About Texas Chili…
Since 1977 Chili con Carne has been the official State dish of Texas. What makes this chili unique from other regions is that there are no beans, and this distinction is non-negotiable. If you wish to add beans, go ahead-just don’t try to impress anyone from Texas.
Chili con Carne translates as “chili with beef.” Chili is simply a pepper based meat stew (Guisada), cooked in onions and maybe some garlic and tomato. Chili most likely originates in Northern Mexico and Southern Texas during open range cattle drives. If a steer or cow was injured and had to be put down, this is one of the dishes prepared to cook down tougher parts of the meat to make them tender.
Beans, mainly Pintos (Frijoles), are there own special thing in Texas. We love them so much that we don’t usually mix the two. I do have a recipe on the blog for Cowboy beans if you would like to try them. There is one theory that Chili con Carne originated with immigrants from the Canary Islands who ended up in San Antonio, Texas (there was a group who took up residence in San Antonio just after the civil war). One of the Canary Island (Berber) dishes from this region heavily utilizes finely ground dry cumin seeds, which is one of their signature stews. Add the indigenous chili peppers to the mix and history is made. Indeed by the late 1860 and early 1870’s the chili queens, as they were known, in San Antonio were selling versions in road side stands all over the central plaza and markets. It was not until 1893 and the Chicago Worlds Fair that San Antonio chili was introduced to the rest of the country.
This is an authentic version of that historic chili that builds the intense flavors in stages. This chili is a labor of love which I don’t make very often because it does take a bit of close monitoring to pull it off. Instead of using ground beef, I split the meat part in half using chuck steak and ground chuck to build and extra layer of umami. The key to making this chili, is to watch the fond on bottom of the heavy cast iron pot-it should never burn. Get it dark brown, yes, but not burned.
I’ve up-scaled this chili recipe with beef plate ribs (best cut of beef short ribs), venison, antelope, rattlesnake and even Alaskan moose. What makes this dish truly unique, is the variety of dry chili’s I use when making the chili powder. You don’t have to do this part, as there are several options for an acceptable commercial chili powder. For me, the perfect chili, like the perfect BBQ might only truly exist in dreams. This version of Texas chili will start you on the path to chili enlightenment. Making your own spice chili blend is one of those ways you can attempt to fly a little closer to the sun. Experiment, take notes explore the multitude of chili blends. If you find yourself in chili nirvana one day, shoot me a message and let me know how you got there. This is a dish which may never be perfected…it is difficult to say when the recipe is finished. Maybe you can unlock the mystery of the perfect bowl?
Super Bowl Chili
I call this Super Bowl Chili since it is a tradition in my house to have chili in some form as part of the days festivities.
- 1 1/2 lbs chuck steak
- 1 1/2 lbs chuck, ground
- 1 tbsp black pepper, coarse grind
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- 2 tbsp chili powder, ground
- 1 tbsp onion powder
- 1 tbsp cumin, ground
- 1 tsp cinnamon, ground
- 1/2 cup masa harina, split in 2. Use a 1/4 cup for the chuck steak and 1/4 cup for the ground chuck
- 1/2 cup oil, avocado or vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup lard or manteca
- 4 large red onion, diced
- 5 whole jalapeño peppers, seeded, cored and pith removed, sliced thin can substitute Hatch Sandia chili or Serrano
- 6 clove garlic, minced
- 2 tsp oregano Preferably Mexican oregano
- 1 6oz tomato paste
- 1 20 oz tomato, chopped
- 2-12oz bottles beer, Dos Equis Amber or Shiner Bock (optional) if not using add the equivalent in stock
- 1 quart chicken stock
- 2 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped added at the end, before service
Preheat a large dutch oven or other type of heavy large pot over medium high heat. Add the oil and lard and bring up to temperature. Reduce heat to lowest setting and and prepare the meat(s).
Mix the black pepper, salt, cumin, onion powder, chili powder and cinnamon together and reserve in a bowl. Use 1/3 of the southwestern spice mixture on the chuck steak, 1/3 on the ground chuck and 1/3 on the vegetables when the recipe calls for it.
Roughly measure out the chuck steak. If you are a little over, that's okay. Cut the chuck steak into 3/4-inch cubes. Discard excess fat or cartilage while prepping.
Roughly measure out the ground chuck to match a 50:50 ratio with the chuck steak.
In a large mixing bowl assertively season the chuck steak separately from the ground chuck. You will cook the meat(s) separately to build layers of flavor or fond. Once the chuck steak is seasoned, add half of the masa harina and toss to coat well.
Bring the temperature of the prepared dutch oven or large pot back up to medium-high heat. Add the chuck steak in a single layer across the bottom of the pot and leave without stirring to brown the meat. Cook the meat until you can see a brown crust has formed on the cooking side of the beef. Once it has a nice browned coating turn the meat to cook all sides. This may take a little while, but it is how you build layers of flavor. While the meat is cooking, you can prep the other ingredients to get them ready to add when it is time.
Repeat the same process as mentioned above with the ground chuck steak. Be sure to toss with the masa harina. After all of the chuck steak has been cooked and reserved in another dish, cook all of the ground chuck in the same manner. Once all the ground chuck is cooked, remove and reserve with the chuck steak.
Dice the onions, chilies and garlic to add once all of the meat has been cooked. Stir to incorporate and cook over the same medium-high heat. Add the seasonings with the addition of oregano, tomato paste and chopped tomato. Stir and cook for about 8 minutes, being careful not to burn. If you need to lower the heat, remove the pot from the burner and allow to cool slightly before returning to the flame or element. Cooking the vegetables and spices will help add another layer of flavor.
Once the vegetables are just about cooked and soft, add 2-12oz bottles of amber beer. Stir to mix in while deglazing the fond from the bottom of the pot. This will release all the layered flavors built up to this point. Cook the chili for 8 minutes to allow the beer to release the alcohol and reduce to concentrate flavors. Add the meat back to the pot along with any accumulated juices.
Add the chicken stock and bring to just to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and place a lid on the chili. Allow the chili to steep and cook like this for for 1-2 hours to allow the flavors to marry and for the chuck steak to become tender. After 1 hour check the tenderness of the chuck steak. It should be soft enough to melt in your mouth. Depending on the quality of the chuck steak this is the last thing you are looking for to determine if it is ready to eat. This might take 2-2.5 hours so plan accordingly.
Just before service, stir in the bittersweet chocolate. Stir until it has fully melted and incorporated. The chili is now ready to eat.
I like to take my time making chili from scratch, and preparing it several days before my event. By allowing the flavors to meld in the fridge for a few days gives the chili a much richer flavor. It also helps save time on the day I plan to serve it. All I need to do is reheat and prep up a few condiments to accompany the chili.
Condiments can include shredded cheddar cheese, diced avocado, a selection of your favorite hot sauces, finely minced white onion, cornbread, Fritos, pickled jalapeños, sour cream, saltines (or oyster crackers), crumpled goat cheese, fresh diced Serrano, minced cilantro and even prepared pinto/red/black beans for those who can't live without that version. I've even had a guy show up with some Texas red hots and buns to create a fresh, hot chili-dog.
- A Note about lard.
Lard is a much maligned fat, yet the fear and rumors surrounding lard, simply aren't true. I use non-hydrogenated lard from a local farm, and keep it frozen until I'm ready to use it. Lard contains only 40 percent saturated fat, compared to butter's 54 percent (though this is not to say that lard is better than highly unsaturated omega-3 oils, like olive oil, which are considered the healthiest fats out there).
Lard proponents note that unprocessed lard typically is made up of about 45 percent monounsaturated fats, which are considered heart healthy. Be careful of supermarket lard, as it has often had hydrogenated oil added to make it shelf stable. Since I purchase mine from a local farm, there are no additives. Check with the farms online in your area to see if one is available for you. Most likely there is. I've included a link the farm I use here in Utah in the recipe card. They are happy to ship to just about anywhere.
Dishes made with lard are notably better tasting. I do use lard sparingly, occasionally in pie crusts, tamales and in recipes like this one where I'm looking to be authentic. The key is eat in moderation. Humans have been using lard for centuries. Our bodies know how to process it.