- 1 pound lean stew meat, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 3 slices turkey bacon, coarsely chopped (The turkey bacon doesn't render much fat; it just adds a nice hint of smokiness which complements the chipotle and works well with the cinnamon and chocolate.)
- 3 T. Mexene chili powder or more to taste, divided (This is the first time I've used this; I read that most of the winning recipes at the Terlingua chili cook-off use this.)
- 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, divided
- 1 - 2 T. Mexican oregano, divided
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 1 large green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
- Pinch or two of salt
- 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 T. ground dry roasted peanuts (I had a small bag that Southwest Airlines gave me on my trip to Florida so I took a meat mallet and pounded the holy heck out of them; there were still a few small chunks left.)
- 1 tsp. fajita seasoning
- 1 (14.5 oz.) can chipotle petite diced tomatoes, with juice (If this isn't available where you live; substitute 1 (14.5 oz.) can petite diced tomatoes and 1 chipotle pepper, finely chopped, from a 7 oz. can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce--also add some of the sauce.)
- 1 T. cumin powder
- 1/2 tsp. dry mustard
- 1 (14.5 oz.) can petite diced tomatoes, with juice
- 1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
- 2 T. tomato paste
- Water, if you want to
- 2 (15.5 oz.) cans dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed (I drain and rinse mine in a colander.)
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 square Mexican chocolate, very finely chopped
- Green onions, chopped
- Sour cream (I use fat free because it tastes just as good and isn't as fattening.)
- Mexican blend cheese (This is a shredded mix of Monterey Jack, Cheddar, Queso Quesadilla, and Asadero cheeses. It's also called Fiesta cheese.)
Heat the pan over medium-high heat. Rinse the stew beef cubes
in cold water, then toss them into the pan. You should hear a nice sizzle. (The water will evaporate quickly and the beef will brown in
its own juices and make a nice, rich glaze. You also save calories because you're not using butter or oil to brown the meat.) Sprinkle some chili powder on the meat.
After a minute or so of letting your meat brown, give it a stir, then add the chopped bacon. Add a little bit more chili powder. Grate some fresh black pepper over it. Stir it again, then season with some of the oregano. (Turkey bacon doesn't take very long to cook; it will be nice and crisp by the time the stew beef cubes are browned.) Stir when the meat and bacon looks like it wants to be stirred or if your smoke detector goes off, whichever happens first.
When the meat and bacon are nicely browned, remove them and set them aside in a bowl, which will collect the flavorful juices that you'll be adding back to the chili.
Add the chopped onions and green bell pepper to the pan. Sprinkle with just a little salt to help the onions release their liquid. Saute until they get limp. (It's okay; you're not hurting them; this is what they're supposed to do.) Give them a little oregano and some freshly ground black pepper and they'll be just fine.
After they begin to soften, add the garlic. (If you add the garlic too soon, it will burn and taste bitter, so better later than sooner.)
When the garlic begins to turn a really pretty shade of beige-to-
brown, add the ground beef and stir it into the vegetable mixture. Now, for some serious fun and this is what chili is all about! Sprinkle as much of the chili powder as you want on the meat. This helps to season the meat and adds another layer of flavor to the chili. Stir it in, then sprinkle the ground beef with some oregano and black pepper.
When the ground beef has been stirred, add the peanuts and stir again.
When the ground beef is browned and the veggies are limp and your kitchen is starting to smell wonderful, return the stew beef cubes, with the accumulated juices, to the pan. Give them all a nice stir together and turn up the heat. Sprinkle on some fajita seasoning, just to get the meat and veggies in the mood to start making chili.
When everything starts sizzling together, pour in the chipotle flavored tomatoes. (This won't dampen their spirits; it just makes them happier because now you've added a little more zip to them.) Stir.
Add the cumin powder and dry mustard. Stir again. If you feel like it, at this time, you may also give them some more chili powder.
Add the petite diced tomatoes. Stir. Season with more chili powder, black pepper, and oregano.
Add the tomato sauce and the tomato paste. Stir. You know the drill by now--season with more chili powder, black pepper, and oregano. At this time you can add some water if you want to, depending on how thick or thin you want your sauce.
Now your chili is really starting to get happy and probably a bit bubbly, but also a little greedy: It wants more, more, more! So give your chili what it wants.
Add the beans. (I know that being a Texan, beans are a big no-no, but I'm from Chicago, so that's my excuse. Besides, I really like beans and they're very good for you.) Stir the beans into everything else that's cooking. By now, your chili is really starting to like you.
And for the final touch of sweetness, just to let your chili know that you love it already, add the cinnamon and chocolate. Stir. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and let your chili do its own thing.
Let it cook about four hours, stirring occasionally and taking taste tests. Don't worry if at first (after your chili has been cooking ten minutes or so and you just can't resist taking a taste) your chili tastes a little sweet. The flavors will all cook together, the spices
will kick in, and produce the best bowl of red you've ever eaten.
A note about taste testing your chili: When my daughters were young and we made chili, we'd always have to take a taste test to be sure
it was seasoned properly, then we'd add more spices, take another taste, add more ingredients, etc. By the time dinner was served--if there was any chili left to serve--we weren't hungry anymore because we'd totally pigged out on the chili tastings.
After it's been cooking about three hours (and probably after many more taste tests), now is the time to adjust the seasonings to suit your taste because the flavors are more fully developed. My chef instructor in culinary school offered me these words of wisdom: You can always put more seasonings in, but you can never take them out. I ended up adding more chili powder, fajita seasoning, cumin, and black pepper. It also needed a little more garlic, so I added a sprinkle or two of dried minced garlic.
I know you're hungry and you're ready to eat NOW, but let it cook for at least one more hour. It's worth the wait.
Spoon your chili into a bowl and top with chopped green onions, Mexican cheese, and sour cream--or whatever you want. Serve with cheese quesadillas or tortilla chips.
I'd love to see your chili recipes. Come on over to my new blog to sign up for the once-a-month chili cook-off. The cook-off rules are easy and there are prizes for the winner: A copy of my new cookbook, Foods and Flavors of San Antonio, and
a chile pepper refrigerator magnet. Plus, you'll get this really hot badge to put on your blog.