|David Wright's Chile Con Carne|
First step: Toast some dry chiles in a hot, dry skillet by holding them down with a spatula for a minute or two until they begin to smell good. Put them into a bowl and pour boiling water over them. The chiles float at first, so I put a smaller bowl over them to keep them under water. I like to use a mixture of anchos, New Mexico, and chipotles (dry, not canned), maybe 5-6 in all, only because these are usually at hand. Use any combination you can find locally.
Second step: Cut the beef (I use a 2 pound shoulder roast) into cubes of about 1/4-1/2 inch. Brown the beef in a heavy pot (I use a cast-iron Dutch oven). Add a chopped onion and 2-3 minced cloves of garlic. Just let the meat "sweat" till the water boils away and the meat browns some. Add about a tablespoonful of ground cumin, almost the same amount of dried oregano leaves, or twice as much chopped, fresh oregano. Use Mexican oregano if you can get it -- You might possibly find some at a local nursery and grow it yourself. It's a perennial and has a pretty, lavender flower.
Third: While the meat is cooking down, take the stems off the now-softened chiles and process them with up to a cup of the soaking liquid to make a paste.
Next: Add water to the meat to cover, plus a little more, and put in a quarter cup or more of the chile paste.
Alternatively, use ground chile powder. If I do that, I prefer pure ground chile rather that the commercial "chili powder" that has other stuff added. But the paste makes a better tasting final product, IMO.
Then: Let it simmer for an hour or so, checking the water level frequently. Test the flavors after about an hour and add more chile paste, cumin, etc., salt and pepper to taste, and put in a tablespoon or more of masa harina slurried with water (masa harina is commercial corn flour for making tortillas and tamales; not the same as corn starch). If you can't get it where you are, use all-purpose flour instead, but masa harina adds a nice corn flavor as it thickens the chili. Keep cooking till the meat is tender.
This is almost as basic as you can get. There are some who insist that proper chili con carne is just that -- chile, beef, and water. I've evolved this method over the years, though, and am happy with it. I have an idea that the Chili Queens who used to sell chili from carts or food stands in downtown San Antonio wouldn't look down on my version. Some people like tomatoes in their chili, but I don't, nor do I put in beans or chocolate or peanut butter.
I do like pinto beans as a side dish, though, along with plenty of corn tortillas and fresh salsa. And beer.
My advice is to stay as far away as you can from cannned stuff when you make your chili con carne.
From: david wright, email@example.com
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