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Beef Chili with Masa Harina

Beef Chili with Masa Harina
There are as many versions of chili as there are chili cooks. This one includes a signature flavor of the American Southwest: masa harina. The Mexican corn flour used for making tortillas and tamales, masa harina is made by grinding corn kernels that have been simmered in a slaked lime solution and then dried. It is sold in well-stocked food stores and in Latin markets. Added to the chili near the end of cooking, masa harina thickens the liquid slightly, giving it body, and imparts a subtle corn flavor.

Grind the meat yourself or ask the butcher to grind it fresh for chili, using the large holes of a meat grinder to give it a coarse texture. Accompany the chili with small bowls of sour cream, salsa, shredded cheddar cheese and chopped green onions.

Ingredients:

  • 5 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 3 lb. beef chuck, ground for chili
  • 3 large yellow onions, finely chopped
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 jalapeño chile, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chili powder
  • 2 Tbs. ground cumin
  • 1 Tbs. ground oregano
  • 2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 cups lager-style beer
  • 2 1/2 cups beef stock
  • 1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can (15 oz.) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (15 oz.) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 Tbs. masa harina
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions:

In a large nonstick fry pan over medium-high heat, warm 1 Tbs. of the vegetable oil. Add half of the beef and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a colander placed over a bowl to drain off the fat. Repeat with 1 Tbs. of the oil and the remaining beef. Drain and set aside.

In a large pot over medium heat, warm the remaining 3 Tbs. oil. Add the onions and sauté, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the jalapeño, chili powder, cumin, oregano and coriander, stir until well combined and cook for 1 minute more.

Add the reserved beef, the beer, stock and tomatoes and bring to a gentle simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 50 minutes.

Add the kidney and pinto beans and masa harina. Simmer until the chili is slightly thickened, 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve in large bowls.
Serves 8 to 10.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Soup, by Diane Rossen Worthington (Simon & Schuster, 2001).