Every year for Superbowl Sunday, my church has a chili cook-off. I enter every year, and I’ve never won. But I think that’s about to change this year. I can feel it.
Most years, I use a traditional chili recipe. I like one from the Joy of Cooking 1997. Last year I took inspiration from Mexican mole sauce and added chocolate and cinnamon. People really liked it, and I came in second place. But I want to clinch it this year.
This year, I’m taking what I’ve learned in previous years, and combined two non-chili recipes to get at a recipe I think takes the best from both.
Ok, here’s what I’ve discovered:
- Not too spicy. Kids and adults are tasting and voting.
- Ground beef is too fall-apart-y.
- Not too greasy.
- A little sweetness is nice.
- Even though Texans would disapprove, people tend to like beans in their chili.
- Not too crazy. Keep the flavors traditional, even if you’re using influences from other cuisines.
Ok, with all that said, here’s what my thought process was:
When I thought about my chili last year, my biggest disappointment was with the decision to use ground beef. The texture wasn’t right for chili, and it fell apart to the point it looked more like Bolognese sauce than chili. When I thought about what I wanted the meat to be like, I envisioned ropa vieja, a dish popular in Puerto Rico and Cuba. In particular, I wanted the chunky strands of meat.Where do those long strands come from? Most ropa vieja recipes use flank steak. But as this blogger points out, flank steak is problematic for low and slow cooking like, say, chili:
This blogger decided to use chuck in her ropa vieja, but for my chili I decided to use brisket instead. It is easier to cook for a long time but doesn’t fall apart like ground beef. I seared the brisket on all sides, cut it into big chunks the size of two fists, then cooked them in a slow cooker on low with sliced red onions and beef broth overnight. The next morning, the meat was incredibly tender and shreddy, and the beef broth was super flavorful.
The other recipe I used was one I found on Epicurious.com when I searched for chili. This recipe came up for some reason:
I liked the idea of a tomato and black bean sauce, so I nixed the meatballs and made the rest of the recipe mostly as written. At the point where you are supposed to add the meatballs to the sauce, I shredded the brisket and added it instead. I particularly liked the addition of crispy chorizo at the end.
Ok, that’s enough introduction. For a big ol’ pot of chili, you will need:
1/2 a beef brisket, the fatty half
1 liter beef stock
1 liter apple cider
1 red onion, sliced
2-3 jalapenos, sliced
1 yellow onion, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, smashed
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
28 oz chopped tomatoes
28 oz black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon paprika
1 large dried chorizo, roughly chopped
salt to taste
pepper to taste
- In a large cast iron dutch oven, sear the brisket on all sides. Let cool slightly, then cut into four or so large pieces. Slice the red onion and place on the bottom of a slow cooker. Place the brisket pieces on top, then pour over one cup of beef broth. Let cook overnight on low. Remove the brisket from the slow cooker but reserve the concentrated beef stock.
- The next day, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In the dutch oven, pour 1 tablespoon of oil. Saute the sliced yellow onion until translucent, then add the tomato paste, sugar and vinegar and cook for one minute. Add the beef stock left over from the slow cooker, tomatoes, garlic, beans, chopped jalapenos, paprika, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, shred the brisket and add it to the pot. Transfer to the oven and bake 15-20 minutes until sauce is reduced.
- Place the chorizo in a food processor and process until finely chopped. Heat some oil in a frying pan over high heat. Add the chorizo and cook, stirring frequently, for 5-6 minutes or until golden and crispy. Top the chili with the crispy chorizo. Add more beef broth or alternate apple cider and beef broth if your chili is too dry. If possible, let the chili rest a day or two before eating so the flavors have time to meld.
Wish me luck, people! By the time this is published I’ll already know the results from the cook-off, so I’ll let you know how it goes.