Recipe Project #102: Seven-Chile Chili

Everyone fell over and died for the Homesick Texan cookbook when it came out last winter. I’ve loved Lisa Fain’s blog for years, and so was happy to take this hardcore chili for a whirl. I learned some new tricks about flavor, and also learned that I have deep-set opinions about what a chili should be. Definitely taking a lot of lessons forward from this one, since one of next winter’s projects will be evolving the perfect house chili. In the meantime, this version is well worth the time.

6 dried ancho chiles
2 dried pasilla chiles
2 dried guajillo chiles
2 dried chipotle chiles
4 dried chiles de arbol
4 pieces of bacon
4 pounds chuck roast, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 large onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup brewed coffee
1 bottle of beer
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground clove
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon grated Mexican hot chocolate
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
4 dried pequin chiles
2 tablespoons masa harina
Grated cheddar and chopped onions, for serving

Remove the seeds and stems from the dried chiles. In a dry skillet heated on high, toast the ancho chiles, pasilla chiles, guajillo chiles, chipotle chiles, and chiles de arbol on each side for about 10 seconds or just until they start to puff. Fill the skillet with enough water to cover chiles. Leave the heat on until the water begins to boil and then turn off the heat and let the chiles soak until soft, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large, heavy pot such as a Dutch oven, fry the bacon on medium heat. When it’s done, remove from the pan and drain on a paper-towel lined plate. Leave the bacon grease in the pot, and on medium heat, cook the beef on each side until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. (You may have to do this in batches.)

Remove the browned beef from the pot. Leaving the heat on, add the diced onions to the pot and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds. Add the beef back into the pot, crumble in the bacon, and add the coffee, beer, cumin, oregano, cinnamon, clove, allspice, cayenne, chocolate, 3 cups of water, and salt. Turn the heat up to high.
While the pot is coming to a boil, make the chile puree. Drain and rinse the chiles then place them in a blender along with the pequin chiles (you don’t need to presoak these little chiles) and 1 cup of fresh water. Puree until nice and smooth and then pour the chile puree into the pot.

When the chile begins to boil, turn the heat down to low and simmer uncovered for 5 hours, stirring occasionally. Taste it once an hour and adjust the seasonings. If it starts to get too dry, add more water. After 5 hours, scoop out 1/4 cup of broth out of the pot and combine with the masa harina. Pour the masa harina mixture into the pot and stir until the chili is thickened. Let the chili simmer for another 30 minutes or so. When done, serve with cheddar and onions.

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