Sunday, 10 February 2013

Texas Chili


Tagumpay ! That's the name of a male relative of mine and also the Tagalog word for success! For this innocuous recipe adapted from Epicurious proved to be quite a hit at first try. Actually, on first inspection of the recipe I wasn't too impressed because if you remove the chillies, masa harina and cumin, it would be your usual beef stew. How wrong I was! Maybe it's the masa harina or its combination with the chillies my husband got from his colleague that shaped the great flavour. It is really really good especially for this blustery, wintry weather we seem to be all under right now. I highly recommend this my friends so get cooking!

Thanks to my husband's colleague Dave who gave us his prized hybrid chillies he got from a specialist grower. They added a complexity of flavour and a variety of spiciness that is departure from the usual. The heat I felt was around the mouth and back of throat which was surprisingly pleasant for me not like the usual in-your-face hot spiciness that just gives you pain. For someone who's a chilli wimp this was a great adventure.

This chili is a departure from the usual recipes where they normally use minced (ground) beef. True Texan chili I've read and heard - never use minced meat only cut-up pieces of well-marbled beef. Thus the use of braising or chuck beef was important. I think other stewing beef parts like the shin would be good as well. And that is only one of the differences. It also never use beans nor tomato sauce. And I guess bell peppers would be sacrilege as well!



Texas Chili

1 kg braising beef (or chuck or stewing beef) - cut into 3/4-inch pieces
6-8 pieces of dried New Mexico, guajillo, or pasilla chillies (or combination)*
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp whole black peppercorn
2 tsp sea salt
5 Tbsp (approx.) lard, butter, or vegetable oil
1 medium onion - finely chopped
3 cloves garlic - minced (about 1 Tbsp)
2 Tbsp masa harina (corn tortilla flour)*
2 cups beef stock
1 Tbsp firmly packaged dark brown sugar
1 Tbsp white distilled vinegar*
sour cream
lime wedges
  1. [Optional] If you're using dried chillies, lightly toast the dried chillies in a pan over medium-low heat about 2-3 minutes on each side. Be careful not to burn them or they will taste bitter. Put in a bowl and soak in very hot water until soft (about 30-45 minutes).
  2. Split the chillies; remove and discard the seeds and stems. Chop roughly.
  3. Place in a blender or food processor and add salt, ground cumin, and 1/4 cup water. Blend/process until a smooth paste forms. Set aside.
  4. In a heavy pot, heat 2 Tbsp of the lard or oil. Brown the beef on at least two sides in small batches over medium heat. Add more oil if needed. Set aside.
  5. Reheat pot and add more lard/oil if needed. Saute the onion and garlic. Cook for about 4 minutes over low-medium heat.
  6. Add in the chilli mixture and quickly saute for a few seconds. Watch out, this might sting your eyes and throat so just cook them very briefly.
  7. Add the beef, mix briefly. Then add the beef stock.
  8. Slowly add the masa harina while stirring. Cover and bring to boil. Lower heat and simmer for about 1.5 hours or until beef is tender. (Note: I used a pressure cooker and it did not seem to affect the quality)
  9. Stir in the brown sugar and vinegar and cook a few minutes more until dissolved. Taste and add more salt or pepper if desired.
  10. Serve with sour cream and wedges of lime with long grain rice or chips (thick french fries).
*Notes:
  • You can use plain tortilla chips if you can't find masa harina. Grind them into fine crumbs before using.
  • Dried chillies are not mandatory. You may use fresh chillies; just skip procedure no. 1 above.
  • I used cane vinegar for this recipe and it was okay.