Not surprisingly Texas chili is made with beef. Traditionalists will insist that the beef must be chuck and must be diced not ground. I prefer a leaner cut such as round and am too lazy to dice the meat so I grind it (I don’t own a gun or wear cowboy boots either). The secret to really good chili is not in the meat anyway; it is in the chili powder. And the only way to get really good chili powder is to make it yourself. It is surprisingly easy to do and once you have tried it you will never again use that brown stuff from the supermarket. I do hold to one tradition, however: I cook the beans separately and add them to each serving along with the usual chili condiments of shredded cheese, chopped onion, chopped jalapeño, and sour cream.
- 2 to 2½ pounds beef, trimmed and ground
- Oil, lard, or bacon drippings
- ½ pound onions, 1 large or 2 medium, coarsely chopped
- 1½ ounces assorted dried chiles, I use ancho, pasilla, guajillo, morita, and árbol, 2 or 3 of each
- 2 Tbsp. cumin seeds
- 2 Tbsp. dried oregano leaves
- 5 or 6 clove garlic, minced
- 1 14-ouce can diced tomatoes, preferably salt-free
- 1 12-ounce bottle beer, I use Saranac Pale Ale, our house beer
- 2 cups beef stock or water
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
- 2 Tbsp. masa harina or fine corn meal
- ½ cup cold water
Heat about 1 Tbsp. fat in a large Dutch oven and, working in batches brown the meat well, about 6 minutes per batch. Remove to a colander set over a bowl. Pour off the accumulated fat.
Preheat the broiler. Finely chop the onions in a food processor. Add another tablespoon of fat to the pot and cook the onions, stirring occasionally, union golden brown, about 8 minutes.
While the onions are cooking heat a dry cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. When hot add the dried chiles and put under the broiler for 3 or 4 minutes or until the chiles are fragrant and smoking a bit. Set the skillet aside on top of the stove to cool for a few minutes. When cool enough to handle, remove the stems from the chiles and break them up into the food processor. Chop for a minute or so then finish in a coffee grinder set aside for spices. You should have about ½ cup of chili powder.
In the same skillet you toasted the chiles, toast the cumin seeds for a couple of minute, shaking often to avoid burning. Grind in the spice grinder along with the oregano.
Add the garlic, oregano, cumin, and 5 Tbsp. of the chili powder to the onion in the pot. Stir for about 1 minute then add the beef, beer, tomatoes, and stock. Season with 1 tsp. salt and a generous grind of black pepper, about 1 tsp. Bring to a boil then lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for about an hour adding a bit of water if needed.
When the chili is done, stir in the vinegar. Combine the masa with the water and stir in. Boil the chili for a minute or two to thicken.