Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Pleasant Springs Chili

I made this for a church activity a couple of months ago (The 2nd Annual Pleasant Springs Ward Chili & Pie Cook-Off), and this seemed like a good recipe to christen my blog with. I’ve always said that good chili is not simply cooked, it is crafted. I’ve been working on this recipe for years, and I think I’ve finally come up with my final version. Please note that there are no beans in this chili - I believe a good chili either has meat or beans, so if you like meat (and I do), you must leave the beans out!

Ingredients

2-4 lbs of stew beef (chuck shoulder, bottom round, etc.), cut into one-inch cubes
1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt (or 1 teaspoon table salt)
2 jalapeño chilies, seeded and chopped with ribs removed (leave in the ribs if you like it hot)
1 jar (16 oz.) of Pace Thick and Chunky Salsa1 (mild, medium, hot - your choice)
1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce
1 tablespoon chili powder2
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 cup crushed tortilla chips. (I like Tostitos Yellow Corn)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 200°. Toss cubed beef with oil and salt in a large bowl until evenly coated. Heat a large dutch oven over high heat. Working in small batches, evenly brown the beef on all sides3. As each batch finishes, move the browned beef to a clean bowl. Once all beef is browned and in the bowl, reduce heat to medium and add the jalapeño, sautéing until just starting to brown around the edges. Add the tomato sauce and salsa. Use a wooden spoon or spatula and deglaze the bottom (scrape any brown bits off the pot). Dump the beef (and any collected juices) back into the pot. Add the spices and the chips and stir thoroughly to combine. Bake in the oven for 3 hours or until the meat is as tender as you like it4.

Notes

  1. Yes, I call for a jar of salsa. I like Pace and it works well, but that’s not to say others won’t work also. If you are offended by the thought of putting commercial salsa in “homemade” chili, then you can go out to the farms, pick the best produce (in season), and spend 30-60 minutes (depending on how fast you work) cleaning, chopping, and sweating your vegetables. I don’t have the time for that, and since thats exactly what Pace does down in San Antonio, I’ll let them do the work for me.
  2. Homemade chili powder is best. I actually do make my own. You can find many recipes on the internet (Alton Brown’s is good) or you can come up with one on your own. I find a good ratio of spices to be 50% dried & ground chilies and 50% other stuff (cumin, oregano, garlic, paprika, etc.), however it is a matter of personal preference. It is best to toast whole spices in a dry skillet and cool completely before grinding in a spice grinder, coffee grinder, or blender.
  3. The idea here is to brown the beef on the outside without cooking it through. The less cooked the inside of the beef is now, the more tender the finished chili will be. To accomplish this, you want the pot as hot as you can get it. Working in small batches is essential. If you crowd the pot (no space between each piece of meat or the meat not in a single layer), steam and juices will build up that cooks the meat without browning it - which will certainly toughen the meat and reduce the flavor and texture of the chili. Please note that if you do it correctly you will generate some smoke (from the high heat), so you should turn on your range vent and open a window.
  4. If you don’t have 3 hours, you can do 2 hours at 250° or 1 hour at 350. The quicker you cook it, the tougher the meat will be (see #3 above).

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