Today we have a guest post courtesy of my husband Stephen, a true chili aficionado.
Children of the 80’s: Do you remember the Cosby Show episode where Cliff makes his famous chili? I couldn’t believe it when I ran across the recipe in an old Gourmet. I’ve held on to it for years without making it, but the recent polar vortex induced temperatures in Boston have made our backyard look like this:
Temperatures like this require some good stick-to-your-ribs food. And I’d say this hits the spot. It wasn’t quite as hot as advertised, but I only used 1 jalapeño instead of the 1 to 4 serrano chilies the recipe calls for. So there is definitely room for making things hotter. But it had a great deep chili flavor with the smokiness of the chipotle shining through on every bite. I could really see adapting this recipe with different types of dried chilies and maybe substituting in some pork shoulder or a ham hock. One step I would not omit is the recommendation to let the chili sit 3 days before eating. It really does get better with age. As Cliff explains:
“If you tasted this on the first day, you’d say, ‘What can did this come out of?’ If you tasted this on the second day, you’d say, ‘Oh my goodness, somebody’s grandmother got up off her chair and just took this to the mountain!’ But on the third day you don’t even have to taste it. You just walk by the pot and something says, ‘Hey, come here!'”
Wise words from the Cos. Good things really do come to those who wait.
Cliff Huxtable’s Ding Dong Eight-Alarm Chili
Makes at least 8 servings. Adapted from Gourmet.
- 2 oz dried ancho chiles (4 large), stemmed and seeded
- 6 large garlic cloves, 3 of them finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon salt, or to taste
- 1 ½ tablespoons ground cumin
- 1 ½ tablespoons chili powder (not pure chile)
- 4 lb well-marbled beef brisket or boneless chuck *, trimmed and cut into 1 ½ to 2-inch pieces
- 3 to 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 (28- to 32-oz) can whole tomatoes in juice
- ¼ cup canned chipotle chiles in adobo
- ½ cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 ½ lb white onions, chopped (4 cups)
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano (preferably Mexican), crumbled
- 1 to 4 fresh serrano or other small green chiles, finely chopped, including seeds (1 is fine for most tastes; 4 is the eight-alarm version)
- 1 (12-oz) bottle beer (not dark)
- 2 cups water
- 2 ½ cups cooked pinto beans (optional; 30 oz), rinsed if canned
- Accompaniments: cubed avocado; chopped white onion; shredded Cheddar; chopped fresh cilantro; sour cream
Cover the ancho chiles in hot water and soak until softened, about 30 minutes. Drain well.
Meanwhile, mince 1 whole garlic clove and mash to a paste with 1/2 tablespoon salt, 1/2 tablespoon cumin, and 1/2 tablespoon chili powder. Pat the beef dry and toss with spice mixture in a large bowl until coated.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a wide 6- to 7-quart heavy pot over medium high heat until hot but not smoking. Once hot, brown the beef in batches, without crowding, turning occasionally. This should take about 5 minutes per batch. Lower the heat if the spice mixture begins to burn. Transfer the beef to a separate bowl when browned.
Purée the ancho chiles in a food processor or blender along with tomatoes (including juice), chipotles in adobo, cilantro, remaining 2 whole garlic cloves, and remaining 1/2 tablespoon salt until smooth.
Add enough oil to the remaining fat in the heavy pot to total 3 tablespoons. Heat on medium and then cook onions and the chopped garlic, stirring and scraping up brown bits, until softened (8-10 minutes). Add oregano, remaining tablespoon cumin, and remaining tablespoon chili powder and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add the chile purée and 1 chopped serrano (or other hot pepper) and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
Stir in beer, water, and beef along with any juices accumulated in the bowl. Lower heat and gently simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally and checking often to make sure chili is not scorching, about 2 hours.
Taste sauce, then add more serrano (or other hot pepper) if desired and continue to simmer, partially covered, until beef is very tender and sauce is slightly thickened, 1 to 2 hours more. (If chili becomes very thick before meat is tender, thin with water as needed.)
Coarsely shred meat (still in pot) with 2 forks and cool chili completely, uncovered, then chill, covered, for 3 days to allow flavors to develop.
Reheat over low heat, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until hot, about 30 minutes. Add beans (if using) and simmer, stirring, 5 minutes.
* I used just top round which was all I could find at the time. It was good, though I’d try to find the boneless chuck, the brisket or something with more marbling as the round was a tad dried out after 3 days.