February 7, 2016
As I read through cooking web sites and cook books I look for opportunities to apply techniques to dishes I’ve made my own. So, as I was reading a Serious Eats article on the best meats for stews I thought “hey, my chili is a stew. I think I’ll apply this information to that recipe for my El Cid chili!” I’ve always used two pounds of sirloin steak as the star of the recipe. It’s a rather lean piece of beef and Serious Eats pointed out that chuck roast makes a great stew meat because of the fat and connective tissue.
Serious Eats also reports that you don’t have to brown all the beef – half will do and as a further time saver brown the meat as steaks, before cubing.
I thought I’d try both those approaches as well as substituting home made chicken stock for canned beef broth which is usually tinny and not very meaty. Let’s see how the changes fared.
This chili contains four types of meat – or more accurately, three types of meat and bacon fat. Finding cured chorizo is hard in these parts. I found some nice Basque chorizo at the local Asian market Uwajimaya (go figure!). The day before making the chili I saw Olympia Provisions smoked chorizo at our local New Seasons Market and had to have it. Olympia Provisions (aka Olympic Provisions) is a local legend when it comes to cured meats – and there hot dogs are da bomb. You can see here the gorgeous two pound chuck roast.
I cubed half the chuck roast and cut the other half into two large steaks which I browned in two tablespoons of rendered bacon fat. After removing the browned chuck roast steaks I cubed and combined with the uncooked meat. This wasn’t the time saver I had anticipated. While it was definitely quicker to brown two large chuck roast steaks than cubes of meat, I had to break my cooking flow to return the steaks to the cutting board and cube. And really, this recipe takes a long time to cook; so why not settle in for the day and not worry about short cuts.
Now we get serious about cooking. Chorizo, hamburger and onions brown in the bacon and beef fat.
Then we toss in the first set of spices to bloom in the sauté heat.
Then deglaze the pan with 1/2 a bottle of beer to pick up the faund. Finally the liquids and beef go in for a two hour simmer.
[Note this picture is from 2013]
Over that two hours the chili pot undergoes a transformation. It starts out looking like a beef soup. Do NOT taste it now: you will be disappointed. But as the liquid evaporates and the ingredients meld together, it turns into a deep red bowl of goodness. You can read more about the process in my earlier blog post.
After a couple of hours it’s time to add a second jolt of spices and a corn meal slurry to thicken the gravy. Some of the folks at our Super Bowl party aren’t fans of big heat so I left out the chopped smoked chipotle en adobo.
At half time dinner is served. Use plenty of cheddar cheese and sour cream to tone down the heat.
We had a feast! We’ve watched the Super Bowl with this same group of people for many years. Unfortunately Norm and Kim now live in central Oregon and couldn’t make it. But we had enough food. Mark brought some ground chicken buffalo sliders with gorgonzola cheese spread which were simply amazing. He also brought a guilty pleasure: nachos with Velveeta melted with a can of Rotel. I usually make fun of people eating nachos like these but once every year or so I’ll gorge on it but not admit it. Herb brought his patented chicken wings and Dianne brought a bourbon pecan pie and a vegetable platter.
I started making this chili a long time ago; in fact, it was one of the first things I cooked when I got serious about cooking back around 2000. I found it in an old Sunset Magazine cookbook which I can’t locate today; however, you can find the original recipe on the web if you search for it. My recipe has evolved over the years to the point I’m not sure if I should keep the name the same. The three main meats is definitely from the original, while the process of adding a second dose of spices toward the end comes from Dad Cooks Dinner. I’ve made many tweaks to it on my own. I still call it El Cid chili because that’s where the inspiration came from. You can find my recipe with notes here.
I don’t recommend substituting the chuck roast for the top sirloin as I experimented with this time. The chuck roast is too fatty and breaks down too much during the cooking. If you have home made chicken stock, use it instead of canned beef broth; but if you are out shopping for canned broth, use canned beef broth over canned chicken stock.
What about beans? No beans! If it has beans, it’s not chili according to the definition by the International Chili Society. You can add beans, and it will probably still taste great – but I’ll tease you about it.