Before we get too deep into some crazy yarn about my insane family or my lack of appropriate male companionship, and In the interest of full disclosure, I'm going to let you know right now that the only championship the following recipe has won is the championship of my own personal badassery. That said, it is an oversized-blue-ribbon-earning, imaginary-tickertape-parade-deserving, melt-in-your-mouth-meat-orgy-having delight. So there. And so what if it's the THIRD post about Texas chili in as many years? I think an appropriate yearly update of my evolving championship chili (tm) is totally worthy of some megabits or bytes or parcels or packets or whatever and you should totally give it a whirl if you give a crap at all about a real Texas tradition or if you just want something really, really, exceptionally good to make and freeze and have on hand for cold winter nights.
I feel like this may be the time to bring up an important relationship, and no, I'm not talking about the fun kind that results in breakfast and/ or coffee in bed (I'd like my eggs over easy with a side of crispy bacon and I take my coffee with half and half and a teaspoon of sugar, thank you). The very important relationship I'm talking about is the one you should make with your local butcher. I know many of us rely upon the packaged meat section at Ralph's or Safeway or Whole Foods because of the convenience, and I'm not trying to get all preachy or anything, but you really should consider identifying and then patronizing a local butcher. Yes, it's an additional stop and it may be out of the way and possibly even slightly more expensive, but I think it's healthier and more responsible to keep things as local as possible. I also think it's important to acknowledge that you're eating an animal, something that was previously alive and it should've been treated humanely. Not just because you care about that animal necessarily, but because it's healthier to eat animals that are treated humanely and are not fed antibiotics and hormones. As Americans our diets are overloaded with animal protein as it is-- we could all eat a little less of it. And if we're eating slightly less, our pocketbooks can take the slightly more expensive price tag along with the higher quality meat, right?
If you have the opportunity to forgo your cellophane wrapped, non-animal-resembling prepackaged meat that isn't even processed at your grocery store but in a distribution warehouse, I would suggest doing so for this recipe. Because when a dish is all about the meat, as this one is, it will make all the difference. Plus, your local butcher will most likely have the frozen veal stock and the suet in addition to being able to trim and custom cut your beef chuck. It's serious time saving good business when you look at it in the grand scheme of things.
I understand that it may seem slightly of hypocritical of me to be telling you to consume a little less meat when I'm asking you to buy SIX POUNDS of a cow, but hey, that's because I'm a hypocrite. And I'm an unabashed carnivore and the granddaughter of a rancher. I 'm not talking about taking away your guns or your gas guzzling SUVs or your Dorritos and Big Gulps (God knows I would die in a sad K-Hole of malnutrition and self-loathing if that were the case). I'm not trying to be Bossypants McClure or anything, but I still think we don't need meat at every meal. But when I do have my meat, I want it to be as MEATY MEAT MEAT as possible. So there.
McClure championship chili (tm)
inspired by Carter Rochelle's Real Texas Chili
Yield: about 5 qts
6 lbs boneless chuck, trimmed and in 3/4" cubes
2 onions, diced
2 heads of garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 TBSP kosher salt (plus more to taste, at the end)
1 TBSP freshly ground black pepper (plus more to taste, at the end)
1 TBSP tomato paste (the kind in the tube, not the can; double or triple concentrated)
1 TBSP cumin
2 TBSP ancho powder
2 TBSP ground chipotle powder
1 TBSP dark chili powder
1 TBSP marash pepper
1 TBSP chile con limon powder
1 TBSP smoked garlic powder
1 TBSP smoked paprika
1 tsp ground jalapeño
1 tsp brown sugar
1 cup masa harina
8 cups veal stock (I like the frozen stock from Huntington Meats, but you can sub beef stock if you need to), warmed
6 TBSP white wine vinegar
chopped green onions
grated cheddar cheese
Over medium to medium high heat, melt suet in a large dutch oven being careful not to burn the suet (or yourself!). This could take a good half hour or so depending on the size of the suet chunk. Once melted, strain off any solid bits and discard.
In batches, and careful not to crowd, brown the meat in the melted suet, about 5 minutes, turning occasionally. Remove from the pot with a slotted spoon, place in a large bowl and reserve for later. Reduce heat to medium, add the onion to the dutch oven and sauté until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and sauté another minute or so, until fragrant.
Fully incorporate the tomato paste to the onion and garlic and then add salt, black pepper, cumin, ancho powder, ground chipotle, dark chili powder, marash, chile con limon, smoked garlic powder, smoked paprika, ground jalapeño, and brown sugar and mix thoroughly. Add reserved browned meat (and collected juices from the bowl) back to the pot and mix well. Cook, stirring for a couple of minutes. Sprinkle the mixture the the masa harina and, once again, mix thoroughly and completely with a wooden spoon until all of the masa incorporated evenly.
Gradually stir in vinegar and warmed broth and 2-4 cups of water. Reduce heat to medium-low and just simmer, partially covered, stirring frequently. Continue to slow simmer for about 4-5 hours, until meat is "melting" into sauce; add water as necessary. Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and cayenne.
Another important factor in chili making is the spice blend, in my humble opinion. My much smarter older brother told me that his idea of chili is "cumin stew with meat", and while this might be somewhat technically accurate, I think many Texas chilis have a tendency to be a little too cumin-heavy. Cumin is one of my favorite spices but it really does tend to drown out all the other flavors of your food. Likewise, if the chili is too spicy at the front of your mouth, you won't want to eat more than a bite or two, so I try to avoid the burnout with a milder, smoky spice mix. Your guests can always add spice (and acidity) with tabasco or another hot sauce of their choosing that suits their own taste after they've ladled out a bowl.
I get the overwhelming majority of my spices from two sources: Surfas and Spice Station Silverlake. They're both local businesses here in LA, but they ship worldwide and are super accommodating. In fact, they're both full of friendly people who often give me helpful tips and suggestions for improving my recipes without making me feel like a heel. Whole Foods also has a pretty extensive selection of specialty spices in small quantities, which is great for limited shelf space situations and a lot less wasteful, since spices lose their potency pretty quickly.
I hope you make nice with your butcher sometime soon. Once you see what they do and the amount of help they can provide you with, you'll never go back to the cellophane again, I promise. Your recipes will taste a million times better and you'll care more about the protein you're cooking. And if you're in the greater LA area, give Lindy & Grundy, McCall's Meat and Fish and/or Huntington Meats a call. And if you're not local, you can still give them a call-- all of them ship nationwide.
Enjoy your chili and If you put beans or tomatoes in there, you lose your awesome Texas citizenship...