Texas-style chili con carne is the subject of many debates. Beans or no beans? Tomatoes or no tomatoes?
My thought on the subject is that Texas-style chili doesn’t have any beans, but tomatoes should be in there. They add depth and richness. Just don’t add too much.
With that being said, if you want beans in your chili, put em in there. It doesn’t seem very Texan to tell a person how they’re supposed to eat their supper.
Manners are more important than what you put in your chili.
What chili con carne is, is simple. It’s just a beef stew loaded up with a lot of chiles.
The key to making it taste excellent is to use quality ingredients and treat them well. By cooking each component properly and adding a small amount of salt to each, we can build the flavors up to be greater than the sum of their parts.
You can get away with not toasting your chiles, but to really bring out their flavor, don’t skip this part.
Toasting your chiles will add complexity, bringing out their natural flavors and adding a bit of smokiness.
To toast your chiles, remove the stem and de-seed them, then press them onto a hot comal or pan with a metal spatula for a couple of seconds on each side.
As you toast your chiles, you’ll notice the color lighten up slightly. Just be careful not to burn them. That’ll add a bitter taste.
Don’t worry about straining your chiles after you’ve blended them. I only bother with that when I’m using guajillos. Their tough skins have a hard time breaking down and can add a graininess.
No worries. There aren’t any guajillos in this recipe.
An important note on dried chiles: Chiles should not be so dry that they shatter like glass when you bend them. They should be somewhat soft and pliable. Overly dry chiles are usually old and have lost most of their flavor. If you don’t have a good source, Ole Rico, out of Laredo, Texas, is available on Amazon and sells very high-quality products.
Use Cubed Beef Instead of Ground
Most people use ground beef for their chili con carne. That’s fine, but cubed beef chuck is much better. If you want to use ground beef to make it easier on yourself, be sure to get coarse ground beef so that you’ll have some texture.
If the beef chuck isn’t prepared correctly, it’ll come across as dry in a stew.
You’ll want to put a hard sear on it. When searing, remember, we want it brown, not gray.
You’ll preheat your dutch oven over high heat, add the oil and wait until it’s almost smoking, then add one-half of your cubed beef. It’ll stick as soon as it hits the pan. That’s okay; just give it a few seconds, and it’ll release.
Once it’s seared until it releases, turn a piece over and check that it is nice and browned. If so, flip all the pieces and sear on the opposite side.
It helps to cook it in two batches to prevent overcrowding the meat. If it’s all bunched up together, it’ll steam instead of browning.
Don’t worry if it looks like the meat has toughened up. It’ll absorb moisture and soften back up as it braises in the chili.
Brown Your Beef Chuck In It’s Own Fat
Fat is where the flavor in meat comes from, no the meat itself.
When you trim your beef chuck, save that fat.
Before you’re ready to start browning your meat, throw the beef fat into the pot and render it over medium heat until it’s release all of it’s liquid.
Once it’s rendered enough fat that you can brown your beef in it (about two tablespoons), throw out the solids, turn up the heat and start browning it.
This will substantially amplify the beef flavor in your chili.
Use Canned Tomatoes
Chili is generally a wintertime food. As such, sourcing decent tomatoes is virtually impossible. Winter tomatoes are usually flavorless and not much use for anything.
On the other hand, canned tomatoes are generally packed at the peak of their freshness and offer much more flavor. Opt for a high-quality canned tomato (you usually get what you pay for).
The Secret Weapons in Your Chili con Carne
I like Sazon Goya con Culantro y Achiote for the addition of the achiote (annatto) and coriander. It adds a little extra flavor and deepens the red color of your chili (people eat with their eyes first).
The real ingredient in Sazon Goya that elevates the taste of your chili is monosodium glutamate (MSG), one of the most common amino acids in nature.
In foods, MSG enhances the savory, meaty umami flavors, which in this case, will make your chili taste even beefier.
I know MSG has a bad reputation, but there is no real evidence that it’s as evil as it’s made out to be.
If you feel you might be sensitive to MSG, leave the Sazon Goya out of the recipe.
The first thing to understand is that a chipotle pepper is just a dried jalapeno, and they come in many forms.
When people think of chipotle peppers, they generally think of the canned chipotles in adobo.
Those are fine, but for this recipe, We’re looking for more of a smoky flavor.
To achieve that smoky flavor, chipotle moritas are much better. They’ll add a tremendous amount of smokiness without adding the tang that comes from the adobo.
If you don’t have a Mexican grocery nearby or they don’t carry them, you can get them from Amazon.
What to Serve With Your Chili con Carne
As I said previously, if you like beans and want them in your chili, do it. Food is meant to be enjoyed. Anybody that doesn’t like it can sit in the corner and eat crackers.
Here’s some other things that go great in a bowl of Texas-style chili:
- Diced avocado: The creaminess balances the chile peppers nicely.
- Chopped white onion: White onions will add a fresh crunch.
- Chopped green onions: Green onions will add more of an herbal quality than white onions.
- Pickled Jalapenos and Carrots: Pickled jalapenos and carrots add a sour zing that pairs nicely with chili.
- Cheese: Cheddar, queso fresco, Monterrey jack.
- Saltines or Fritos: Fritos are my weakness.
- Flour tortillas: Bonus points if you heat them on a cast-iron comal.
- Bread. Chili and masa cornbread or pan de campo is an excellent combination.
Texas-Style Chili Con Carne
- 6 dried ancho chiles - stems, seeds, and veins removed
- 4 dried pasilla chiles - stems, seeds, and veins removed
- 2 dried chipotle morita chiles - stems removed
- 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
- 3 lbs. beef chuck - trimmed of fat (fat reserved) and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 large yellow onions - diced
- 3-4 large jalapenos - finely diced – remove seeds and veins if you want milder chili
- 1 tbsp. tomato paste
- 1 tbsp. ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper - (optional)
- 2 tsp. Mexican oregano
- 1 tsp. black pepper
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 6 large garlic cloves - minced
- 1 15 oz. can fire roasted, diced tomatoes
- 1 12 oz. can Kolsch style beer - I prefer Lawnmower from Saint Arnold Brewery. Substitute an American Pilsner if you can't locate it or another Kolsch.
- 2 packets Sazon Goya - (optional)
- 1/4 cup masa harina - for thickening
- Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of salt evenly over the cubed beef chuck and set aside for at least an hour.
- Preheat a dry cast-iron comal or pan over medium-high heat. Toast the chiles on each side for 2-3 seconds by pressing them onto the comal with a metal spatula (being careful not to burn them). Add to a pot of simmering water and soak for 20 minutes.
- Preheat a cast iron dutch oven over medium heat and add the reserved beef fat. Render until at least 2 tablespoons of liquid is released. Throw away the solids.
- Increase the heat on the dutch oven to high and add one-half of the cubed beef. Cook undisturbed until the meat no longer sticks to the cooking surface and has browned (not grayed) on one side. 3-4 minutes. Flip and cook the other side until it has also browned nicely. Remove and set aside. Brown the other half of the beef, remove and set aside.
- Reduce heat to medium high, add 2 tablespoons of cooking oil. Add the diced onion, jalapenos, and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, 10 minutes, until the onion is translucent and starting to brown. If the onion begins to stick, deglaze with 1/4 cup of chicken stock, then reduce until its almost dry again. Add the tomato paste, cumin, cayenne, oregano, and cook, stirring constantly, an additional 1 minute.
- While the onions are cooking, drain the chiles very well and transfer them to a blender jar, along with 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock, and the garlic. Blend on high speed until very smooth.
- Add the chile puree, the diced tomatoes, beer, and Sazon Goya to the dutch oven and stir very well. Bring to boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for an additional 2 1/2 hours.
- Remove the lid to the dutch oven, increase the heat to medium, and reduce the liquid until it is starting to thicken. 15-20 minutes.
- Sprinkle the masa harina all over the top of the chili, then thoroughly stir it in. Cook an additional 10 minutes, then stir thoroughly again, breaking up any masa clumps you find. Serve.