The headline says it all. Today I am entering my first ever cook off of any kind and it’s a chili cook off. Cook offs are not new to me although entering one is untried. I’ve attended my share of chili and gumbo cook offs. Never heard of a gumbo cook off? Well, where I grew up it is a traditional occurrence. Oh, FYI, tomorrow I will be concocting my Dad’s award-winning shrimp and sausage gumbo. We will be enjoying a spicy bowl of it during the Super Bowl. I will be glad when Super Bowl is over this year as our news stations are deluged with “Super Bowl” topics and criticisms. You will want to stay tuned for that recipe!
So back to chili cook off madness. Actually the madness has been minimal around the Orange Bee kitchen but I’ve spent umpteen hours getting my chili just perfect for tonight’s judging. I do realize that judging is subjective and the judges might be partial to beans in their chili, or hotter chili, or soupier chili (yuck), or chili with lots of tomatoes and beans, or, or, or…The chili I am entering is thick and dark red in color, derived from the roasted and freshly prepared chili paste, full of hand-cut beef, not ground beef or even chili cut. It is a “no frills” chili but heck is chili supposed to be frilly? I think not!
The uncommon weather we have experienced this week played perfectly into my hands. What better time to stay in the kitchen and whip up some chili?With below freezing temps, streets covered in solid ice and 6″ of snow on top of that I have been happy to stay in mi casa. You will want to know that a single batch of this chili will feed four people one small bowl each and I guarantee you that is not enough, especially if you are feeding men! I tripled the recipe for cook off purposes. At first glance you may feel that it is too much labor to make the chile paste. Let me assure you it is well worth the effort you will put forth. The smoky, chile flavor is evident as the chiles begin to roast on the stove top. Once they soak and are pureed the piquancy permeates the kitchen and you’ll wonder why you’ve never made chile this way before!
Time is fast approaching for me to deliver my chili to the judging station. I will leave you hanging with the recipe for now but will return later tonight with results of the cook off. Wish me luck! Remember comments are always welcome!
True Texas Chili
6-8 dried whole chiles (I use guajillo)
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin seed (I grind my own in a mortar and pestle)
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
5 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 1/2 lbs. boneless beef chuck, trimmed of fat and cut into 3/4″ cubes
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups beef stock (I use low sodium and have more on hand)
2 cups water *(this will vary depending on how thick you like your chili)
2 tbsp. masa harina
1 tbsp. firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 tbsp. white vinegar
Garnish: sour cream and lime wedges
Place the chiles in a straight-sided skillet over medium-low heat and gently roast the chiles until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes per side. Do NOT burn them. Place the roasted chiles in a bowl and cover with very hot water, place a plate over the top to hold the chiles down in the water and soak for 15-30 minutes, or until soft.
Drain the chiles; split them and remove the seeds and stems. Be careful not to wash away the flesh when rinsing seeds out. Place the chiles in a blender, add cumin, black pepper, a teaspoon of salt and 1/4 cup water. Puree the mixture, adding more water if necessary to form a smooth, fluid paste. Scrape down the sides of blender jar and purée until only small flecks of skin remain. Set the paste aside.
Return the skillet to medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons of oil. When it is hot enough add half of the beef. Brown lightly on all sides, reducing heat if it starts to burn. Transfer browned meat to a bowl and repeat until all beef is browned. Set aside.
Returning the skillet back to a medium-low burner, add another tablespoon of oil and add the onion and garlic; cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the beef stock, and whisk in the masa harina to avoid lumps. Add the reserved chile paste, scraping the bottom of the skillet to loosen any browned bits. Add the reserved beef and any juices accumulated in the bottom of the bowl and bring to a simmer over high heat. *(At this time you ‘ll need to determine how much water or broth to add to achieve your desired thickness.) Reduce heat and maintain the barest possible simmer, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender and sauce is thick. About 2 hours. *(Add more broth or water as needed to obtain your favorite thickness during these 2 hours.)
When beef is tender stir in brown sugar and vinegar and give it a taste test. At this time you may desire to add more salt or pepper; depending on personal taste. This is also a good time to determine once and for all if you want more liquid or not.
When ready to serve, garnish with a dollop of sour cream and a lime wedge.