My dad sent me a recipe the other day titled “The best chili ever”.
Sensationalist links aren’t usually my thing. But chili, now you’re speaking my language; anything food-related is immediately worthy of attention. Especially chili, which I consider to be a distinct sub-category in my recipe arsenal. I’ve done the time, I’ve studied it like a fine art, I’ve Dutch ovened it, Crock potted it, made it with black beans and pinto, ground beef and cubed chuck. I even made a pretty killer vegan version earlier this year.
But the one thing I’d never tried….Texas chili.
I’ve always thought that bean-free chili would taste a little bit like meat sauce. But when I clicked the link, I was surprised and excited to see that it was a recipe from Tim Love. Tim’s not a household name, but a few years ago he did a stint on Top Chef Masters and I was impressed by his big and bold Texas style.
Given that I don’t spend much time in Texas, I figured that his chili is the closest I’ll come to Tim Love and his cooking.
In true-to-form fashion, I felt compelled to source the exact ingredients called for in the recipe. Lone Star beer? Check. Guajillo and chipotle chilies, check and check. Normally I campaign against laborious, painstaking steps like toasting and grinding my own chilies, but when you’re going for something authentic, cutting corners isn’t an option.
Out came the electric spice grinder from the far left corner of my uppermost cabinet, behind the dishtowels and the citrus juicer. The last time I used my grinder, Y2K was our country’s most pressing issue, and American Pie was #1 at the box office. It still smelled faintly of old spices.
Tim Love’s instructions called for a good canned tomato or to fry fresh tomatoes in peanut oil and peel them myself. Apparently it adds a great nutty flavor. Sorry nutty flavor, no disrespect, but this was one extra step that I didn’t need to add to my already lengthy chili effort.
Beef is critical in this dish, so buy the best available. My butcher Mike carries really good quality beef and homemade beef broth, so off I went. As I walked through the door, my first words to him were “I’m alive” followed by “I need beef!” I still regret that I didn’t inform him about my vegan plans for January. He must have assumed that something tragic had happened when I disappeared for a solid month. With his hearty missing-a-few-back-teeth laugh (and a slight look of relief), he diced some chuck and sent me on my way.
Now that I’d taken care of the beef and broth, I was finally in a position to start cooking.
Gathering my small mountain of chilies (not all of them fit into the picture above), I set to work browning the meat and layering the spices. The smell is out of this world. Proceed with caution if you live in an apartment building, you’re about to make your neighbors heinously and perhaps vindictively jealous.
About a half hour before serving, thicken the chili with ground tortilla chips. I love coming across new cooking techniques. I’ve thickened soups, chilis and stews with everything from a roux to Masa Harina, even eggs, but ground tortilla chips was a first. But the trick works, and adds a nice saltiness to the chili.
Don’t forget Tim’s suggested squeeze of lime to finish the dish. In my margarita haze, I forgot to add the lime when I served the chili to my dinner guests and it does make a difference. My next-day leftovers bowl had a distinctly brighter flavor. Which further highlights my point: Tim Love knows what he’s doing.
Tim Love, your standout cowboy cooking has won you a new fan. For the rest of you, give the dish a try and let me know how it goes…
- 4 medium onions, minced
- 2.5lbs lean beef brisket or equivalent beef cut, rough chopped
- ¼ cup oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tbls guajillo chili, ground
- 1 Tbls chipotle chili, ground
- 1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes, e.g. San Marzano
- 1 28 oz can of tomato puree
- 1 Tlbs cumin
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 Tbls oregano
- 1 tsp dry mustard
- 1 oz tequila
- 1 can Lone Star beer
- 2 oz red chili powder
- 2 cups beef stock
- 2 serrano peppers, sliced
- 20 tortilla chips, ground fine
- Optional: 1 package saltines and/or sour cream
- Using half the oil, brown the beef in a large pot or Dutch oven, it might need 2 batches so that the beef gets nicely browned and doesn’t boil.
- Sautee the onions in the remaining oil until translucent.
- Add the beef back to the pot and stir in the garlic, serranos, oregano, salt, dry mustard, tomatoes, tomato sauce, tequila, beer, chili powder, and beef stock.
- Cook the chili for 15mins, and then add the ground dry chilies and cumin.
- Bring the chili to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer 2hrs or more (I actually simmered for 4 hours because I cooked it well before my guests arrived, if the chili starts to look dry, cover partially with the lid, or add a touch of water).
- About 30 minutes before serving, add the ground chips and stir well. Simmer for 30mins more.
- Add a squeeze of lime to the dish to serve, and if you’d like, a dollop of sour cream. Serve with saltines or with a hunk of grilled bread (which is always my choice).