Sunday, October 19, 2008

Cheater chili

Chili is one of our family's favorite foods. I used to make it based on a Cook's Illustrated recipe from a few years ago, but that recipe is time-consuming, especially cutting up the meat. So I made up my own recipe, and it's easy -- no vegetable chopping, meat cubing, or anything fussy.

Cheater Chili Serves 6
1 yellow onion, peeled and quartered
1 (or 2) jalapeno, halved and seeded
2 tablespoons canola or other mild oil
1 tablespoon cumin seed
3 dried New Mexico chilies (or any large red mild chile)
3 dried ancho chilies
1 6 ounce can tomato paste
1 28 ounce can tomato puree or sauce
2 limes
1 flank steak or 2 small skirt steaks
salt to taste

1) Throw the onion and jalapeno in a food processor and chop finely -- it's ok if it gets watery.
2) Warm oil in a large heavy pot and dump the onion/pepper mixture in. Cook over medium heat until vegetables are softened but not browned.
3) In the meantime, toast the cumin and peppers (I use a toaster oven). The cumin should be fragrant and slightly tan/brown. When the peppers puff up they are done -- be carefully not to let them burn, which is easy to do.
4) Pull cumin and peppers out of oven and let cool slightly. Grind to a powder and add to onion/pepper mixture. Stir and let cook for about 1 minute.
5) Add tomato paste and tomato sauce, juice of one lime, and stir well. Cut the flank steak into 3 pieces, then gently drop them into the pot. Add some salt (about 1 1/2 teaspoons) but remember the sauce will be cooking down, so use restraint. Pour about 4-6 cups of water into the pot, cover, and cook over low heat, about 4-5 hours (can use a crock pot -- you want small slow bubbles). At the end of the cooking time, the meat should be tender. Pull the meat (still in big hunks) out, put in a bowl/glass container, and allow to cool. Crank the heat under the sauce still in the pot to medium-high and cook down for about 1 hour, stirring frequently. At this point, combine the meat and the sauce and cool overnight in the fridge.
6) About one hour before you plan to eat, skim any fat off the sauce and reheat the chili over medium heat -- do not allow to boil. When the meat is warmed through and softened (about 30 minutes), pull it out of the sauce and shred it with two forks. Return the meat to the sauce, taste for salt, add remaining lime juice, and eat! We like it over elbow noodles with jack cheese, but there's a bunch of things you can do with it -- top baked potatoes, make tacos, etc.

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