Wife Jan has asked me to make cornbread. In and of itself cornbread is not a meal, it does though pair very well with chili. Since cornbread is a starch, I wanted to make a straight, bean-less chili con carne, but Jan said she like beans in her chili, so I added about half as many as I would usually add to a bean chili.
I have previously posted a super complicated chili con carne recipe. Today, I wanted something more than canned chile but less than something that would take two days to make. I simplified that original recipe to meet my current needs. In addition to beef and beans, a chili should have both dried and fresh chilies. I used the chilies I had on hand to make a new blend of chili spice. I would also add some fresh chilies and vegetables to make it a healthy dish. Finally, to act as a sauce thickener, I added some corn meal, since it was already out to make the corn bread.
Karl’s Chili con Carne with Beans
Karl’s Chili Powder
2 dried Anchochilies
2 dried California chilies
2 dried Pasilla chilies
1 dried Arbol chilies
1 Tbs. cumin
2 tsp. coriander
1 tsp. black pepper corns
2 tsp. Pimentón de la Vera Dulce (smoked Spanish paprika, mild)
2 tsp. Mexican oregano
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
½ lb beef ribs
1½ lb. beef chuck, cut into 1-1½ inch cubes
1 tsp. Karl’s Chili powder
½ tsp. Kosher salt, separate uses
2 Tbs. grated onion
2 Tbs. tequila
1 Tbs. dark soy sauce
5 cloves garlic, mashed to a paste
1 small yellow onion
1 stalks celery
½ green bell pepper
1 Tbs. corn oil
2 Tbs. Karl’s Chili Powder
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs. tomato paste
1-2 bottle (14-24 oz.) of dark Mexican beer, like Negra Modelo, separate uses
1 Tbs. Better than Bouillon, Beef
1 bunch cilantro stems
1 tsp. thyme
1 bay leaf
½ green bell pepper
1 Poblano chilies, fresh
1 jalapeño chili, fresh
2 beefsteak tomatoes
1 yellow onion, diced
6 large cloves garlic, minced
2-3 Tbs. Karl’s Chili Powder
29 oz. can of pinto beans
1-2 Tbs. corn meal
1 cup cilantro leaves
1. Remove the seeds and stems from the dried chilies.
Tip: Depending on how hot you want your spice blend, use the arbol chile sparingly. You can control the heat of the mix by not using the whole pod. This is a very hot chile and a little goes a long way. Of course, if you like a really spicy chili powder you may use more than one arbol chili.
2. Tear the chilies into one inch pieces and—in a dry skillet, over medium high heat—toast the chili pods briefly.
Tip: This only takes a few seconds and the point between toasted and burnt is very short. Discard any burnt chili pieces and try again.
3. In a dry skillet, toast the cumin, coriander, and pepper corns for one minute, until fragrant.
4. Process the chilies and spices into a fine powder.
Tip: You can use a mortar and pestle for this, but an electric spice grinder is much easier.
Note: The chili pod pieces are too big to process all at once. I had to grind three batches into a powder before they would fit into the spice grinder.
5. Put all of the spice blend ingredients into a small bowl.
6. Add the paprika, Mexican oregano, garlic and onion powders, mix well, and reserve.
Tip: In addition to adding a smoky flavor, the paprika adds a bright red color to your chili powder.
Note: This recipe makes about 12 tablespoons of chili powder. Enough for this batch of chili with almost a full spice jar of chili powder remaining for future meals.
7. Cut the beef into 1-1½ inch pieces.
Note: Beef short ribs are the best meat for this dish—producing a lot of flavor and collagen—but they are also quite pricy. I bout a small piece of beef ribs—bone in—and some chuck roast—the second choice for stew meat.
8. Sprinkle half a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of chili powder on the beef.
9. Mix the onion, tequila, soy sauce, and garlic in a bowl.
10. Toss the beef with the marinade to coat and place it in a seal-able plastic bag.
11. Marinate the beef for at least 1 hour.
Note: To brown or not to brown that is the question. Browning your meat creates many new flavor compounds from the Maillard reaction. However, it can be a messy and hazardous process—splatter of grease and handling hot meat. For this dish, pre-browning your meat is not necessary. During the long cooking time any beef pieces that stick out of the braising liquid brown quite nicely. And if you occasionally stir the pot—so that different pieces stick up above the liquid—you bet all the browning you really need. For this dish, I also “cheated” and used a tablespoon of Better than Bouillon, Beef which is full of the desired “beefy” flavor compounds.
12. Finely dice the onion, celery, bell pepper, and garlic for the braising liquid.
Tip: My kids bought me a food processor for Christmas. Before this, I would finely dice my vegetables and—if I wanted a smooth sauce—I would blend the pot liquor after the braising period. Today, I used the food processor to puree my vegetables before I cooked them. I was quite satisfied with the results.
Note: Reserve the second half of the bell pepper for later use.
13. Add one tablespoon of corn oil to a Dutch oven, over medium high heat, and add the onions, celery, and bell pepper.
14. Sauté the vegetables until they are starting to pick up some color, about 8-12 minutes.
15. Pull the vegetables to the sides of the pot and add the chili powder, garlic, and tomato paste to the hole in the center.
16. Sauté the spices, garlic, and tomato paste for 2-3 minutes, until the garlic is fragrant and the spices and tomato paste have darkened.
17. Stir in one bottle of beer and deglaze the bottom of the pot.
18. Cut bunch of cilantro in half to remove the stems, reserve the leafy tops for later.
19. Gather the stems into a bunch and tie them into a bundle.
Note: This is a bouque garni.
20. Add the bouque garni, thyme and bay leave to the braising liquid.
21. Stir the beef pieces and its marinade into the pot.
Tip: You do not want the beef pieces completely submerged in the braising liquid (see the note above about browning.
Note: You also do not want too much of the beef exposed—the pieces should be about half submerged. Have a second bottle of beer on hand to add more liquid as needed.
22. Bring the pot to a boil, cover, and place the pot in a 275º F oven for 2½ hours.
Tip: The pot lid should be slightly ajar. This slightly lowers the temperature and humidity inside the pot and that allows the exposed beef to brown properly. Occasionally stir the pot and add more liquid, as necessary.
Note: Serious Eats had a good article on why you should not cook your beef for too long.
23. Remove the pot from the oven and remove the pieces of beef and ribs.
Tip: When the beef has cooled, place it in a plastic bag and reserve it in the refrigerator for later.
Note: The rib pieces I bought still had the bones attached. Clean the bits of meatoff of the bones and discard them. Also, remove and discard the bouque garni.
24. Transfer the braising liquid and vegetables to a standing blender.
Tip: If you processed the vegetables before cooking you may skip the next two steps. Simply remove the braising liquid to a bowl to de-fat it.
Note: If you wish to reduce the fat content of your dish, let the liquid rest in the blender for 10 minutes and spoon off the excess grease that floats to the top. The narrow profile of the blender jar makes it easier to spoon off the “excess grease” than trying to do it in a wide pot. What is “excess fat” is a personal choice. Many of the flavors of a dish are fat soluble. In removing fat, for dietary reasons, you are also discarding some of the flavor. It is a balancing act.
25. Process the vegetables until the braising liquid is very smooth.
26. Cut the tomatoes in half, pole to pole.
27. Put the tomatoes, the Poblano, Jalapeño chilies, and the remaining half of the bell pepper on a lipped baking sheet and broil them on high for 10-15 minutes.
Tip: I used to char my fresh chilies whole, which required me to turn them and them struggle with deseeding hot vegetables. These days, I remove the stems and slice the peppers in half length-wise. I remove the seeds and then lay them skin side up on the baking tray. This way both sides of the chilies roast at the same time saving time, energy and burns. For the tomatoes, I slice them at the equator and remove the seeds and jelly to a sieve placed over a bowl, before placing the cut side down on the baking tray.
Note: Much of the tomatoes flavor is in the jelly around the seeds. Scrape the seeds into a sieve over a bowl and capture it by pressing the jelly through the sieve and reserve for later. Discard the seeds. You may prefer not to go to this trouble, but I have diverticula.
28. Chop the tomatoes and put them into the bowl with the tomato jelly.
29. Place the peppers in a plastic bag until they are cool.
Tip: This steams the peppers and makes the skins easier to remove.
30. Remove the skins from the chilies, chop them coarsely, and set them aside.
31. Clean the Dutch oven, turn the heat down to medium high and add a tablespoon of oil.
Tip: You may use corn oil, but it is better to use some of the spice infused lard that you skimmed off of the braising liquid.
32. When the oil is hot, add the onions and sauté until the onions are well browned, about 10 minutes.
33. Pull the onions to the sides of the Dutch oven, add the garlic and chili powder, and sauté one minute more.
Tip: How many tablespoons you use depends on your personal preference for spice.
34. Add the beef pieces, roasted chilies, the tomatoes, the can of pinto beans and the braising liquid to the Dutch oven.
35. Bring the pot to a boil, reduce the head, and cover the Dutch oven, simmer for 10-15 minutes.
Tip: If the sauce still seems a bit thin, stir in about a tablespoon or two of corn meal.
Note: Continue cooking the chili for five minutes after adding the corn meal to give it time to cook and thicken the broth.
36. Just before serving, coarsely chop the leafy parts of the bunch of cilantro and stir most of it into the chili.
Tip: Reserve some of the cilantro greens for garnish or to serve on the side at the table.
37. Serve the chili with corn bread hot from the oven.
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