I recently started eating beef again, after 18 years of abstaining. Last weekend, I made a big batch of Chili using beef, and it was fantastic. So I thought that was a good excuse to give you my chili recipe.
This is real chili. Up here in NY, usually when you see chili, it’s ghastly stuff. Usually made from ground meat, insane amounts of cumin, and tomatoes, and very, very little actual chili pepper at all. In this recipe, the chili pepper is the main flavor: the entire recipe is based on my favorite chili pepper, the ancho chili. Anchos aren’t
particularly spicy as chilis go; they’re pretty mild, but they have a lovely
flavour. If you want to make it spicier, you can add some minced jalapenos (or if you want it really spicy, a habanero) at the same time that the meat is added back in to cooked vegetables. Don’t overdo it: chili should be spicy, but not so spicy that you can’t taste anything but the heat.
I used hanger steak for it. I’d recommend a similar cut of beef – that is, a cut that’s
sort of tough and a bit fatty. In a dish like this, where it’s going to cook for a long time,
you don’t need to use a tender cut of meat, and in general, the tougher pieces of meat actually
have more flavor. So if it’s going to be cooked for a long time, which will make the meat turn
tender from cooking, you’re much better off with one of the tough cuts.
There are a couple of unusual ingredients. Avacado leaves are used as a spice in some mexican dishes. They’ve got a lovely aroma and flavor, quite unlike anything else that I’ve discovered. Epazote is
a central american herb, vaguely remniscient of oregano, but really quite unique. Achiote is
a spice with a very mild nutty flavor, and an intense red color. And finally, cinnamon – not an unusual
spice, but unusual to use in a dish like chili. Just a pinch of it is used, but it has an amazing
influence on the flavor of the dish.
- 1 lb hanger steak, cut into cubes.
- 2 large dried ancho chilis.
- 2 cups stock.
- 1/2 cup tequila.
- One onion, diced.
- One carrot, diced.
- One tablespoon coriander seed.
- One tablespoon black peppercorn.
- One tablespoon cumin seed.
- 1/2 teaspoon avocado leaves.
- 1/2 teaspoon epazote.
- 1/2 teaspoon achiote.
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon.
- 1 heaping teaspoon flour.
- 1 teaspoon tomato paste.
- 1 can beans, drained.
- Break open the dried chilis, and remove the stems and seeds.
- Put the chilis into a small saucepot, and add enough stock to cover them. Turn on
the heat, and simmer until the chilis are soft.
- Put the chilis and stock into a blender, puree, and then put through a sieve.
- Heat a pot on medium-high heat. Put in all of the spices, and let them toast until they
turn fragrant. Then remove them from the heat, and grind them in a mortar and pestle until
they’re a fine powder. (You can also use a mini food processor, but I find that that leaves things
a bit gritty.)
- Season the beef with some salt. Add oil to the hot pot, and put in the meat, and stir-fry
on medium-high heat until well-browned. Remove from the pot, and drain off any excess fat.
- Lower the heat to medium, put the onions and carrots into the pot, and cook them until they’re
- Re-add the beef, and salt to taste. Then add the ground spices, stir, and cook for a few minutes.
- Sprinkle the flour over the meat and vegetables, and add the tomato paste. Stir in, and let it
start to brown. You should get a bit of stuff starting to stick to the bottom of the pan.
- Add the tequila, stir around, using it to loosen the stuff stuck to the bottom. When it’s mostly
evaporated, add the pureed chilis, and the rest of the stock. Once again, use the liquid to stir up
anything stuck to the bottom of the pot.
- Lower the heat to a simmer. Add the beans. Add salt to taste.
- Taste for spices; depending on your chilis and your tequila, you might need a bit of sugar
if it’s sour. You also might want to add some group chili powder if the chili flavor isn’t
stron enough; some cayenne if it’s not spicy enough, etc.
- Simmer for at least 1 hour. Add stock as necessary if it gets too dry. You want to simmer until the meat is almost falling apart.
Serve it with some fresh chopped cilantro, grated cheddar cheese, and bread.