Cooking With Dried Chiles, Part 2: Chili Con Carne

Categories: Homebrew
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John Linn
A bowl of spicy chile con carne using home-ground chili powder. Nothing's better.
Yesterday, I talked about how to turn dried, Mexican chiles into powder or paste that can be used in any number of dishes. Today, we're going to put those ingredients to use in a batch of chili con carne, Texas-style.

I haven't always made chili sans beans, the method most commonly appreciated by the chili cooks of the Longhorn state. But in recent years I've taken to trying out the various recipes posted on the International Chili Society's website, better known as the home of the annual World Chili Cookoff. The recipe of every WCC-winning bowl of chili is listed here, and if you read them all you'll start to notice a pattern: Nearly all the winners -- and most certainly all of them in recent years -- use tri-tip or sirloin tip roast (ground beef is almost never used). Also, not one of them features beans in the recipe.

The first WCC-winning chili I tried making was 2000 winner from Jim Weller called Macktown Chili. I loved the way Weller's recipe turned out when I recreated it, but chili being the personal and intimate dish it is, I've since modified the formula to suit my liking. Now, it's the recipe I turn to whenever I want to make chili, even though I subtly tweak it almost every time I make it, mostly based on what I have available.

For Super Bowl Sunday, I made a batch of Linn's Macktown using a little chile puree and a whole lot of that chili powder I made the day before.

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John Linn
Cubed sirloin roast or tri-tip works makes a heartier, meatier chili than ground beef.
I started with three pounds of beef sirloin tip roast, which is easier to find and less expensive than tri-tip. The two cuts are nearest to each other and make up a big part of the bottom sirloin. Both have a great, beefy flavor. You can't go wrong with either, in my opinion, though tri-tip is better marbled and thus better for grilling. Since we're cooking our meat in liquid over a period of time, not grilling, tri roast will do just fine.

Cut the meat into half-inch cubes and season conservatively with salt, black pepper, and chili powder. Set your chili vessel (a big, stainless steel pot works best) over high heat and add a few tablespoons of vegetable oil. Sear the meat, working in small batches in order to not crowd the pot (in which case you will end up boiling your meat, not browning it). You're looking for color and flavor on the meat, mainly, and to get rid of any excess liquid that will just water down our chili.

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John Linn
Brown the meat in batches and resist the urge to crowd the pot.
It should take a good five or six batches to brown up all of your sirloin, but once it's done your pot will have all sorts of lovely, charred bits at the bottom of your pot. This is good -- that's mega flavor right there.

Keep the pan over high heat, and add another two tablespoons of oil and one very large white onion, diced. As the onion starts to sweat, add your spices and aromatics. For this chili, I went with:

5 cloves of garlic, minced
1.5 TBS cascabel powder
1.5 TBS ancho powder
1 TBS arbol powder
2 TBS of cascabel and ancho puree
3 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (freeze the rest of the can for a later use)
3 whole jalepenos, slit just under the stem
1/2 can of tomato paste
2 tsp. cumin
black pepper and kosher salt

Allow this mixture to sweat for five to 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Once the onions have started to melt along with the spices into a thick paste, you're ready for the best part: Add half a cup of dark ale, preferably something flavorful like a Brooklyn Brown Ale or a Florida Native 11 Brown. Next, drink the rest of the bottle. You've earned it.


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