Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Beef chili

I’ve made my own recipe for pork chili for a number of years for our annual New Years “Toy and Game Day.” This being the 27th (and in 3 days Peter’s and my 28th annuiversary), I hauled out my recipe again and immediately decided to reinvent it.

One reason is we had stew beef in the freezer already. Ordinarily I would add a fair amount of chicken or beef broth. However, I wanted a smaller quantity of product and I wanted it to be thick and meaty.

I cheated a little by using jarred salsa verde, but it was just too much labor to make my own. Also, this was a way to add spice. The tortillas add thickness and depth of flavor. I like beans, so there’s beans.

I learned something by watching “Secrets of a Restaurant Chef,” featuring Anne Burrell, on Sunday morning. She was making a Bolognese sauce and strongly emphasized the importance of the browning process. I took her at her word and extended the browning well beyond anything I had previously done. It paid off.

She did one thing I did not emulate: over-salted. I tried a meat rub for steak that I saw her make a while back. The meat was nearly inedible due to the amount of salt. She salted the onion and celery while browning, the beef while browning, and then salted more as broth and water were added later.

I did salt and pepper as things went along, but very judiciously. I think this is my best chili ever. Jack up the heat if you want to, but we were serving this to guests, and took them into consideration.

Chili con carne y frijoles
3 ½ lbs stew beef
1 lge onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, sliced thin
2 16 oz jars salsa verde
2 lge cloves garlic, pressed or finely chopped
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 14.5 oz can navy beans, drained and rinsed
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp red pepper flakes, or to taste
3 corn tortillas, torn into 1” pieces
salt and pepper
Olive oil for browning
Chopped cilantro and sharp cheddar cheese for garnish

Cut the beef into ½” pieces.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a large pot with a heavy bottom. Brown the onion and celery very well over medium-high heat, stirring often. Salt it when you start browning.

Add the beef to the pan, add salt and pepper, and brown until steam stops rising from it. That will mean all the water is gone. Add the garlic and stir it in. Cook for 1 minute.

Add the chili powder, salsa, tortillas, beans and tomatoes. Bring to a simmer, lower the heat, and cover. Maintain a bare simmer and let it go for 2-3 hours until the tortillas have melted and the beef is falling-apart tender.

Check seasonings and adjust. The chili will be relatively mild, depending on the heat in the salsa and the amount of red pepper flakes.

For a free excerpt of my book, “A Year of Food,” in which I opine, report, cook, muse and philosophize about everything that passed my lips for an entire year, write to me at:

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