When it gets nice and cold, I usually crave a hearty stew or soup. Gumbo is a labor of love that I usually save for special occasions, so my next best bet is chili. My dad's side of the family has roots in Texas so I am very fond of the rich, spicy bowl of goodness. One thing that I really appreciate is the versatility. Sometimes I use ground bison; sometimes I switch up the chili peppers used. That's part of the magic.
I'm in no way an expert on chili, but I do think I make a damn good bowl.
Texas Beef Chili
3 dried guajillo chiles
2 dried cascabel chiles
3 dried costeño chiles
1 1/2 tablespoons whole cumin seeds
1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds
1 1/2 cups beef stock (i.e. beef bone broth)*
2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce + 1 tsp adobo sauce
4 cloves of garlic
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
1 tablespoon instant espresso or finely ground coffee
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons fish sauce 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar 2 teaspoons smoked paprika 2 teaspoons black pepper
1 tablespoon oregano
2 tablespoons of high-heat oil (e.g. avocado, grapeseed, canola)
3-4 pounds beef stew meat (I prefer chuck)
1 onion chopped
1 bottle or tall can of Guinness Draught Stout
2 bay leaves
Salt to taste
Apple cider vinegar to taste (at most 1/4 cup)
Optional: one cinnamon stick
*Depending on the size and age of the chiles, you may need to add another 1/2 cup of stock to the blender.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 2-4 hours
Yield: 6-8 servings
Preparing the paste: Discard the stems, cores and seeds of the dried chiles. Tear the chiles into small pieces and add to your hot, dry Dutch oven pot, along with the cumin and coriander, over high heat. Toast, stirring frequently, until fragrant.
If you're using the cinnamon in your chili, you can add the stick while toasting the spices and set aside the cinnamon stick for later.
Add the chiles, coriander and cumin to your blender. If your blender isn't super strong, then I suggest grinding the cumin and coriander with a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. You can always add them back in with the other chili paste ingredients later.
In a small saucepan, heat the beef stock to just shy of a boil. Pour the stock over the chiles, cover with a lid and let them sit for about 15 minutes.
You can choose to work on browning your meat at this time or be like me and scroll through social media.
After 15 minutes, add the chipotle chiles, garlic, chocolate, coffee, tomato paste, fish sauce, brown sugar, smoked paprika, black pepper and oregano to the blender. Puree till all ingredients are smoothly blended. Taste and adjust heat level. I ended up adding 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne for extra heat.
Preparing the stew: Pat the stew meat dry and season well with salt. Over high heat, add the cooking oil and let it heat up to just shy of smoking. Add the stew meat and sear for a nice brown crust. This should take about 5 minutes. You're not looking to cook the meat through; you just want a nice sear. Set the meat aside when done.
Depending on the size of your pot, you may need to brown in batches. Overcrowding the pot causes meat to steam instead of brown. If working in batches, set aside the initial browned meat in a bowl or on a plate.
Bring the heat down to medium-high and add the diced onions. Cook until the onions have softened and are slightly translucent (about 5 mins.) Add the meat back in, along with the chili paste. Cook for a few minutes to bring out the flavor and cut the acidity of the tomato paste.
Add the Guinness to the blender and swirl to get the last bits of chili paste. Add the beer to the pot. This will help deglaze the pot and get all the flavor. Make sure the meat is coated with chili broth. If it doesn't look well covered, you can more beef stock.
Bring the pot to a gentle boil, then add the bay leaves and cinnamon (if using). This is a good time to also check if your chili needs more salt. Once it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to a low simmer and cover.
My chili cooked for about two and a half hours. The chili is done when the stew meat is fork tender. I wouldn't go past four hours because the meat can start to dry out. Remove the bay leaves and cinnamon.
At this point, add a splash of apple cider vinegar to cut the richness of the chili. Adjust to your taste.
Like most stews, chili tastes way better the next day. I like to eat this plain but you can also garnish with cheese, scallions, avocado, cheese or whatever else your heart desires!