I don’t have a lot of strong opinions about chili, not having grown up in a chili-centric place at all. We had white hots, garbage plates, and custard. And my favorite pizza, which I haven’t had in many years and probably wouldn’t be my favorite pizza anymore. Then on to Boston, which yeah, not much chili. Still, I am, after all, a food snob. Pretty snooty in general, but for sure a snoot about food. And you don’t have to have chili running through your veins since childhood to be able to appreciate good chili. Any other snobs wanting to debate that with me? Well you’re wrong.
While the dearth of things like fresh seafood and upstate apples here get me down sometimes, I feel pretty happy to be readily, abundantly, and perhaps bludgeonly able to buy whatever kind of chile I want. They really are a pretty magical ingredient, and apparently a rather large segment of the population here agrees. I also can get bulk dried hibiscus flowers. (What do you do with those besides steep them, anything interesting??) I feel like anything with ancho peppers in it has got to be wonderful (better do them justice). Joe made an ancho pepper and pumpkin mole the other day. The pumpkin had been sitting on the counter for probably since like Thanksgiving. I have no idea. Good thing they’re hardy. Mole was sweet.
If you want to get extra fancy, since you are making your very own chili paste, you could toast and grind whole spices. I’m a little ashamed I didn’t. I’M SORRY I’M SUCH A FRAUD. It’s not like I don’t have an overflowing amount of true cinnamon sticks, allspice berries, and cumin seeds clogging up my spice area. I should take a picture of that area some time for the blog. It’s ridiculous. At one point I had the jars all stacked up so high on top of each other that if the back door got
slammed closed too hard, they’d all come tumbling down in a seed scattering, glass shard-ering nightmare. The last disaster was a mason jar full of fenugreek seeds. I just found some in my fakeCrocs the other day. Seeds, that is. I’m sure I’ll find glass shards another, wonderful day.
Feel free to experiment with the kinds and amounts of chiles. It’s really a starting point and a personal preference thing. I’m not really into stupid spicy stuff, so I didn’t use a lot of chiles de árbol or chipotles. I really thought it was perfectly spicy as is, but if you’re nervous, leave out the spicy ones. You can also add veggies if you want. I just made this a purist chili. My hunk of meat wasn’t the biggest either – you could get away with another pound with the amount of chili paste this makes. Adding more broth to make sure the meat is covered while it’s simmering, and then letting it cook down, won’t hurt anything.
chili con carne
adapted from J. Kenji López-Alt at Serious Eats
2 fresh Anaheim peppers, seeded
2 California or guallijo chiles, stemmed and seeded
1 small hot chile, like árbol, stemmed and seeded
1 chipotle chile, not from a can if you can help it, but it or powder will do, stemmed and seeded
3 ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
2 quarts chicken broth, or homemade beef broth
2 1/2 – 3 pounds chuck roast, trimmed, fat reserved, and cut into 2 inch chunks
1-2 tablespoons tallow or bacon grease
1 large onion, finely diced
4 – 5 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, preferably Mexican
1 tablespoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon allspice
2 teaspoons oregano, preferably Mexican
salt and freshly ground pepper
1. In a medium saucepan, combine chiles and enough broth to cover. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the chiles are tender. Transfer to a blender and purée until smooth.
optional: Meanwhile, heat a large Dutch over over medium low heat. Add the reserved fat from the beef to the Dutch oven. Render as much fat as you can be bothered to do.
2. Heat the Dutch oven with the rendered beef fat, or a couple tablespoons of another fat, over high heat and add half of the beef chunks. Cook for several minutes then flip and brown the other side. Scoop out and place in a bowl, and repeat with the other half.
3. Lower heat to medium (remove the pot and let cool a bit if you have a blasted electric stove) and add onions. Sauté for about 2-3 minutes. Add garlic, spices, and oregano, and sauté for another minute.
4. Dump meat and any accumulated juices, chile purée, and remaining broth in the pot. Stir to combine.
5. You can either simmer on the stove top or place in at 225 degree oven, lid slightly ajar, for 2 1/2 – 3 hours. I cooked it in the oven. So easy.
Season pot to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper, adjust spices if you want. Serve with chopped onions, cilantro, avocado, pepitas, scallions, or whatever! You will love me. And even more if you have leftovers the next day.