Saturday, June 11, 2005

More CHILLI CON CARNE Corrections/Suggestions

An email from a reader just received -- a response to my original recipe here:

The cumin seeds should be changed to crushed cumin, and I disagree with Big Gold Dog, in that crushed cumin seed is widely available all over the South West United States. The addition of cinnamon is usually a Northern invention (read Damn Yankees) and finally the entire concept of Chili is utterly disowned in Mexico. They want nothing to do with the dish.

There is an ongoing range-war between Texas and New Mexico as to who makes the best Chili Con Carne. Finally, sugar is allowed in some recipes (depending on taste and it's in mine) but tomatoes never are allowed in any chili competition I have ever seen. Beans are almost universally frowned upon and finally dump the ground beef, only use cubed beef, the cheaper the cut the better. You will notice the difference.

Next, bacon grease is a big factor in how your chili will taste and vegetable oil is a poor substitute.

Finally I use this stuff called "Better than Bouillon". It's like Bouillon cubes, but much richer tasting. If you can't get that in your country, then just used a few cubes of beef bullion and you will be fine.

Here is my best and most traditional (tasting) recipe for Chili Con Carne. You can post round two of the chili wars if you want, as most people never have a real bowl of red and are surprised as to what it actually tastes like. Hint: It's not low-fat.

I made a chili con carne kit for a girlfriend and this is what I put in it. Now her stuff was all prepackaged by me, but if you have access to real chili powder (not cayenne pepper: that's way too hot), you can easily recreate this. If you want, I will convert the packet sizes to metric.

This will serve about 6 hungry people.

Medium Chili spices:

4 lbs of beef (roast or chuck or the cheapest lean meat you can find, cut in to half cubes)

4 Yellow Onions

4 California Chili packets (1oz each packet)

1 New Mexico Chili packet (1oz each packet)

1 small (1.25 oz) packet of ground Cumin

Half the packet of Paprika (1oz each packet)

Half the packet of Mexican Oregano (1oz each packet)

A quarter of the packet of Black Pepper (1oz each packet)

2 of the unsweetened chocolate foils (1oz squares) (use only in the last hour of cooking)

1 packet of Mesa Harina flour (use only in the last hour of cooking)

3 Tablespoons of "Better than Bouillon"

3 Heaping Tablespoons of crushed garlic

4 Heaping Tablespoons of brown sugar

1 Level Tablespoon of salt

4 Quarts of water

The grease from 8 strips of microwaved bacon

Cooking Directions

Cooking time: 2-4 hours

Boil 4 quarts of water in a 2 or more gallon stainless steel pot.

Chop up 4 medium onions into small cubes.

In your pot of boiling water, put in your chopped onions, chili powder packets, crushed garlic, beef bouillon concentrate, spices and the brown sugar. Refer to the guide I made for you on the other pages to determine exactly how spicy you want the chili to be.

Remember not to add the Mesa Harina flour or unsweetened chocolate until the last hour of cooking.

Cube up your meat into about half inch squares. Leave all the fat on. If some are little larger and some a little smaller than a half inch, that's OK.

Microwave 8 slices of bacon for about 6-7 minutes, and then dump half the bacon grease into good sized iron skillet on medium heat. Dump the rest of the bacon grease into the chili pot. Keep frying bacon until you get about a half cup of bacon grease.

Quickly sear or fry the beef in the remaining bacon grease. You just want to sear the outsides of the meat and not try to cook it all of the way through. Scoot it around in the fry pan until the sides of the cubed beef are browned. You may have to stagger your frying into smaller batches depending on the size of your skillet. As you finish frying meat, transfer the seared meat into your chili pot.

Continue frying until you run out of meat and at the end of your very last batch, dump all of your meat and what’s left of the bacon grease into your chili pot. Watch out for any grease that may splatter.

Continue to cook the chili at a medium to high heat for about 30 min and then reduce heat to low and let it simmer un-covered for about 1 hour. Keep an eye on it. Stir it while scraping the bottom of the pot every ten to fifteen minutes or so for the first hour. When you scrape the bottom of the pot, check for a build-up of dark red sludge on the end of your spoon. If you see that, your fire is on too high; turn it down. Just don't let it burn. If the chili gets too thick, add some water a cup at a time. If it's too thin, cook with the lid off for an hour or so to boil off that extra water.

After 1 hour, cover the chili pot and then turn the heat down just a little bit lower and let simmer for another 1 to 2 hours. Check it every 15 minutes or so and stir it every time you check it. Remember to scrape the bottom of the pot with your spoon when you stir the pot.

About an hour before serving time, go ahead and put in your unsweetened baking chocolate squares and stir the chili thoroughly some more for a few moments until the chocolate has completely melted into the chili.

Now take one mesa flour packet and put it into a large measuring cup and add a half cup of warm water and mix it thoroughly so that it has no lumps and the consistency of a slightly thin pancake batter. Put the watered mesa flour into the chili pot and stir thoroughly. Continue to let the chili cook for at least another half hour after adding the mesa flour.

The final step is to check for taste and add salt as needed. If you add more salt, cook for another 10 minutes. If it does not need any more salt, you are good to go.

Congratulations, you have just made some really good chili!