I’m not a Texan, so I hate to speak for them, but I think few Texans would disagree with me that football (high school, college, and pro) and chili con carne are sacrosanct in the Lone Star State, which is why I’m of the opinion that few foods are as fitting for your autumn tailgate as chili. However, I’m also aware of the strong feelings that chili and what ingredients can and can’t go into it provoke, so I hope any Texans will cut an East Coaster some slack as I share a Texas-style chili recipe.
What makes chili “Texas-style?” It’s in both what you use and what you leave out. The key ingredients in Texas-style chili are chilies and beef. The key ingredients to omit are beans (according to everyone) and tomatoes (according to most). The result is a rich beef stew quite different from what a lot of us grew up calling chili. If you’re used to beans and tomatoes, this version might seem a bit spare, but it allows you to layer your chili with a variety of flavors —spicy, smoky, earthy, bitter, sweet — in a way that’s really exciting. Our recipe includes beer (another Texas favorite), chocolate, and coffee. The result is one of the few spicy dishes that even our kids will gladly wolf down.
Better yet, this is a recipe that’s best prepared ahead of time to get the fullest flavor. Make it a day or two ahead of time, stick it in the fridge and then reheat on game day. Your tailgate buddies will be thrilled.
Our recipe can be made on the mild or spicy side depending on your audience. For kids, I recommend using fewer chilies, and for adventurous eaters, use more. But whether you’re making it spicy or mild, you can pick up all the pantry supplies you’ll need at Target.
Texas-Style Chili with Beer & Chocolate (recipe adapted from Food & Wine
serves 8 – 10
2 – 3 fresh poblano peppers
1 – 2 fresh pasilla pepper
One 12-ounce bottle pale ale
1 cup brewed coffee
One 4-ounce can diced green chilies
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 pounds boneless short ribs, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 large red onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, smashed, peeled, and minced
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cumin seed
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup masa harina or fine cornmeal
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, chopped
serve with sliced red onions, shredded cheddar or sour cream, and lime wedges
Start by roasting the poblano and pasilla peppers. This can be done under a broiler using this method, or over a gas burner using this method. Once the peppers are blackened all over, place them in a sealed paper bag for 10 minutes to steam. Remove from bag and, under cold running water, remove the layer of blackened skin, stem, and seeds.
In the pitcher of your blender, combine the roasted peppers, beer, coffee, and canned green chilies. Pulse until mixture is smooth.
In a 5-quart enamel-covered Dutch oven heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Sprinkle meat all over with the sea salt and black pepper. Sear meat in two batches, cooking each batch for 8 – 10 minutes. Remove cooked meat to a large bowl.
With the burner still on medium-high, add the onions and cook until they have softened. add garlic, coriander, cumin, and cinnamon, and cook for one minute more. Add the meat back to the pot and pour in the beer and chili mixture. Bring everything to a gentle boil and then turn heat to low. Place cover slightly askew on Dutch oven and stir occasionally as meat cooks. Braise meat for 3 – 4 hours, or until tender.
When meat is almost as tender as you’d like, whisk the masa harina into 2 cups of braising liquid. Whisk into chili, add the chocolate, and braise for 30 minutes longer. Check salt levels and adjust as needed.
For best results, place in the fridge overnight, and reheat just before serving.
Serve with chopped red onions, sour cream or shredded cheddar, and generous squeezes of fresh lime.