South of the Mason–Dixon Line, Americans tend to get animated when it comes to food. There are heated debates about barbecue and chili. You see, there are regional specializations when it comes to barbecue that include much more than varied dishes. Think along the lines of varied barbecue philosophies. The same can be said about chili, chili con carne to be specific. That is, chili with meat.
There is “Cincinnati Chili”, which tends to show up in “30 Minute Dinners” cookbooks as “hot dog chili.” It is essentially a ground meat mixture that resembles chili con carne, but is meant to be a condiment. It is seasoned heavily and flavoured such that it would not be eaten on its own. Besides topping hot dogs, this chili variety is served on spaghetti.
A staple of tex-mex cuisine, chili con carne has a long and involved history. One theory about its origins involves nuns and their needing a way to serve cheap cuts of meat. They cooked these lesser cuts with tomato and dried chiles (i.e. dried chile peppers). They thickened the mixture with masa harina. Divine intervention may have been involved.
Another theory involves frontier settlers and their needing shelf-stable instant food during their travels. Dried beef, suet, and salt were pounded together to form bricks. These bricks were then dried. When needed, the bricks were re-hydrated in boiling water.
Either way, Texas-style chili does not include beans. But, beans are a staple of Tex Mex cuisine. The seeming contradiction is a source of significant contention between chili-aficionados.
What said aficionados do agree on is chili should be made with quality ground meat.
That meat should be beef, usually chuck and/or sirloin.
There should be tomatoes.
And, the mixture should be flavoured with chiles, either whole, smoked, or dried and ground into powder (i.e. chile powder).
So yeah…the following chili recipe isn’t exactly authentic. It may even be an abomination.
Sometimes, abominations taste good!
During the summer, we tucked into some very tasty pulled meat tacos at Los Tacos de Mauro (349 Dalhousie Street), a true popup that serves authentic Mexican cuisine during the day. In the evening, the space becomes a Latin dance club, called Discoteka.
Given Mexican is one of the source cuisines for Tex-Mex, I decided to make a chili with pulled and not ground meat.
What You’ll Need:
- 2 racks of beef side ribs.
- 900 mL beef broth
- 4 pork hocks
- 900 mL chicken broth
- 4 fresh chiles
- 2 smoked jalapeno in adobo sauce (and the adobo sauce)
- 1 cup of fresh beans
- water for cooking the beans
- 2 pints of mushrooms
- butter for sauteing the mushrooms
- 2 cups of extra-thick roasted tomato sauce
- salt and pepper for seasoning
- Braise the beef ribs in the beef broth and pork hocks in the chicken broth. This can be accomplished with a slow cooker overnight (6 hours minimum) or pressure cooker.
- Separate the meat from the bone and discard any fat or skin.
- Pull and chop the meat. Set it aside.
- Reserve the braising liquids for another purpose. Defatted, reduced, and clarified, they make great soups for noodles.
- Preheat your oven to 400F and roast your chiles for an hour, or until they are have blackened. Alternatively, blacken your chiles on a grill.
- Remove the chiles to a bowl.
- Cover the bowl with aluminum foil and let the chiles steam for 10 minutes.
- Wearing gloves, seed and peel the chiles.
- Finely chop the chile flesh and set it aside.
- Place a pot of salted water onto a burner and set it to medium heat. Bring the water to a boil.
- Boil your beans in the water until they are tender (3-5 minutes).
- Remove the beans and set them aside.
- Slice your mushrooms and place them in a pan set to medium heat with 3-4 tbsp of butter.
- Sautee your mushrooms in the butter.
- When they have reduced in size by half and coloured, remove them from the pan and set them aside.
- To another pot, one that has the capacity to hold all the ingredients, add your tomato sauce. Ours was made from fresh with roasted tomatoes, garlic, celery, onions, and carrot.
- Place the pot on a burner set to medium heat and bring the sauce up to a simmer.
- Add the chile flesh, 2 smoked jalepenos, and 2-3 teaspoons of adobo sauce to the pot. Taste the mixture and adjust as necessary. Remember, this is the flavour base for the chili.
- Add the meat, mushrooms, and beans to the mixture, stir to combine, and bring everything back up to a simmer.
- If the mixture is dry, add some some of the reserved braising liquid.
- Simmer for 10 minutes
- Again, taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary.
- Serve warm.
This chili is soul satisfying on a cold autumn day: meaty, tomato-ey, slightly smokey, and spicy.
If you prefer some brightness, carefully drizzle in some balsamic vinegar. For anyone who prefers their chili super spicy, serve the chili with a pepper sauce. There is little reason your other diners should to be fire-breathing.
To anyone who is presently seething that I called this chili, please note the title, “chilee” not “chili.”
I promise to make proper Texas-style chili in the near future. It is high time I played with a meat grinder again.
Los Tacos de Mauro
349 Dalhousie Street
Tags: chili, featured, Los Tacos de Mauro, offal, pork hock, ribs, slow cooked, taco, tex-mex