Chile con Carne

Adapted from an original chili queens recipe in the Institute of Texas Cultures research library. Although the allspice and tomato additions are not in the original, they add a touch of natural sweetness that balances out the heat. To learn about the history of chile read my story, A Pot of Chili and the Invention of Tex-Mex Cuisine.

For the spice powder:
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano

For the chili sauce:
4 dried ancho chiles, stems and seeds removed
4 dried guajillo chiles, stems and seeds removed
2 dried chipotle chile, stems and seeds removed (add more for a spicy chili)
2 chiles de árbol, stems and seeds removed (add more for a spicy chili)
2 cups beef or chicken broth
1 28-ounce can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into ¼-inch cubes
1 ½ pounds pork shoulder, cut into ¼-inch cubes
2 yellow onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
1 12-ounce bottle of dark beer, optional

grated cheddar cheese
minced onion

Toast the cumin and coriander seeds. Put in a hot, dry pan and stir until fragrant. Transfer to a bowl to cool then put in a spice grinder along with the allspice, oregano and garlic powder. Grind finely and set aside.

Stem and seed the chilies. Put in a bowl, cover with boiling water. Allow to sit for 30 minutes until soft and pliable. Remove from the water and blend with the broth, tomato sauce and salt.

Heat oil in a Dutch oven. Salt the meat. Working in small batches, sear the meat on all sides. Transfer to a bowl.

Add the chopped onion and garlic to the Dutch oven and sauté until translucent and they begin to caramelize. Add the spice blend and salt to taste.

Add ½ cup beer and scrape up the brown bits. Reduce completely then add the chili sauce and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer and let it reduce slightly. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Return the meat to the pan. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 ½ hours, stirring frequently and adding more liquid—dark beer preferred—if needed.

Serve as is as the chili queens would, or garnish with onion and grated cheddar cheese. Adding beans to chile con carne is sacrilegious, but it’s okay to serve beans on the side.

Serves 6 to 8

image by Antonio Diaz

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