Beanless beef chili – the real deal!
Beans or no beans? Tomatoes or no tomatoes? These are the first questions most people ask when they ask about chili. If you ask these questions to a Texan, they will almost certainly say no to both!
In fact, some will get mad at the idea of calling something chili if it has beans or tomatoes. It’s not the real thing that way, they'll say.
To be honest, I tend to be a bit more flexible in my chili definitions, but for those diehard chili fans, this is how you make an official bowl of beef chili, or "Texas Red".
The key to any good chili is good chile peppers. Don’t use chili powder! You need the real deal, so get some dried ones (with mild to medium spice) and lay them out on a baking sheet.
Roast them at 325ºF for 8-10 minutes until they are fragrant and then soak them in boiling water for 30 minutes. This will bring them back to life. Be sure to reserve the chili soaking water for later!
When the chiles have soaked, cut off the stems and scrape out the seeds. Then add them to a blender with some cumin, salt, and pepper.
You don’t need a bunch of other flavors. The chiles are really complex and delicious and you want them to shine. Pour in enough liquid from the soak to make a paste and blend it up! I usually start with a half cup but you might need more.
Blend it until it’s in an almost smooth paste. Some small chunks are okay though.
Okay. Let’s talk beef. To be honest, you could use a wide range of cuts here. Sirloin, chuck roast or brisket would work just fine. You really want about a half pound of beef per serving.
Cube up the beef, cutting off any large pieces of fat, and season them with salt and pepper.
Add a good drizzle of oil to a Dutch oven over medium-high heat and brown the beef well on all sides. Work in batches and take your time. Then remove the beef from the pan and set it aside for later.
Turn the heat down to medium on the pot and add another 2-3 tablespoons of oil along with the diced onions. Use the onions to scrape up bits stuck to the pan.
After the onions have cooked for a few minutes, add the garlic and cook for another minute or so.
Add the beef stock, one cup of reserved chile water, and one cup of normal water to the pot along with the beef (and juices) and the cornmeal.
Bring this all to a very light simmer and turn heat down to low. You want it just barely simmering or the liquid will evaporate too quickly.
Cover the chili and cook it on low heat for 90 minutes. That will make sure the beef is fall-apart tender.
After simmering, stir in vinegar and brown sugar and season it with salt and pepper.
Here’s the trick: Turn off the heat now and let the chili cool for thirty minutes (covered). This will give the beef time to absorb all the flavors.
Once the beef has sat for 30 minutes, heat it up again gently over low heat and serve big bowls of it with sour cream, limes, and tortilla chips (or just corn tortillas).
Impress your Texas friends with this one!
Nick will eat any chili, if he’s being honest! Check out his blog, Macheesmo, and follow him on his Tablespoon Profile.