Oct. 31st brings two traditions to my house. Doling out lightsticks and full sized candybars to the children of the neighborhood, and chili.
A few folks have asked for the recipe, which i don’t really have written down, so i’ll make up for that now:
- 1 lb lean stew beef
- 1 large can of stewed plum tomatoes
- 1 yellow onion
- 1 can of red beans
- Seasonings (these are mostly to taste, but i tend to use in descending amounts):
- Chili Powder (about a tablespoon)
- Optional stuff:
- 1/2 can Lager beer
- Cast iron dutch oven
- long tongs
About the ingredients:
Like with everything else you get out what you put in. If you just grab what’s cheapest at Fresh & Easy, you’re not going to be that happy with what you get out. Meat should be fresh (that means it’s red all over the cuts), the Chili Powder should be actual dried, ground chilis. On that note:
You can usually get this from the butcher counter. It’s usually cubed chuck. Don’t get the ground chili beef since that’s full of silver skin, which gets tough. You may have to trim up the meat to get it to the right size. You want some fat, but you don’t need that much. If you can’t find stew beef, get 1 lb of leaner chuck and cube it yourself. Make sure to remove all the silver skin, otherwise you’re going to wind up chewing some meat gum, and that’s never pleasant.
i like a mix of dried poblano and chipotle, but feel free to experiment. You can usually find these in cello packs hanging in good mercados or the “ethnic” food aisle. Don’t use the pre-mixed “taco seasoning” McCormic crap. That’s mostly salt and MSG. On the plus side, those cello packets usually sell for about a buck each, and you won’t use that much of them, so you’re saving a lot of money by getting the real stuff.
Proper prep will make your life much easier. Cut and clean the meat and set it into a large bowl, Mix the seasonings well and set them into a small dish, dice the onion and set that into a small bowl. Turn on your hood fan and open a window. Open the beer (but don’t start drinking yet). Have the tongs handy as well as some paper towels in case you need to clean anything up.
This is best done in stages, and will take time. This isn’t something you dump in the crock pot. You will be rewarded.
First thing to do is sear the meat. Put the pot on the burner and turn it to high. Once the bottom of the pan reaches about 400° (way past the ‘smoke point’ for oil, that’s why you’re not using any) start placing the meat. It’ll stick hard at first, and that’s fine. Make sure there’s space between the chunks. About when you’ve placed the last chunk, you should be able to turn the first. You’re looking to get a good sear on most of the meat, but not cook it. In cooking terms, you’re “blue”ing the meat. Once you’ve got a good dark sear on the chunks, get them out of the pot and replace them with whatever is not yet cooked.
When you’re about half way through the last batch, turn down the heat on the pot to low. There should be a lot of burnt meat at the bottom. That’s good. It’s also why i recommend a cast iron pot for this. Take the last of the meat out when done. Toss the meat in the spices (or more likely, toss the spices onto the meat) and make sure the meat is coated. You’re going to let the meat juices bloom the spices while you’re cooking the onions.
Speaking of which toss the onions into the pot. You don’t want these to burn (that’s why you lowered the heat), if you think the pot is still to hot, use some of the beer to deglaze and cool the bottom. Plus, beer simmered onions are amazing. Onions take time to cook, so don’t rush this. Plus the longer the meat blooms the spices, the better. Depending on how much you like raw onion, you can either just sweat them or caramelize them. i go for more caramelized, which takes longer, but really brings out the flavors.
Once the onions are done, turn the heat up to medium and add the meat back to the pot (may want to use a spatula to scrape out the juices from the bowl). If you still have beer left, you may want to deglaze the bottom of the pot now and get up all those delicious burnt bits, don’t spend too long doing that you don’t want all the liquid to boil away or the meat to cook. If you don’t have beer, no worries just pour in some of the liquid from the tomatoes.
When you feel like you’ve gotten as much up as you’d like, carefully add the tomatoes and beans, and any extra beer. Bring the pot to a medium boil, then drop the temperature to a simmer. Let lightly simmer for about 3-4 hours or until the meat falls apart. If you don’t want to leave this thing on the stove that long, you can also park the pot in the oven at 250° for that long.
Serve with cornbread, cheese, hot sauce, more beer, and anything else you’d like.