skim off some the fat that's collected on the top of the pot, because fatty chili is no good. Also, check out the thickness. If
it's too thin, thicken it up with a handful of crushed tortilla chips.
I like to use crushed tortilla chips to thicken chili because, a) masa (corn meal) does a great job, and b) chips taste good and are salty, so they won't dull
the flavor of the chili in the process. At this point, you can also add a few dashes
of extra powder to kick the flavor up. Just remember, chili gets spicier once it's cooled, and is always hotter on the second day. If it's spicy now, it's going to be very spicy tomorrow.
Lastly, fish out any bones you added or whole peppers. I like to remove the whole jalapenos we added, seed and stem them, dice them up, and add them back in the chili for little pockets of wow. You can do the same thing with any chipotles left floating around in there.
And you're done. That right there is one righteous bowl of chili. All the flavors from the dried chiles we powdered and pureed -- the chocolate, the raisin, the nuts -- will present in each bowl. You'll never use store-bought chili powder to make chili again.
Cilantro, onion, happiness.
Serve with some chopped
onions, cilantro, and crumbled fresh cheese. A frosty
beer perfects the whole thing.
Tomorrow: We use our dried chiles to make pork al pastor on the grill.
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