Carne Con Chile a.k.a. “Chili”

I’ve refrained from publishing this post because here in Coahuila, Texas,  everybody and her/his cow has the authentic Texas “chili” recipe. Yup, replete with that “secret ingredient” and those implausible anecdotes about a cow falling into a vat of chiles, a deer getting stewed by mistake ’cause my cousin got drunk,  etc., etc., etc.

But it’s a cool day here in Houston and making Chile con Carne just feels like it’s the right thing for body and soul.  This recipe is one I hope you will like.  I use Ancho chiles as the base, Guajillo for red color, and Chipotle for a nice tang.  The other seasonings are a classic Texas Mexican combination that I think blends perfectly such that you don’t have one flavor springing up over any other.

“Chili” is the anglicized word for “chile.” Non-indigenous Texans who migrated from Europe fell in love with the various native Mexican dishes, all made with creative combinations of chiles.  In San Antonio, for example, open air food stands, a native tradition dating back to the 1300,’s,  served a wide array of indigenous food: enchiladas, tamales, tortillas and chile con carne.  All these dishes used chiles as the base flavoring but it seems that “chili” was easier for the newly-arrived to pronounce so it stuck as the popular term. Now the word is used as the proper name of the traditional dish, Chile con Carne.  So let’s get down and make some “chili.”

Recipe (serves 6)

4 Chile Ancho, seeded, deveined
2 Chile Guajillo, seeded, deveined
1 Chipotle, seeded, deveined
2  garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 medium white onion, peeled
1/2 tsp powdered cumin
1 tsp fresh Mexican Oregano
2 tsp salt
2 Tbs Canola oil
2 lbs chuck shoulder roast
3 cups water

1. Place all the chiles in a large saucepan, cover them with water and bring to a boil.  Turn off the heat and let the chiles cook for 15 minutes.
2. Heat a comal or a cast iron skillet on high, then roast the onion and the garlic until the onion has softened and has black spots. It should look like the picture here.  Peel the garlic after it has cooked and become soft.
3. Cut the the roast into 1/2 cubes or smaller, trimming off the fat as you go. This is a time- consuming task, so if your butcher is friendly she might agree to do this for you when you buy it.
4. Add 1 Tablespoon Canola to a skillet on very high heat and quickly brown the meat for only 5 seconds or so.  Set aside.  NOTE: Don’t cook the meat.  The pieces should still be raw on the inside. This high-heat browning is simply to add some roasted flavor and a bit of color.  Skip this step if you think the meat might cook.
4. In a blender, place the chiles and all the spices. Add about a cup of water and blend on high to make a very smooth purée, adding additional water as necessary.  If there are flecks in the purée, strain through a fine mesh sieve.
5. Heat a dutch oven (cast iron if you have one, but not necessary) on medium heat, add the oil and then “fry” the chile purée.  Be prepared for some splatter.  Cook for 10 minutes, stirring all the while.
6. Add the beef and 3 cups of water and bring to a very slow simmer.  By this I mean that you’ll see only small, slow bubbles on the surface. Cover and cook for 2 hours, all the while adjusting the heat so that it stays on a slow simmer and does not boil.  Uncover and cook for another 30 minutes or so to thicken. Adjust the salt.
NOTE:  I almost always use a crockpot and slow cook it for 6 to 8 hours.  It turns out delicious.

Serve the chile con carne immediately or the next day with garnish of diced white onion, cheddar cheese and diced, pickled Jalapeños.  Make sure you make plenty because it will taste fantastic the following day.

! Buen Provecho!




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