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Texas Beef Chili

What makes chili Texan? Most Lone Star chili masters shun beans and tomatoes. To them, chili is all about meat—beef only—and the chile seasoning. And Lone Star fans of the real deal claim that toppings—sour cream, cheese, onions—turn their bowl of red into a salad bar. But you can opt for everything if you’d like.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp. whole cumin seeds
  • 1/4 cup pure ancho chile powder
  • 1 Tbs. Spanish smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 4 lbs. boneless beef chuck roast
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño chile, seeds and ribs removed, chopped
  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups lager beer
  • 1 cup beef stock, broth or water
  • 2 Tbs. yellow cornmeal
  • Shredded cheddar cheese, chopped red onions, sour cream and minced jalapeño chiles for serving

Directions:

Heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and heat, stirring often, until toasted (you may see a wisp of smoke), about 1 minute. Transfer to a mortar and finely grind with a pestle (or use a spice grinder). Transfer to a bowl and add the ancho chile powder, paprika and oregano. Mix well and set aside.

Cut the beef into 1/2-inch cubes. Season with salt and pepper. In a Dutch oven, heat 2 Tbs. of the oil over medium-high heat. In batches to avoid crowding, add the beef cubes and cook, turning occasionally, until browned, about 5 minutes per batch. Transfer to a plate.

Add the remaining 1 Tbs. oil to the pot. Add the onion, jalapeño, bell pepper and garlic and reduce the heat to medium. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens, about 5 minutes. Uncover, add the spice mixture, and stir well for 30 seconds. Stir in the beer and stock. Return the beef to the pot, cover, and reduce the heat to low. Simmer until the beef is fork-tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Remove the chili from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Skim off any fat that rises to the surface. Return the pot to medium heat and bring to a simmer. Transfer about 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid to a small bowl, add the cornmeal, and whisk well. Stir into the chili and cook until lightly thickened, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon the chili into warmed bowls and serve hot, with bowls of Cheddar, onions, sour cream and jalapeños on the side for sprinkling on top. Serves 8.

Variation: At the risk of making some Texans hoppin’ mad, add 1 cup cooked kidney or pinto beans to your chili and heat through just before serving. You can also add 1 cup or so of chopped canned tomatoes, but, again, don’t tell any Texans. Ancho chiles are relatively mild, so if you want a hotter chili, add some cayenne pepper. This chili is excellent served with corn bread or warmed tortillas to capture every last bit of the brick-red sauce.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Comfort Food, by Rick Rodgers (Oxmoor House, 2009).