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One of my readers wrote in search of a recipe for bean-less chili that harkened back to her family’s Sunday dinners 25 years ago. Chili without beans is a-okay with me, so I worked up this richly flavored version made with beef skirt steak (you can also add a bit of bison steak if you have some) and loads of handmade chili paste. I use a combination of ancho, New Mexico, cayenne and arbol chilies for the paste, but you can vary the heat and flavor by experimenting with other varieties of dried chiles, such as pasilla or guajillo.
You’ll soak the dried peppers first. Then, brown the meat and simmer it to tenderness in the chili-soaking broth. Finally, blend the soaked peppers, garlic and spices to make the paste which you’ll add to the chili pot for a ½ hour more of simmering. That’s when the flavor really blooms! Not burn-your-mouth spicy, this beautiful chili has a deep, dark warmth. It’s good plain or served over rice with chopped white onion and shredded cheddar.
Chili Con Carne with Homemade Chili Paste
This vintage beef chili is made with beef skirt steak and a flavorful mix of handmade chili paste, cumin and herbs. I usually use a combination of ancho, New Mexico, cayenne and arbol chilies, but you can vary the heat and flavor by using other varieties such as dried pasilla or guajillo.
- 6 dried ancho chilies (1, 3-ounce package)
- 8 dried red chilies (chile arbol) each about 2 inches long
- 2 dried cayenne peppers (optional)
- 3 dried New Mexico chiles
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil, divided
- 2 1/2 pounds beef skirt steak, cut in small pieces, divided OR combination of skirt steak and bison steak
- 3 bay leaves, finely crumbled
- 1 Tbsp. cumin seeds
- 3 Tbsp. minced garlic
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 Tbsp. smoked paprika
- 2 Tbsp. sweet paprika
- 2 Tbsp. sugar,
- 1 Tbsp. salt
- Optional: 1 to 2 Tbsp masa harina for a thicker chili
- Garnish with grated cheddar and chopped onion
- Hot cooked rice to serve
- Wearing gloves, tear each dried chili open; brush out and discard seeds and stems. Crumble chilies coarsely; drop in bowl and pour 3 cups boiling water over all. Cover with a plate and let soak at least 30 minutes while you brown the meat.
- In a Dutch oven over medium heat, add 1/2 of the oil and 1/2 of the chopped beef. Saute until browned, but not cooked through. Repeat with remaining oil and beef. Turn off heat.
- Strain chilies capturing the liquid in a bowl. Set softened chilies aside.
- Add 2 1/2 cups of the chili soaking liquid to the browned beef in the Dutch oven. Bring to a boil over high heat. Immediately reduce heat to low. Add crumbled bay leaves. Simmer, covered, for 1/2 hour or until tender, stirring occasionally.
- In small, un-greased skillet, toast cumin seeds over low heat 10 minutes, shaking pan frequently. Drop seeds into coffee grinder and pulse to a fine powder. Add ground cumin, to the softened chilies and remaining soaking liquid with paprika, garlic, oregano, sugar, and salt. Add 1/2 cup of the broth from the Dutch oven and blend chili mixture to a smooth paste. Stir paste into meat. Add 1/2 cup water. Simmer, partly covered, 30 minutes. If too thick add a bit more water as it cooks down. For a thicker chili, stir in one to two Tbsp. masa harina during last 10 minutes of cooking. To serve, ladle chili into bowls on its own, or mound rice in serving bowls, and ladle chili over. Garnish with chopped onion and cheddar cheese.
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