Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Mole Chili

My chili plans nearly came to a grinding halt over the hurricane holiday when I saw that my chile powder stash was dismayingly low, but then my thoughts trailed to the cache of dried peppers I had hanging around for whenever I make mole, and I started to wonder what the chili would taste like with a base of chile pepper puree instead of the usual dumptruck-size load of powder. Well, turns out adding chile pepper puree made for a delicious chili, with a truly vibrant flavor and a deep sweet-smoky-piquant complexity that I haven't gotten with powder alone before. I guess the Texans are on to something, even though I'll never understand the anti-tomato-and-bean sentiment. Still, I don't think I'll be chucking my master chili recipe into the waste basket just yet - its the comforting long-term relationship to the mole chili's torrid international affair. Like mole, this new, exciting chili kinda warrants the "special occasion" dish status....but let's just say I'm really looking forward to the next special occasion.

Mole Chili
Makes 4 servings

*Beef chuck, about a pound, cut into small cubes
*2 dried arbols
*2 dried anchos
*2 dried pasillas
*1 yellow onion, diced
*4 cloves garlic, minced
*1 fresh habanero, minced (wear gloves)
*2 teaspoons smoked paprika
*2 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
*2 teaspoons cumin
*1 tablespoon chili powder
*Pinches of allspice, coriander & cinnamon
*1/2 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
*2 chipotles in adobo, seeded
*1 cup stout beer (or, Theobroma, which really would be the perfect beer to use here)
*1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
*1 15 oz can of black beans, drained

Remove the seeds and stems from the dried chilies, and then toast them in a dry cast iron pan over medium-high until they start to blister and char. Transfer the chilies to a bowl and cover them with a couple cups of boiling water until they are well-submerged; let them sit for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, brown the beef in a large heavy-bottomed pot or dutch oven in a bit of fat (bacon fat is what I used, highly recommended) and then remove.  Saute the onion, garlic and habanero in the drippings, salting them and adding a little more oil or fat if necessary, for about 10 minutes over medium-medium low. Add the spices and stir the mixture around for a few minutes before adding the stout, beans and tomatoes. Take the reconstituted chilies and puree them with a little of the soaking liquid and the chipotles and then add the chili puree to the chili. Keep the rest of the soaking liquid on hand in case you want to add an extra tablespoon or so to slightly thin out the chili, which does get quite thick over time..although you could also use beer for any liquid addition. Add the chuck back to the pot, and cook on low heat for at least two-three hours. Check for seasoning along the way and add anything you wish to up the ante. Garnish with cheddar, pepitas, sour cream, whatever you so desire.

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