March 09, 2011

Mega-Meaty Chili with Beans

I haven't made chili very often this winter.   That's mostly a reflection of how many other things I've been cooking, but it's still sort of unusual, because even during years when I wasn't cooking much, I usually made chili several times over the course of a winter.  Last weekend I decided it was about time I made some chili again.

I decided I wanted to make a really meaty chili, one strongly based around the meat, as in a Texas chili.  However, I also wanted to feature some beans, which is not how chili is done in Texas (there one often serves chili atop beans, or rice).  Finally, I decided to make a chili with a fair bit of heat and a strong presence of fresh chili peppers rather than just a lot of powdered chilis.

The recipe I came up with met all those criteria.  I used three meats - bacon, ground pork and cubes of beef - plus beef broth and beer (I used a bottle of Sam Adams Boston Ale) to give the chili a rich, meaty flavor.   I diced up several jalapenos for heat and chopped a couple poblano peppers for color and extra flavor, and I stirred in some beans toward the end of the cooking time, which would keep them from getting over-cooked.

The end result was a hearty, thick chili with rich, meaty flavor, a good (but not overwhelming) amount of heat and a bit of smoky undertone thanks to the bacon and the chipotle.  We topped it with a bit of extra-sharp cheddar and big dollops of sour cream that contrasted nicely with the spiciness.  I was very pleased with how this chili turned out.  

Mega-Meaty Chili with Beans

yield = 8 hearty servings

4               pounds lean beef, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1               teaspoon table salt
1               teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
6               ounces bacon, diced into 1/4-inch pieces
1               pound ground pork
1               tablespoon vegetable oil (if needed)
2               medium onions, chopped fine
5               jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
2               poblano peppers, seeded and chopped
3               tablespoons ancho chili powder
1               teaspoon chipotle chili powder
2               teaspoons minced garlic
2               teaspoons Mexican oregano, crushed
1 1/2         teaspoon ground cumin
1               can (6 ounce) tomato paste
1               can (15 ounce) whole, peeled tomatoes, chopped
1               bottle dark beer
2               cups beef broth
1               tablespoon sugar
4               cans (15.5 ounces) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1               cup freshly-shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
                 sour cream or other toppings as preferred

Toss the beef with 1 teaspoon table salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper, then set aside.

Cook the bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium heat.   Transfer cooked bacon to a paper towel-lined plate.  

Remove all but a tablespoon or so of the bacon grease, increase heat to medium-high, then cook the beef in batches, browning it on all sides.   Transfer browned beef chunks to a bowl.  When the beef is all browned, add the ground pork to the Dutch oven and cook until browned.  Transfer the pork and the bacon pieces to the bowl with the pork and set aside.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

If there is not enough fat in the Dutch oven, add up to 1 tablespoon vegetable oil.  When the oil is shimmering, add the onion, jalapeno and poblano.  Cook until the onion has started to brown, about 8 minutes. 

Clear a space in the middle of the pot and add the chili powders, garlic, oregano and cumin and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. 

Add tomato paste, cook another 30 seconds, then add the canned tomatoes, beer, beef broth and sugar. 

Add the cooked meat to the Dutch oven.  Stir to mix and cook until simmering, then transfer Dutch oven (without lid) to the oven and cook 45 minutes.   Remove the Dutch oven from the oven, stir in the beans, cover and return to oven and cook another 30 minutes. 

Remove from the oven, stir in 1/2 cup of the cheddar cheese, cover and let rest at least 20 minutes, then serve.  Alternately, allow the chili to cool overnight, then reheat and serve the next day.

Cook's Illustrated's choice for commercial beef broth is Rachael Ray Beef Stock in a Box.  I agree with their pick.  This brand has the richest flavor of any beef broth you can find in a supermarket, and it doesn't have any of the tinny flavor common to canned beef broth.

Kitchen Tips:
1.  For an easy way to chop up a can of whole tomatoes, use your kitchen shears to chop the tomatoes while still in the can.

2.  Chili is usually cooked on the stove top, but this often results in a fair amount of burning to the bottom of the pot.   One can get a more even, steady heat while preventing this burning by putting the chili in the oven to cook once most of the ingredients are added. 

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