I like slow cooked chili with tender chunks of beef, sometimes I just want a quick meal for a weekday. While I have been known to simply use a brand name chili, occasionally I like to go just a step further. This may take a few more minutes than simply opening a can, but the flavor is worth the effort.
Depending on how many you are feeding, or how much leftovers you would like to have after the meal, you may use one or two cans of pinto beans. Cook’s Illustrated has identified Goya as the best brand of canned beans. They also discovered that a good can of beans could be better than dried beans, because they are processed fresh in the fields, instead of laying around in storage for an unknown length of time.
To peel or not to peel that is the question. Some people claim that the pepper skins add a bitter taste. I have never noticed any bitterness, especially in a strongly flavored dish like chili.
Karl’s Weekday Quick Beef Chili
2 Tbs. corn oil
1 large onion, diced
½ tsp. Kosher salt
1 poblano pepper, diced
1 Jalapeño pepper, diced finely
½ green bell peppers, diced
½ red bell peppers, diced
¼ cup cilantro stems, minced
6 cloves garlic, minced
4 Tbs. tomato paste
3-4 Tbs. Karl’s Four Chile Chili Powder
1 can (14.5 oz.) fire roasted tomatoes
1-2 cans ( 29-58 oz) Goya pinto beans
1. Put the beef into a mixing bowl and mix in ¼ cup of the beer, the soy sauce, and the baking soda.
Tip: Dissolve the baking soda into the beer, so you get an even distribution.
Note: Baking soda chemically reacts with the proteins to keep the meat tender. You want to add enough baking soda so that the meat will retain moisture, but not so much that the meat turns mushy.
2. Form the beef into one or two large patties and let them rest for 15 minutes.
Tip: The meat should form a disk half of an inch thick and 6-7 inches in diameter.
Note: You want the patty small enough to easy flip and get out of the pan. A patty the size of your cooking area is awkward. Whether you can brown in one or two patties depends on the size of your pot.
3. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven, over medium high heat, and brown the beef patty well on both sides.
Tip: I usually use corn oil for Mexican dishes, but you may use any oil that you prefer.
Note: This is an America’s Test Kitchen trick. If you break up the meat and brown it in bits you will end up with hard, overcooked, meat rocks, before you get the good, flavorful browning that will make the dish taste “beefy.” By frying the meat in a patty you get the dark browned flavor of the Maillard reaction, but the meat in the center of the patty stays tender and moist.
4. If necessary, brown your second patty.
5. Transfer the beef to a plate and spoon out all but two tablespoons of the grease from the pot.
Tip: Grease is flavor, however, due to Jan’s dietary restrictions I need to remove as much as possible. Use your own judgment.
Note: When the beef has cooled off enough, break it into small bite sized pieces.
6. Sauté the onions with the salt until starting to pick up some color, about 5-7 minutes.
Tip: Use the moisture released by the onions to deglaze the pot.
Note: The salt speeds up the release of the moisture from the onions and helps them brown more quickly.
7. Add the Poblano, Jalapeño and bell peppers to the pot and continue sautéing for 3-5 more minutes.
8. Pull the vegetables to the sides and add the cilantro to the hole in the center.
9. Sauté the stems for 1-2 minutes and then pull them to the sides of the pot.
10. Add the garlic to the hole in the center of the vegetables and cook for 1 minute, until fragrant.
Tip: You may wish to add a half tablespoon of oil/grease to the garlic.
11. Add the tomato paste and spices to the garlic and sauté the mixture for 1-2 minutes, until very fragrant and the tomato paste has started to brown.
12. Add the rest of the beer and the can of tomatoes, with its liquid.
Note: If you are planning to use cornstarch to thicken your chili (see the note below) reserve ¼ cup of beer.
13. Stir to mix the ingredients in the pot well.
Tip: Scrape the bottom of the pot to remove any fond from the vegetables to prevent it scorching.
14. Stir in the pinto beans, with their liquid, and add the beef to the pot.
15. Simmer the chili, for at least 15 minutes, to meld the flavors.
Tip: If you have the time, you may simmer the chili for an hour to thicken the chili gravy and further meld the flavors.
Note: If you are impatient—or very hungry—you may crush a ¼ cup of the beans or mix a tablespoon of cornstarch with the beer to thicken the chili.
16. Serve and enjoy.
Note: While I like my chili strait from the pot, others like to add things to spice it up. You may provide bottles of your diners’ favorite hot sauce, or bowls of diced fresh onion, fresh chopped cilantro, shredded cheese, tortillas and/or tortilla chips on the side.