Saturday, August 27, 2016

Ralph's Chilli con Carne

Source: Ralph S. Sturgen, August 19, 2016

[I do not make the common American “chili soup” with tomatoes.  Rather, I make a chili and meat sauce to serve on top of a plate of rice and beans.  It’s one of the first recipes I learned – in, probably, 1969.  
I  do not use commercial chili powder.  It’s somebody else’s idea of the proper proportions of dried/ground red chilis, cumin, oregano, garlic, salt, and, often, cayenne pepper. I prefer to use those ingredients according to my mood and taste at the moment.
I am puzzled by the use of oregano.  I am not familiar with its use in other Tex-Mex dishes.  Cilantro is more common.]

(I like to use my mother’s cast iron Dutch oven but any heavy-bottomed,  non-reactive pan will do.)


Chop a medium onion and sauté it in fat* until it is translucent.

Add 3 cloves thinly sliced garlic and sauté until the edges just start to brown (a few seconds).

Turn off the heat and stir in enough ground dried mild chili** to make a thick paste, 1/3 – 1/2 C. depending on how much chili you’re making..  (This is the backbone of the dish, not its heat, so be generous.)

Add 1 lb. beef*** (cut into fine to medium chunk) and stir to coat it well with the paste.  

Add and mix well:
  2 Tbsp. ground cumin,
¼ C dried oregano (cilantro?) (or 3/4 C fresh),
a few grindings of black pepper,
1 Tbsp salt,
whatever hot pepper**** you are using, and
1 – 2 Tbsp. cider vinegar.


Let stand as long as several hours to allow the meat to absorb the flavors.

Cover with water and bring to a simmer.  
Simmer gently until the sauce is smooth and the meat is tender.

(Like many such dishes, “standing” time helps meld and enrich the flavors.    It’s most testosterone-inducing incarnations might survive well at room temperature, due to the food-preserving character of capsaicin, but I’ll recommend a day or three in the fridge.)

Put a bed of rice on your plate.  (Cooked in your usual way.  I like Carolina-brand brown rice.)

Put a bed of beans on top of the bed of rice.  (I use canned pinto beans, cooked plainly.  Cooking in a ham hock or rendered bacon broth is tasty….a bit of fat usually helps beans.  Other beans may be more traditional or more to your liking.)

Put some chili con carne on top of the beans


*Traditional would be tallow or lard.  I usually use achiote (anato)-infused olive oil.  Any other fat of your choice will work just fine.

** Ground ancho chili is the most common but any dried mild red chili will do:  New Mexico, Chimayo, California, Pasilla, Abrol, etc.

***I usually use beef but any red meat will do:  bison, venison, goat, lamb, etc

****Make the dish as testosterone-inducing, or not, as you wish.  I prefer the gentler heat of ripe jalapeno, chipotle, cherry, or ripe Cubanelle to the much sharper cayenne or habanera or even the in-between serrano.  Your choice.  To those learned in the Scoville scale….have fun.  My taste runs hotter than my wife’s so I make the pot not-too-hot and ply one of those bottles of hot sauce I keep around for my own plate.


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