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Hearty Chili

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Why I Love This Recipe

This is something that I've cobbled together over the years. It's not strictly Texan but it's far from the ground-beef-Ortega stuff the rest of the country eats. And just so none of the Texans get upset, there are NO beans in this. But it's seriously good and usually comes together with stuff I already have in the kitchen. Serve it with crusty bread or corn bread, maybe some shredded cheese or chopped onions, and a good beer.

Ingredients You'll Need

2-4 strips bacon, diced
2 tbsp peanut oil
1 lb stew beef (chuck or round), cut into 1" pieces
1 med-large onion, chopped fine
1 red pepper, diced
1-2 tbsp chili powder
3-6 garlic cloves, peeled, smashed then roughly chopped
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes with liquid
1 small can (4 oz) diced jalapenos, green chilies, or chipotle in adobo
1 12-oz bottle medium-dark ale (I like Sam Adams Boston Ale)
1 cup water
Salt and pepper, to taste
Cayenne pepper (optional)


Place the diced bacon in a heavy-bottomed dutch oven and then set it on the stove top over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the bacon pieces are nicely crisped and have rendered out much of their fat, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove the bacon pieces to drain, then reserve. Turn the heat to medium-high and allow the residual bacon fat to come to temperature (add 1 tbsp peanut oil if there isn't much bacon fat). Season the stew beef then place half in the dutch oven, taking care not to crowd the pot and making sure to achieve a dark crust on all sides of the cubed pieces, 6-8 minutes. Remove the browned pieces to a bowl and add the remaining beef; repeat, then reserve all browned beef.

Turn the heat to medium-low; allow the pot to drop to temperature, 1 minute or so. Add 1 tbsp of peanut oil if necessary. Add the onion, pepper, and dash of salt and sweat, about 5 minutes, until soft. Adjust heat to medium; add chili powder and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until spices and garlic are fragrant, approximately 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add tomatoes (with liquid) and chilies and stir to combine, taking care to scrape any fond off the bottom of the pan.

Add reserved beef and bacon to the pot, then add the beer. Liquid should just cover all the solids; if necessary, add up to one cup of water to fill it out. Bring to a boil, stir, then drop heat to low. Partially cover, then simmer, stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom, for approximately two hours, or until the liquid has thickened considerably and beef is tender but still a bit chewy. If wishing for a spicier chili, add a pinch of cayenne pepper halfway through cooking, then stir to combine

Chili powder is made by toasted seeded, diced peppers with cumin seeds, letting it cool, and then grinding it with paprika, dried oregano, garlic powder. There are as many variations as there are chefs, and you can find a recipe in any comprehensive cookbook. There are also many decent prepackaged blends, too. I've used Carroll Shelby's Chili Mix, just to name one.

After searing the beef, the pan bottom will be blackened and smoking. In many recipes, this is the time to deglaze the bottom of the pan. However, I find that sweating the onions and peppers over a low heat releases enough moisture to forego this step. Cooking the chili powder and garlic right at the end of the sweat is a great way to amp up the chili flavor, and adding the tomatoes and their liquid immediately after will stop the spices and garlic from burning and getting bitter.

This recipe is infinitely adaptable. It's easily doubled or tripled. Skip the bacon if your doctor tells you to avoid it and just use peanut oil. Less onion, more onion, fresh chilies, etc. Add more or less chili powder and chilies depending on how hot you want it. Make sure to taste it halfway through cooking and adjust spices and seasonings as necessary. I love the flavor that beer lends, but beef stock or water would work fine. For an extra flavor layer, add in 1 tbsp peanut butter, 1 oz bittersweet chocolate, or 1-2 oz black coffee to the simmer and stir to incorporate; the flavor will meld with the chili and not stand out, but still add a very unique taste.

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