Monday, February 7, 2011

My Interpretation - Smoky Beef Chili Stew

So, I’m told there was this Super Bowl thing yesterday? I’m not much of a sports fan (except for snooker, which is barely a sport), so I would have been pretty much oblivious to the whole event, if it hadn’t been for a handful of bloggers and journalists who wrote about their ideal Super Bowl snacks.

Seeing all those chicken wings, guacamole, and nachos made me crave Southern flavours. Specifically, it made me crave chili – even though I’d never made chili in my life, and wasn’t even sure if I’d actually ever had real chili. It’s always seemed to me that the term “chili” is way too broad, applying to stews, dips, sauces, powders… Really, what is the essence of chili?

My craving – and my confusion – may also have been linked to an article in this weekend’s Gazette, where chefs Chuck Hughes and Nick Hodge had a chili face-off. It seems that Canadians chili and Texan chili are not the same thing at all, with Texan chili being apparently bean-free… even though I have a printed recipe for “Texas-style beef chili” which calls for beans. I give up.

Anyway, to be more specific: I was craving stewed meat, beans, and spices. I really wanted to make Chuck Hughes’ chili (with bison and ground duck, no wonder he won the face-off), but I was short a few spices. So instead, I improvised something. I would have used reconstituted dried beans if I’d had time, but I did my shopping too late.

I have to give a shout-out to another Valerie from Canada, the terrific author of A Canadian Foodie: a few days ago, she posted about a delicious-looking Smoky Chili Soup (because it’s apparently a soup, too, on top of everything else), which immediately caught my eye. I made a lot of alterations to suit my pantry and my inclinations of the moment, but this soup was definitely an inspiration for my stew, right down to the lime garnish (I omitted the yogurt, as there was already a clear tanginess from the chipotle chiles and the tomatillos).

I was overall really pleased with my first venture into Chili Land. The many spices gave a sweet-smoky depth to the flavour, and the heat was slow-burning and tingly, never overwhelming or aggressive. Definitely what I was craving.

Smoky Beef Chili Stew
Serves 10-12

2 tbsp olive oil
450g (1 pound) extra-lean ground beef
700g (1 1/2 pound) chuck, cut into bite-sized cubes
2 onions, thinly sliced
8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
One 330ml (approx. 1 1/2 cup) bottle dark beer, such as brown Leffe
2 tbsp ground cumin
2 tbsp ancho chile powder
2 tbsp smoky paprika
1 tbsp hot Hungarian paprika
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp tomato paste
3 chipotle chiles en adobo, chopped
Two 540ml (19 fl. oz, approx. 2 1/8 cups) can diced tomatoes (with juices)
One 700ml (24 fl oz, approx. 3 cups) can whole tomatillos, drained
One 540ml (19 fl. oz, approx. 2 1/8 cups) can black turtle beans, drained and rinsed
One 540ml (19 fl. oz, approx. 2 1/8 cups) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
One 540ml (19 fl. oz, approx. 2 1/8 cups) can romano beans, drained and rinsed
240ml (1 cup) beef broth
2 bay leaves
1 dried guajillo chile pepper, stem removed
Salt, to taste
Lime wedges, for garnish
Fresh cilantro, chopped, for garnish
Scallions, chopped, for garnish

Preheat oven to 160ºC (325ºF).

Lightly season the meat with salt. In a Dutch oven, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium high heat. Brown the ground beef, breaking up any clumps. Remove from pot. Brown the cubed chuck on all sides, working in batches. Remove from pot and reserve.

Reduce heat to medium. Add the remaining tbsp of oil and cook the onions and garlic, stirring often, until softened. Pour in the beer to deglaze, using a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape any browned bits off the bottom of the pot. Return all the meat to the pot. Raise heat and boil until the liquid is reduced by half.

Add the cumin, ancho chile powder, both paprikas, chili powder, tomato paste, and chipotle chiles, and stir to combine until all the meat is well coated. Stir in the tomatoes, tomatillos, and beans. Finally, stir in the broth, and add the bay leaves and guajillo chile pepper.

Bring to a boil, then cover and bake in the oven for about 2 hours, until meat is tender. Taste for seasoning, and salt if necessary. Spoon into bowls or deep plates, and garnish with lime wedges, cilantro, and scallions. Serve with crusty bread, cornbread, or biscuits.


  1. Oh wow your chili sounds amazing and so packed full of great ingredients. Yes it can be a really comforting food that really hits the spot. Kind of a nice winter dish with a hint of spicy spring to come.

    Oh that Chuck Hughes version with duck and buffalo, wow.

  2. Your Chili looks delicious. We eat à lot of chili here and generally it is called chili con carne but has as many variations to mention too. Mine always includes beans though! Love your version!

  3. I'd really love to have a bowl of this. It sounds delicious and you've plated it beautifully. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

  4. Very close to what I made, but just different enough to have me wanting a taste! You did it! I never put in whole chipotles in adobo sauce. They are just too hot for our palate. Sometimes a half sneaks in. I love them and the depth of smokiness and heat they convey! Three! Wow! And what is dried guajillo chile pepper? Is it hot - or more like an ancho? I have never had one or seen one in these parts. I will now keep my eyes open. I was inspired by Faith, and you by me I love this little chili chain love letter! Mine was very soupy the first night, but I photographed it the following day as I like daylight photography better, and it was no longer a soup, then.
    I will definitely make it again - even for company, as I said, and I will now be looking for a dried guajillo chile pepper!
    So thrilled to see you made this! I feel so tickled. That is why we all do what we do, isn't it?

  5. She's called wivery and cookery - from montreal - or cookery and wivery.... thought I'd try to make sure you two get together as you are both English Food writers in Montreal... and me thinks most are French Food writers there.