By Lindsey Peterson, WCCO Radio Assistant Program Director
This past weekend, as temps fall a bit and football games kicked off, I like so many others walked into the kitchen thinking chili. But I’m a lover of real, traditional Mexican food. Not Tex-Mex either (which is fine). If you’ve eaten at a real Mexican restaurant and ordered a taco, you were probably shocked to find it sparse. Meat, onion, cilantro, maybe radishes? No cheese, No sour cream. No tomatoes. No shredded lettuce. It’s all about using good, simple ingredients that compliment each other. Not just chucking in whatever you have in the kitchen. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that kind of chili. It can be amazing. But I wanted something more…..real, I guess. So like I’m want to do, I researched for a while before firing up the stove. Here’s what I found and boy was it good!
Traditional chili, the real-deal south-of-the-border kind, does NOT have beans. It does not have anything other than chili peppers and meat. Beans are filler. This does not need filler, I assure you. Chili Con Carne is literally translated as meat cooked in chili’s. That’s what this is all about. The tomatoes, onions, cocoa and garlic give this more depth in my opinion and they really are traditional to Mexican cooking anyway. So to me, it fits.
Chili peppers….there are a ton. Do yourself a favor and do some research (here’s a good place to start). Then go to a Mexican grocery. There’s a great one in the Midtown Global Market in South Minneapolis and many major grocery stores carry at least some of the dried chili’s now. You’ll find big bags of dried chili’s that look like they’re mummified. All they need is a little love and back to life they come!
They’re not all about being super spicy either. They can be delicious, complex and fruity. Before you make this, and decide you don’t need to worry about these weird dried chili’s, take a moment to reconsider. It is so worth the extra effort.
The Pasilla and Guajillo that I used are not “hot” per se, just spicy and somewhat intense, bordering on bitter at first. The Ancho Powder has slightly more heat than usual Chili Powder but much, much more flavor (although Ancho’s are known to vary widely in heat intensity so taste it!). The Pasilla, Guajillo and Ancho make up the “Holy Trinity” of Mexican Mole, the incredibly complicated, intensely flavorful master sauce that can be life-changingly good. So that’s why I use it in the chili. It’s awesome with the tender braised chuck. I throw in one Jalapeno just for a little extra kick. Leave it out if you want. But if you like more heat, add Arbol or even a Serrano or (God Forbid!) a Habanero. It’s up to you and how you like your chili. My chili eating crew at home prefers less heat so the recipe above may not have the bite some of you like. Your call!
As for the meat, you COULD use ground beef. And if that’s what you want to do, go for it. It’ll taste fine. But there’s something so darn satisfying about taking your spoon, and finding a tender, juicy chunk of braised beef, and cutting it with the spoon! If you’ve come this far, go a little more. Get a nice piece of Chuck Roast. Cut it up into small pieces and PLEASE leave some of the fat on there! Fat is not bad for you especially in a stew like this. It just adds more flavor. The big chunks of fat, of course, cut away. The braised beef makes this primal and satisfying like the ground beef just can’t accomplish.
Serve it with whatever it is you like with chili. Cornbread would be great. I like Blue Corn Tortilla Chips. Get crazy too. It’s fall and squash is everywhere. Put it over some roasted Acorn Squash and you’d have a heckuva dinner. Enjoy!
Chili Con Carne:
3 pounds Chuck Roast, cut into ½ inch cubes
1 Onion, diced
1 Green Pepper, diced
1 Jalapeno, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 dried Pasilla Pepper
1 dried Guajillo Pepper
(or any combo of your choice)
1 can diced tomatoes (get organic and fire roasted…it will make a difference)
2 tablespoons Chili Powder (good chili powder…buy it in bulk at a co-op)
1 tablespoon Ancho Chili Powder
2 tablespoons Cocoa Powder (or just some shaved dark chocolate….trust me)
1 tablespoon Cumin
1 tablespoon Paprika
1 tablespoon dried Oregano
1 cup stock (chicken, vegetable or beef, whichever you prefer)
Olive Oil or Coconut Oil (don’t use Vegetable or Canola Oil…ever…it’s not as good for you)
Dutch Oven or a Heavy, Sturdy Pot
1. Place dried peppers in bowl and cover with boiling water…soak for 20 minutes. Let cool. Remove the stem and as many of the seeds and membranes as you can.
2. Ground beef in oil, add good amounts of salt and pepper and remove to plate
3. Add onion and green pepper and sauté until just browning
4. Add Jalapeno, garlic and spices, reduce heat to low to avoid burning the garlic and spices.
5. Place re-hydrated peppers, about half a cup of soaking liquid and can of tomatoes to blender. Blend until very smooth.
6. Pour pepper/tomato mixture through a fine mesh strainer to catch the seeds and skin (this is a must). Pour strained liquid into pot.
7. Add beef back with about a cup of the stock (more if it looks dry still)
8. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to very low. You want to cook this a long time. It’s worth it. Keep the temp low. If your stove won’t go low enough, place in a 200 degree oven.
9. Place the cover mostly on (leave it vented) for about an hour until liquid has reduced slightly. Then fully cover for two hours or until meat is falling apart.
10. Remove cover and reduce until just thickened (if necessary)
11. Serve right away or refrigerate after cooling. It gets better if you put it in the fridge overnight and reheat.