This is a complex chili based on many of the components traditional Texas chili, but with the apostasy of bean added (sorry! but I really like beans both for flavor and texture and as a way to make this more economical). This is a chili that can come together very quickly on a weeknight if you use the short cuts/substitutions (ground beef and canned beans). If you have the time, however, it is worth doing the extra work of chopping meat and soaking beans because they add a real richness to the final product.
Making this as written will result in a medium spicy chili. If you like less spice reduce the jalapenos and/or the spicier chili powder. If you like more spice, just add more of either or both of these ingredients.
1 pound steak tips/flap steak OR 1 lb. of lean ground beef
3T. canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 large or 2 small jalapeno peppers, seeded and cut into small dice
1 t. cumin powder
1 T. medium spicy chili powder (my favorite is Oaxacan Adobo from the Teeny Tiny Spice Company)
1 t. chocolate chili (again Teeny Tiny Spice has a wonderful Chocolate Chili powder) OR ½ ounce unsweetened chocolate finely chopped AND 1 t. Ancho or other spicy chili powder (if you have no ancho powder, substitute ¼ or ½ t. cayenne, to taste)
1 t. oregano
2 T. masa harina OR ½ corn tortilla ripped into small pieces OR 2 T. fine cornmeal (polenta or medium or coarse cornmeal will not work)
½ can of beer (almost any ale will work well, but use whatever you have on hand)
1 (14.5 oz.) can of crushed tomatoes (my favorite are San Marzano, but any good brand will work)
½ cup water
2-3 whole dried guajillo or ancho chiles, depending on size
2-3 cups soaked and cooked pinto beans OR 1-2 cans of pinto or kidney beans, drained and thoroughly rinsed (amount depends on how much you like beans). I am a huge fan of Rancho Gordo’s dried beans and of taking the time to soak, cook, and freeze (if not using right away) beans. They make a real difference in a recipe, but they do add time and hassle so feel free to use your favorite canned beans.
Salt to taste.
- If using sirloin tips/flap steak, using a very sharp knife, cut the meat into small pieces (the tip of your pinky or even a bit smaller).
- Add 1 T. of the oil to a dutch oven/heavy soup pot or large, heavy fry pan (it needs to be big enough to simmer the finished chili). Heat over medium heat until the oil shimmers.
- Add the chopped or ground beef in batches to brown quickly, without overcrowding. Remove the meat to a paper-towel lined bowl to drain. Add more oil if pan is dry but do not scrape up any browned bits that cling to the pan. Continue until all the meat is cooked. There should be a good amount of browned and crusty bits on the bottom of the pan.
- Add the chopped onion, minced garlic, chopped jalapenos, cumin, masa/torn tortilla/cornmeal, oregano, and whichever chili powders you are using to the pot. Lower the heat to medium low and cook for 5-8 minutes stirring often, until the onions are translucent and the mixture is very fragrant. (If the bottom of the pot seems to be burning you can add a small amount of oil and stir to prevent scorching.)
- Add the meat, beer, tomatoes, finely chopped chocolate (if using), the water, and salt to taste and stir well to combine. Add the dried guajillo or ancho chiles and push down into the mixture without breaking up the chile.
- Reduce heat to low and simmer covered for at least 30 minutes and up to an hour or so. You will know the chili is done when the onions begin to lose a little bit of their definition and the sauce appears a thick dark orange brown. If it starts to seem too dry, add a bit more water.
- Remove the whole chiles and discard.
- Add the beans and stir gently to combine. Leave on low heat, stirring occasionally and gently, until the mixture is heated through.
- Serve over rice or with tortillas chips on the side.