Earlier this week I picked up some chorizo, and I’ve made chorizo and eggs for breakfast every day since then. The exposure to the Mexican spices and chiles woke up my long-dormant desire to make a big batch of chili, one of my specialties.
I made this chili milder than usual for the benefit of my mother, who can’t handle lots of heat; but I still packed as much chile flavor and deep body into it as I could. I used a method similar to that used for Ragu alla Bolognese, cooking down and caramelizing the vegetables, meat, and tomato paste before adding the liquid.
Here’s the recipe:
- 10 oz pork chorizo
- 2 white onions
- 3 mild Hatch chiles
- 1 small can tomato paste
- 4 ancho chiles
- 4 California chiles
- 6 cloves of garlic
- 1 bottle of beer
- 2 cups of water
- 2 Tbsp cider vinegar
- 2 Tbsp ground cumin
- 1 Tbsp Mexican oregano
- 2 Tbsp dark chili powder
- 2 Tbsp smoked paprika
- 1 Tbsp black pepper
- 3 chiles de arbol
- 3 lbs. beef chuck, cubed
- 3 Tbsp masa harina
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
- lemon juice, to taste
- sugar, to taste
- salt, to taste
- cayenne pepper, to taste
Use a big chili pot. This recipe will make 4 to 5 quarts of chili. I use a 6 quart dutch oven.
Meanwhile, stem and seed 4 dried ancho chiles and 4 dried California chiles. Dried pasilla, mulato, or negro chiles are good substitutes for the anchos, and New Mexico or guajillo are good substitutes for the Californias.
To stem and seed the chiles, cut off the top of the chile just below the stem, then split the chile open. Shake the seeds out, and pull out any white veins or tough pieces.
Preheat the broiler (I use the toaster oven) and put the chiles under it for 30 to 60 seconds – just long enough to start smelling toasty chiles, or to see wisps of smoke.
Rehydrate the chiles in hot water. Put 6 garlic cloves in a blender, along with the rehydrated chiles and enough of the soaking water to allow the blender to make a puree. Blend the chiles and garlic until smooth.
Fry this mixture on medium-high heat for 4 to 5 minutes, until it’s really caramelized. You’ll have to stir almost continuously to keep it from sticking and burning. A good heavy pan makes this much easier and more reliable.
Deglaze with most of a bottle of beer, then add 2 cups of water. Season with spices: this can vary to a degree, but I used dark chili powder, oregano, cumin, smoked paprika, and black pepper. I also added a big glug of cider vinegar to balance the acidity.
Let this simmer for at least 15 minutes before adding the beef…
Ten minutes before the beef is done, make a masa roux. Heat 2 Tbsp of vegetable oil in a small pan over medium-low heat, then add 3 Tbsp masa harina. Stir continuously until the roux darkens slightly and smells nutty. Set it aside.
Take the chili out of the oven and put it on a low burner. Remove the lid, and stir in the masa roux.
Taste the chili, and decide if it needs adjustment. Evaluate the salty, sweet, bitter, sour, and spicy components of its flavor. I adjusted them with lemon juice, sugar, salt, and cayenne pepper. Lime juice and honey might work better.
Once your adjustments are made, let the chili simmer for at least 10 minutes. Since it’s much thicker now, I recommend using a splatter screen to keep your kitchen from looking like something out of CSI.
I ate my chili with sourdough bread. It was very hearty and tasted great. The long braising makes the beef very tender, even if it’s a tough cut (like chuck) to start with. After I ate all the beef in my bowl, I used up half a sourdough baguette just dipping in the sauce. The balancing of flavors at the end is important for making the sauce bowl-licking good.