Tuesday, November 16, 2010
With an abundance of beef short ribs in my freezer, I'm always on the lookout for new short rib recipes (read more about that HERE). We're chili fans around here, so when I saw this recipe in Food & Wine magazine, I tore it out and set it aside. Over the weekend, I prepared this chili for my family. I altered the recipe to suit my crock pot, so I didn't have to babysit it on the stove and also for the fact that the short ribs I was using were great big, bone-in short ribs rather than boneless short ribs cut into 1-inch cubes recommended in the original recipe.
I learned a little about Texas-Style Chili otherwise known as Chili con Carne while preparing this recipe. It's quite a bit different from my Midwestern ground beef, cans of beans, tomato-based, seasoned-with-chili-powder version of chili. To better assess the differences, I Googled "Texas-Style Chili" and turned up a description for "Chili con Carne" from Wikipedia. Here is the introductory description, from Wikipedia: "Chili con carne (literally "Chili with meat", often known simply as chili) is a spicy stew. The name "chili con carne" is taken from Spanish, and means "peppers with meat." Traditional versions are made, minimally, from chili peppers, garlic, onions, and cumin, along with chopped or ground beef."
Okay then. I wish that I had researched Texas-Style Chili before I prepared it. If I had known that "Chili con Carne" was supposed to taste like a pepper and meat stew, then I wouldn't have been so surprised by the end result and been compelled to dump in tomatoes and chili powder in an attempt to "Americanize" the dish before putting it in front of "the fam" for dinner. Not that all things Texas aren't American, of course...but there certainly are regional differences in cooking. Silly me, I expected something that tasted somewhat like the chili I am familiar with when I tasted the finished version...not merely a "spicy stew". With ingredients that included a variety of peppers, coffee, pale ale, and chocolate...I expected the flavors to be deep and powerful. Instead, it just tasted a lot like beef stew, minus the veggies. Therefore, I attacked it with tomatoes, fire-roasted green chilies, New Mexican Chili powder, and generic chili powder as I put my own final touches on the recipe. One of my friends was in my kitchen, visiting with me as I finished making this dinner. She had spent some time in Texas and just laughed at me as I kept tasting the chili and then dumping more "stuff" in as I attempted to make it taste more like the chili that I am accustomed to.
The end result was delicious. I really enjoyed the use of short rib meat versus ground beef and the subtle taste of the spices like cloves and cinnamon. They put me in mind of Cincinnati Chili.
Like all of the short rib recipes prepared in my kitchen, I turned this into a 2-day project. Short ribs are time consuming, they need to be cooked slowly and it takes a considerable amount of time to separate the tender, flavorful beef from the bones and fat. Also, since short ribs are not a lean cut of beef, refrigerating any cooking liquid overnight makes the fat rise to the top, therefore easier to remove for a lower-fat finished product.
Here's how it came together in my kitchen:
I began by salting 4-6 lbs. of beef short ribs.
Then I added them to a skillet, heated with a little oil. Brown the short ribs on all sides, in batches if needed. I can only brown 3-4 short ribs at a time in my skillet.
Transfer the browned short ribs to a slow cooker.
While the short ribs browned, I worked on the peppers. The recipe called for ancho, pasilla, and guajillo peppers- 2 of each. I had the ancho covered, apparently the ancho is just a dried poblano. But the other types of peppers in the recipe were nowhere to be found at my local grocery. I just gathered an assortment of peppers from the produce section; poblano, jalapeno, 2 red chiles, a habanero, and one very spicy little green chili pepper.
As instructed, I halved them and cut off the stems.
I removed the seeds and then put them in a skillet to toast until lightly charred. Boy did I get a shock while charring these puppies! I had my over-the-oven vent running, but I noticed that my eyes and nose started to burn where I was working across the kitchen. When I crossed the room and got a little closer to stir them, my throat and lungs were assaulted! I broke into a coughing fit and tears were running down my cheeks. Pretty soon everyone in the house was coughing and choking from the fumes! I had to throw open the doors and windows! Apparently I had toasted up the equivalent of pepper tear gas! Live and learn...
Once the peppers are lightly charred (or as long as you can stand to toast them), cover them with boiling water and let them stand for 20 minutes, until softened.
In the meantime, I sauteed the onion and garlic in the drippings from the short ribs.
Then I added in the spices: coriander, cumin, cinnamon, and cloves and I cooked until fragrant. I removed mine from the heat while I went to work on the chili-ale mixture.
For this, I grabbed a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce.
Take just 2 from the can. These add a little heat, and they also give the chili a bit of a smoky flavor.
Cut them open and remove the seeds.
Then pour a cup of coffee into your blender, food processor, or in my case, the mixing cup for an immersion blender.
Drain the softened, charred chilies.
Add them to the coffee with the seeded chipotles...
Whoa. I betcha that a sip of this little concoction could really light a fire under you in the mornin'! YOW!
You're supposed to mix a pale ale into this mixture before adding it to the onion/spice mixture. I didn't have room in my blending cup, so I just poured this into the skillet with the onions and "stuff".
Then I grabbed for my pale ale. This is a local brew that I picked up at the nearest supermarket.
Measure out 12 oz. and add it to the onion/spice/coffee/pepper mixture.
Add in the chicken stock too, then bring it to a simmer, stirring.
Since I was making this in a crock pot, I poured the hot mixture over the short ribs in the crock pot, rather than simmering everything together on the stovetop for hours as the recipe suggested.
Hours later, when the short rib meat was tender and falling off of the bones, I transferred the meat to a dish to cool a bit before I invested the remainder of a Saturday night in picking the meat away from the fat and bone.
Here's the broth that was left in the crock pot after I removed the meat.
I strained it to eliminate any "undesirable" remaining bits of fat or bone. Then I stashed it in the fridge overnight so that the fat could rise to the top for ease in removal the next day.
When I was finally finished picking off all of the meat, I had around 6 cups. After tasting the short ribs, I gave them a sprinkling of salt to bring out the flavor a little more. The meat went into the fridge overnight too...the "byproduct" you see in the background went into the trash.
Day 2 of Texas-Style Short Rib Chili:
First things first, kindly remove that nice, thick layer of orange fat that has formed atop the broth and discard in the trash. Thank you very much. This is always my favorite step when preparing any short ribs recipe. Don'tcha just wish that it was this easy when it comes to your thighs or *insert your "trouble zone" of preference here.*
Now heat up the broth and add in the short rib meat. Simmer it while you hunt down some masa harina.
THIS is masa harina. Or at least, this is what my husband brought home from the Mexican grocery near his office. I'll take his word for it.
When I posted a Chicken Tortilla Soup recipe earlier this fall, one of my readers commented, "Have you thought of using masa harina instead of regular flour? I use it to thicken my chicken enchilada soup and it gives it a great texture." Then the ingredient she had recommended showed up in this recipe.
It was like the universe was telling me to track down some masa harina. : )
To thicken the chili, you simply whisk the masa harina into 2 cups of the chili broth.
Then you stir it into the chili and let it simmer for 15 minutes or until the sauce thickens.
Finally, stir in an ounce of bittersweet chocolate. As I executed this step, my husband hovered nearby asking, "who thinks of these things!?" Well, Chef Julie Farias, the lady who came up with this recipe, that's who. Although, this is not the first time I've heard of stirring a little chocolate into chili to deepen the flavor.
It looks good, right? Except, for me, it was decidedly un-chili-like. And so I veered from the traditional Chili con Carne (peppers with meat) recipe and I started dumping. First, a can of diced tomatoes. Then, a can of fire-roasted green chiles. A healthy dose of chili powder, both traditional and New Mexico style, quickly followed.
And then it was right...at least for us. A blend of Texas-Style meets the traditional style chili that we are accustom to. I could still taste the very subtle flavors of the cinnamon and clove, but there was tomato there too. I was surprised that all of those "tear gas" peppers didn't really make this dish very spicy. The heat level was relatively mild. My children ate it without complaining.
Topped with some onion and cheese, I thought that this chili was pretty great.
As recommended, we served it with tortillas. Although, I only had flour tortillas, and the Chef Julie suggests corn.
My husband took it a step further, creating a taco and using the chili as filling.
Ahhh. After all of that work, here's my first bite.
Would I recommend this recipe? Sure...at least my version of it. I might suggest a speedier version, substituting lean stew meat or leftover beef or pork roast in place of short ribs. Who wants to spend a whole Saturday night pulling meat from a pile of fat and bone, afterall? That's lame.
Here's the recipe:
Julie's Texas-Style Chili with Beer from Food & Wine Magazine (seriously adapted by me)
2 ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
2 pasilla chiles, stemmed and seeded
2 guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
About 2 cups boiling water
2 canned chipotles in adobo, seeded
1 cup brewed coffee
One 12-ounce bottle pale ale
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
5-6 lbs short ribs
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
Chili powder, to taste (begin with 2 tablespoons)
6 cups chicken stock
1-2 cans diced tomatoes
1- 4 oz. can fire-roasted green chiles
1/4 cup masa harina (see Note) or fine cornmeal
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Chipotle hot sauce
Shredded cheddar cheese, chopped red onion and warm corn tortillas, for serving
1.Heat a large skillet. Add the ancho, pasilla and guajillo chiles and toast over moderately low heat, turning, until lightly charred, about 4 minutes. Transfer the chiles to a heatproof bowl. Cover with the boiling water and let stand until softened, about 20 minutes.
2.Drain the chiles and transfer to a blender. Add the chipotles and coffee and puree until smooth. Add the ale; pulse until blended.
3.Heat the oil in a large skillet. Season the short ribs with salt and pepper and add half to the pot. Cook over moderately high heat (in batches) until browned all over, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to your slow cooker.
4.Add the onion and garlic to the skillet and cook over moderately high heat until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the chili powder, coriander, cumin, cinnamon and cloves and cook until fragrant. Add the chile-ale mixture and the chicken stock and bring to a simmer, stirring. Pour the mixture over the short ribs in the slow cooker. Cook on LOW for 6-8 hours or until the short ribs are very tender.
5. Remove the short ribs to a casserole dish and pick all of the meat from the bone. Refrigerate. Strain the broth from the crock pot and refrigerate overnight.
6.Skim fat from the broth and discard. Bring broth to a low boil. Measure out 2 cups and set aside. Add in the short rib meat and 1-2 cans of diced tomatoes and green chilies. Simmer.
5.Ladle 2 cups of the sauce into a heatproof bowl and whisk in the masa harina. Whisk the mixture into the pot and simmer until the sauce thickens, 15 minutes. Stir in the chocolate until combined. Season the chili with salt and hot sauce; serve with cheddar, onion and tortillas.
The chili can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.
Masa harina, a type of corn flour, is available at Latin American markets and many supermarkets and health-food stores.