Texas Bowl o’ Red

For the longest time, we mistakenly thought authentic chili had to include tomatoes. Imagine our surprise at learning that authentic Texas chili doesn’t get its distinctive deep red color from tomatoes but from — wait for it — chili peppers! This recipe may seem a bit involved, but the result is well worth the effort. And you’ll be remembering the experience — aka the effects — for at least a day or two afterward.


3 pounds boneless beef chuck, trimmed of fat, and chopped into ¼-inch pieces
4 tablespoons good dark chili powder
2 teaspoons granulated garlic
6 dried ancho peppers
1 dried New Mexico pepper
2 dried guajillo pepper
2 cups cold water
3 cups unsalted beef broth
2 tablespoons onion powder
1½ teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground red chili
2 teaspoons white pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 12-ounce bottle beer
4 fresh serrano peppers, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
¼ cup masa harina (corn flour)


In a large, heavy pot, heat some oil over medium-high heat. Brown the meat in the fat with two tablespoons of the dark chili powder and the granulated garlic. Cook in batches, if necessary.

Place the New Mexico, ancho, guajillo peppers and two cups of water in a small saucepan. Cover, and bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until soft. Drain, but reserve the cooking water.

Place the cooked peppers in a food processor with about four tablespoons of the reserved cooking water. Purée until a smooth paste forms, and there is no evidence of any chili skin. Mix the pepper purée into the beef. Add two cups of beef broth, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, and slowly simmer for 30 minutes.

Stir in the onion powder, crushed garlic, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, ground red chili, paprika, white pepper, salt, cumin, oregano, the remaining two tablespoons of the dark chili powder, the beer, and the remaining beef broth. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low, and add the peppers, chocolate, vinegar, Tabasco sauce, and brown sugar. Cover and simmer for 40 minutes.

In a small bowl, mix in the masa harina with about a half-cup of the broth until there are no lumps. Pour into the pot and stir, cooking uncovered over very low heat until the meat is very tender, and the gravy is thick (about two hours). Stir occasionally so the mixture does not stick.

If the chili con carne is too thick, add small amounts of boiling water. Serve immediately, or, better yet, refrigerate the chili con carne overnight and serve the next day, reheating it in a microwave.

Yields about six servings.


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