I couldn't be more in the spirit to cook a ranch-style dish like chili con carne this week. After an amazing weekend in Zion National Park and a night on a buffalo ranch, I am really in the mood to make this truly western dish! For a chili closest to what one would find in Texas, I adapted a recipe from Homesick Texan. It includes more unusual additions like coffee and chocolate, but these deep, bitter, and bold flavors really add an element to the sauce that works just like it would in a Mexican mole.
The sauce is primarily made of dried chiles, most of which you can find in the ethnic aisle of mainstream supermarkets or Mexican markets. If you have access to a Mexican market, I would highly recommend you go there to source your chiles. Chiles do not stay fresh on a shelf for very long so it's important to get them from a place you know has high turnover. Also, many Mexican markets will have large bins of dried chiles that you can feel, smell and touch to ensure freshness.
When picking out dried chiles, choose chiles that:
1) are pliable. They shouldn't be brittle or break. If they do, they're old and have lost their flavor.
2) have a fruity spicy aroma to them.
Don't be intimidated by the long list of ingredients. Once you have the chile sauce prepped, the whole thing just sits atop your stove and stews for hours. Couldn't be easier, right?
- 8 pasilla chiles or ancho chiles (or a mixture of both, depending on what you're able to find)
- 4 guajillo chiles
- 4 chiles de arbol
- 2 chipotles in adobo (these come sold in a small can)
- 4 slices of bacon, diced
- 4 pounds of chuck roast, diced into mediums-sized cubes
- 1 large yellow onions, diced
- 6 cloves of garlic, finely minced
- 1 cup of coffee, brewed
- 1 12 oz bottle of beer
- 1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp of ground clove
- 1/2 tsp of ground allspice
- 1 tsp of ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp of cayenne
- 2 tbsp of ground cumin
- 1/2 tablet of Mexican hot chocolate (try Nestle's Abuelita or Moctezuma brand, which are widely available at Mexican markets. If you cannot find them, you can substitute with semi-sweet chocolate and a little pinch of cinnamon)
- 1 tbsp of sugar
- 1/4 cup of ketchup (I know some purists would say that no chili con carne should have tomatoes, but it tastes damn good, so who cares, right?)
- salt to taste
- finely diced onions
- shredded cheddar cheese
- corn tortillas
Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat (or other thick-bottomed heavy pan) and toast your pasillas, guajillos, and chiles de arboles for a couple minutes on each side until they become fragrant and more pliable. Cover them with water and allow them to soak for 30 minutes.
In a separate Dutch oven or other heavy thick bottomed pot, heat your bacon over medium heat until it is browned and crispy. With a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and set aside, leaving the bacon grease behind. Turn the heat up and start to brown the chunks of beef on each side. Do this in batches so you don't crowd the pot, otherwise your meat will just steam.
After you've removed your beef, add the onions and sauté until translucent. Add your garlic and cook for a couple more minutes. Put the beef and bacon back in the pot and fill with 2 cups of water, beef, beer and coffee and all the spices. Stir to incorporate and bring to a boil and lower the heat to a simmer.
Drain your chiles and discard the chile stems. Place them in a good blender along with the 2 chipotles and a cup of water and blend until very smooth. I love my VitaMix (aka “la machina” because this thing could liquefy stone, I highly recommend it!). If you don't have a very good blender, just blend it as far as you can and drain the mixture through a sieve to remove any tough bits. Pour the mixture into the pot and stir. Bring the chili to a simmer and cook for about 3 1/2 hours on low heat.
Add water along the way if it starts drying out. Taste the sauce and add salt or more of any other spice you'd like. Stir in the sugar, ketchup and chocolate. Stir and simmer for another 30 minutes. Top with shredded cheddar cheese and finely diced onions and serve with warm corn tortillas.
Enjoy right away while the cheese is melty gooey…