I love to make chili, especially in the fall and winter when I have a fresh supply of dried peppers from local farmers. And there are few things that I like better in the back country than a big bowl of “Authentic Texas” style chili. At least, I’ve been told it’s authentic. I cannot verify this because I’ve never actually been to Texas. This recipe came to me by way of a client. A retired oil and gas driller, originally from Louisiana, who made his way to London after working in the Gulf Coast oil fields of Texas.
The first thing I was told is that authentic Texas style chili “don’t have beans, don’t use tomatoes or any real precise measurements and should be hot enough to curl your nose hair”. Fair enough, but I generally still use a small amount of my homemade canned tomatoes in my chili.
I looked up the origins of chili on Wikipedia and it turns out in Spanish, the word chile comes from the Aztec word “chīlli” and refers to a “chilli pepper”, and carne is Spanish for “meat”, so it is literally, peppers and meat. I guess this is where the whole, no tomato thing came from.
As for the meat, well, here are the four best cuts to use. The most common is ground beef. This is the quickest and least expensive type of beef to use for chili. Yes, the dish still simmers for a while, but you don’t have to worry about tenderizing the meat. Often recipes call for chuck. Diced beef chuck, which comes from the shoulder, is tough, but it becomes nicely tender when stewed for at least 90 minutes. It also has a beefier flavor than the ground stuff. Another common meat in recipes is brisket. It’s hard to find, usually expensive if you can find it, and to be honest I’d rather braise a brisket than use it for chili (although it does work well). You just need to stew it for at least two hours. Then there are short ribs. Butchers usually sell short ribs whole, but you don’t have to use them that way. Cut the meat off the bones, remove the fat and dice it up for the best take on chili. Short ribs are my favorite meat to use.
- 4 pieces of smoky bacon, chopped
- 4 pounds of short ribs (meat only), cut into ¼ inch cubes
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 cup of dark roast coffee
- 1 pint of local beer, stout preferably
- 1cups of home-made beef stock
- 6 dried poblano peppers, dried
- 2 chipotle peppers, dried
- 2 green jalapeno peppers, dried
- 2 serrano peppers, dried
- 4 Thai chilies, dried
- 2 Tbsp adobo sauce
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp clove
- ½ tsp allspice
- 1 tsp coriander
- ½ tsp cayenne
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 tsp sea salt
- In a large cast iron fry pan over medium heat, heat the dried chilies for 2 minutes on each side. Turn off the heat and then add enough water to the skillet to cover the chilies, and let them soak for half an hour. If you have ever made chili with dried peppers and missed this step you’ll know how important it is. Someone always ends up with a mouth full of the spiciest pepper.
- In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, render bacon until all the fat is crispy. Remove bacon from pan, reserving the fat. In the bacon fat, cook the short ribs in two batches, a few minutes on each side until lightly browned. Allow beef to rest in a large mixing bowl while you prepare the other ingredients.
- Add your onions to bacon fat in Dutch oven. Cook for 3-5 minutes, until onions become translucent. Add the beef and the dry spices and salt. Mix well and cook until mixture becomes very fragrant. Turn the heat up to med-high and mix in the coffee, the beer, beef stock, bacon crumbles.
- To make the chili flavor bomb, drain the now rehydrated chilies. In your kick-ass 1960’s blender, puree the chilies along with the garlic, adobo sauce and 1 cup of cold water. Add to Dutch oven when chili begins to boil, turn heat down to low and let simmer for five hours, stirring occasionally. Taste it once an hour, and if the flavors are too muted, add more salt.
This recipe is a constant favorite on my back country trips. Perfect served over dehydrated mashed potatoes at the end of a long day on the lake or trail. However, simply dehydrating straight from fresh isn't the best method for preparing back country meals. You run the risk that the meal could go rancid before you get a chance to cook it due to all the animal fat from the beef and bacon.
In a large cast iron pan, brown beef in bacon fat. Once fully cooked add onion and cook for 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and drain fat off through a large metal strainer. Rinse with hot water until all the fat is washed from the beef. Add beef to Dutch oven and continue with the original recipe
Allow to cool. Place 1½ cup per serving of mixture on the fruit roll-up trays on your Excalibur. On the meat setting, dehydrate for 8 ours, or over night. Once fully dry, seal into vacuum seal bags and store in freezer until ready to head into the back country.
To rehydrate, stir serving into 1 cup/8 oz of boiling water. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat and set aside for 10-15 minutes. Serve over dehydrated mashed potatoes (Optional, The chili is better solo, but sometimes you need the extra carbs)