Chili con Carne

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Ingredients | Peppers, Chile, Dried Image

(American Tex-Mex spicy beef stew)

It's a little unclear where chili originated. The combination of powdered chiles and meat is likely an ancient one, familiar to the Aztecs and the Maya. But in its current form, chili seems to have started somewhere along the U.S.-Mexico border. Mexicans generally shun it as American. Most Americans are fine with that and regard it as their own.

6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

  • Oil -- 1/4 cup
  • Beef chuck or blade, cubed or chopped -- 2 pounds
  • Onion, chopped finely -- 1
  • Garlic, minced -- 2 to 3 cloves
  • Dried chile peppers (ancho, New Mexico or guajillo) -- 4 to 6
  • Coriander, ground -- 1 tablespoon
  • Cumin, ground -- 2 teaspoons
  • Oregano -- 1 teaspoon
  • Tomatoes, chopped -- 2 cups
  • Tomato sauce -- 1 cup
  • Water -- 2 cups
  • Salt and pepper -- to taste

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the beef and brown on all sides. Remove to a plate or bowl.
  2. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until the onions are cooked through and just begin to brown, 8 to 10 minutes.
  3. While the onions are sautéing, toast the dried pepper pods lightly by waving them over a burner flame or pressing them down into a hot skillet with a spatula. The peppers are ready when they are softened but not burned. Using gloved hands, remove the stems and seeds and discard. Chop the peppers into small pieces. Add the peppers to a spice grinder, food processor or mortar along with the the coriander, cumin and oregano. Process or grind to a powder.
  4. Stir the chili powder into the sautéing onions and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Increase heat to medium and add the chopped tomatoes and tomato sauce to the pot. Let cook down a bit, 4 to 5 minutes.
  5. Add back the browned meat, water, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the beef is tender. Add water as necessary.
  6. Adjust seasoning and serve immediately. Or for even better flavor, refrigerate for 1 or 2 days before reheating. Serve with a side of pinto beans, tortilla chips or cornbread.

Variations

  • Texas-Style Chili: Purists say real Texas chili has no beans or tomatoes, only chiles and meat. The meat should be cubed or roughly chopped to the size of a pecan. Never, ever use ground beef. (A lot of Texans out there break the no-beans rule.)
  • Cincinnati-Style Chili: Use ground beef, add a little more water, 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. Serve Cincinnati-style chili with oyster crackers on the side.
    • One Way: bowl of chili.
    • Two Ways: chili over spaghetti.
    • Three Ways: chili over spaghetti and topped with cheese.
    • Four Ways: chili over spaghetti and topped with cheese and chopped white onion.
    • Five Ways: chili over spaghetti and topped with cheese, chopped white onion and kidney beans.
  • Chili with Beans: Add 2 cups of cooked pinto beans to the simmering chili.
  • Vegetarian Chili: Eliminate the meat and add 4 cups of cooked pinto or black beans. You can also add 1 cup of bulgur wheat that has been soaked 1/2 hour in warm water. No need to brown of course.
  • Chili Dogs: place hot dogs in buns and top with Cincinnati-style chili and grated cheddar cheese.
  • Chili Fries: top French fries with Cincinnati-style chili and grated cheddar cheese.
  • All kinds of meats are used for chili. Some of the more common are ground beef or turkey, chopped or ground pork or chicken and chopped venison or elk.
  • Substitute 1 to 2 tablespoons of paprika for the dried chiles if you like. While homemade chili powder produces the best flavor, most people use commercial chili powder. This recipe would need about 2 to 3 tablespoons -- don't skimp. And eliminate the coriander, cumin and oregano listed above.
  • To add more heat to your chili, stir in some chopped chipotle peppers in adobo, red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper or a few drops of hot pepper sauce.
  • Other possible additions are beer, red wine, dark chocolate and corn kernels. Sometimes fresh corn masa or masa harina is stirred in to thicken the chili.

Notes

  • Chili is the official state dish of Texas, and the recipe above is for Texas-style chili. Purists say a real Texas chili should only contain meat and chilies and no beans, tomatoes, onions or garlic. But Texans often break their own rule.
  • Cincinnati-style chili is a thinner version that was developed in that Ohio town in the 1920s. It has since become popular around the upper Midwest.
  • A large batch of chili is often made to eat during the American Super Bowl football game.
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