Bowl of red

Time4 hours
YieldsMakes 20 to 24 (1-cup) servings
Bowl of red
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)
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Fashioned after Texas red chili, this is a meat-lover’s chili -- no beans allowed. I start with dried whole chiles, which I stem, seed and rehydrate. Sure, you can use packaged ground chile, but there will be a night and day difference in flavor. Dried whole chiles are rich with flavor and not too much work if you’re passionate about the end product.

I use an inexpensive cut of tough meat that will become tender through the long, slow simmer. While pork is not typically found in Texas red chili, the bacon here helps thicken the sauce and lends so much flavor.

Using tomatoes is discouraged in certain schools too, but the acidity helps brighten the chili and focus all those flavors. And I throw in a beer -- a good dark stout -- to lift the flavors a little more.

Cook the chili at a low simmer until the meat is tender, about two hours. It’s great served right away, but like most soups and stews, it improves overnight in the fridge.


Place the dried ancho, guajillo, New Mexico and chipotle chiles in a medium bowl and cover with the boiling water. Keep the chiles submerged until they rehydrate and are softened, about 15 minutes. Drain, reserving the water.


Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the cubed beef with 4 teaspoons salt, 2 teaspoons black pepper, the cumin, oregano and coriander. Toss, making sure the beef is evenly coated and the spices are evenly distributed. Set aside.


Roast the fresh chiles: Place the poblano and jalapeno chiles on a rack set over a gas stove-top burner heated over high heat. Roast until the skin on all sides of each chile is charred, about 5 minutes, turning frequently. (If you have an electric or ceramic stove top, roast the chiles in the oven using the broiler setting until charred on all sides.) Wrap each pepper in plastic wrap and set aside until the peppers are cool enough to handle, then peel the skin (the skin should stick to the plastic wrap). Rub the plastic wrap against the skin to loosen and remove it. Do not rinse the peppers to remove the skin, as rinsing will remove flavor. Stem and seed each pepper, then dice the peppers into one-fourth inch pieces. Set aside.


In a large, heavy-bottom pot (preferably cast iron) heated over medium heat, cook the bacon until the fat renders and the bacon is crisp, about 10 minutes. Strain the bacon to a small bowl and set aside. Drain the fat, leaving 3 to 4 tablespoons in the pot. Discard the remaining fat, or save for another use.


Place the bacon and rehydrated chiles in a blender or food processor. Process until the bacon and chiles are pureed, adding a little of the reserved water (from the rehydrated chiles) as needed to thicken the puree to a paste the consistency of wet cement. Set aside.


Brown the beef: Heat the bacon fat over high heat until very hot, then sear the beef until browned on all sides (the beef will not be cooked through). The beef will need to be seared in batches, about one-third at a time (sear only enough beef as will fit in a single layer in the pot at a time). Remove the browned beef to a bowl using a slotted spoon and continue until all of the beef is seared. Set aside.


To the pot, add the onions. Cook over medium heat until the onions soften and just begin to color, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the diced poblanos and jalapenos, as well as the minced garlic and achiote paste, if using (be sure to mash the paste well until thoroughly incorporated and there are no lumps). Continue to cook until the garlic is aromatic, 2 to 3 minutes.


Stir in the tomato paste and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring frequently, until the tomato paste thickens and darkens slightly, leaving a thin film on the bottom of the pan. Watch carefully and continue to stir, making sure the paste does not burn.


Immediately stir in the beer, using a wooden spatula or spoon to scrape any flavoring from the bottom of the pan. Stir in the diced tomatoes (with juice), then stir back in the browned beef.


Stir in the beef broth and celery salt and bring the mixture to a gentle simmer. Stir in the bacon and rehydrated chile paste. Cook, uncovered, until the beef is tender, about 2 hours, stirring frequently. Add additional beef broth as needed to thin the consistency, and check the seasoning occasionally.


When the beef is tender, adjust the chili with a dash of Tabasco or vinegar -- the acidity will help to lighten the chili, distinguishing the flavors. Serve immediately, or give the chili time to allow the flavors to mature. The chili will keep for up to 1 week, covered and refrigerated.

The chili is best made 1 day ahead to allow the flavors time to marry. Achiote paste is available at Latin markets. For a deeper, smoky flavor, roast the dried chilies until aromatic before rehydrating. Dried chiles are available at Mexican markets.