Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Cal-Tex Mex Chili Stew with Pinto Beans


Is chili meant to be served with or without beans? Ah, that's an unresolved issue-- depending on where you're from and how you were raised.  As a kid, my mother made Chili con Carne, because my father was Mexican.  My mother never used kidney beans. Ever.  She always soaked pinto beans and added them to seasoned ground beef, with lots of onion.  The chili was always served with hot flour tortillas and a side bowl of salsa.  Mimicking my father, I'd tear each tortilla into quarters, fold over the pointed end and fold it into a scoop to hold a mound of my chili --and eat it with great relish.  To this day, I must have flour tortillas when I eat re-fried or chili beans, or something feels like it's missing.  I love me some beans, and I do make a delicious pot of chili beans, if I do say so myself. Super Bowl Sunday wouldn't be complete without a pot of my chili con carne. 

A year ago, I caught watched a pre-recorded show on the Barefoot Contessa.  Ina's friend ("Devon") was showing how she made her award-winning Tex-Mex Chili.  I forgot about these photos (which are taken with my old camera), but I do think this recipe is worth sharing.

I was intrigued, because she used brisket, and I happened to have one that was frozen in my garage freezer. Once thawed, I cut it into bite-sized pieces and made sure they were patted very dry. 


I also liked that she used fresh tomatoes, bell peppers ...

 and strong coffee...


I haven't used any of those ingredient in my own chili, and I've heard that coffee adds another layer of flavor to the spices.  Before I made this recipe, I decided to read the review. Whoa! I was taken aback at the backlash of  true Tex-Mex lovers who said that this recipe was in no way Tex-Mex!  Many reviews said that a Texan would never use beans.  Okay.  Now, I will agree that I found it very strange that Ina's friend used basil to flavor the sauce. Really? While I love basil, I nixed that idea. Instead, I opted for my beloved cilantro (which Ina Garten strongly dislikes).   As a result of my tweaks, I have renamed this recipe to be Cal-Tex Mex chili, because I'm going to use beans.  Hopefully, this will give me some leeway in my tweaks and I won't get spanked by my Texan friends.


I also used my own standard seasoning blend of chili powder, oregano, garlic powder and cumin.  I keep a bottle of this on hand, as my quick way of seasoning my taco meat, chili or anything I want to give a South of the Border spice.  Let's begin:

 Once the cut-up beef brisket was patted dry, I seasoned it with salt and pepper.  I heated olive oil until right before it started to smoke and then added the meat in batches, so as not to crowd them.

Searing is one of my favorite cooking techniques.  I rarely put any kind of meat into a slow-cooker or Dutch oven, unless it's been seared. I think it adds a lot more flavor to my braising liquids and it's worth the extra time.  (The printable recipe I will post at the bottom is for 5 pounds of brisket. I actually used 3 pounds and cut the ingredients in half.)   Once the meat has been seared in some vegetable oil, set it aside.

All those brown bits are going to give this chili a lot of flavor.

Now, I added the vegetables and I decided to add about a cup of beef broth (which wasn't in her recipe) because I wanted more braising liquid and I wanted to deglaze all of that lovely fond.

After adding a little more oil, I cooked the onion until tender (about 5 minutes). Next, I added the garlic until fragrant (about 1 minute).  I added 2 Tablespoons of my Mexican Spice Blend  If you like your chili to be really hot, you can add cayenne.  I like my chili slightly hot, but not fire-breathing so I don't add cayenne.  I felt I had enough liquid, but I love a chili that has a rich red color, and I love to taste tomato.  I decided to add two tablespoons of tomato paste.

I also added 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes. 

At this point, you could transfer this to a slow cooker. Since I was home, I let this simmer for about a couple of hours.  I tasted it.  It was good.  Dear Texans, I'm sorry.  I must have beans with my chili!  Kidney beans won't do. I must have pinto beans.  I keep an assortment of canned beans on hand, because there is nothing wrong with them-- especially when I don't think to soak dried beans the night before.  I always rinse and drain canned beans, though, because I don't like the slimy film from canned beans. 

I added two 15-ounce cans...

That's more like it! This smells delicious, but I'm going to add strong coffee. Why not?

1/2 cup strong coffee (and I drink dark roast every morning) should do it. I added the coffee after the beans, instead of before.  I don't think it matters, really.  No, you can't taste "coffee", but I think it made the sauce taste richer with more depth of flavor.  I let this simmer for 2 1/2 hours and it was time to serve this:

The chili con carne that I make is very thick, with a rich and spicy sauce.  I would call this more of a "stew", since the sauce has more liquid to it.  The brisket was very tender, since I cooked it low and slow for more than two hours.  You can leave out the beans, and I still think this would be delicious.  Would I make this again? Yes, because anything with Mexican seasoning, a sauce with the background of tomato and bell peppers is a winning combination.  Searing the meat can take up to 30 minutes, but I think it's well worth it.
I do need to make a batch of my own chili con carne. It's been far too long, and I don't have a recipe. I just grab some of this and some of that.  I'll have to take the time to measure it so I can share it with you.   Then, I'm ready for a Chili Throwdown with Ina's friend.  Basil in chili? Really?  That must be a Hampton thing. So while Ina's friend, "Devon" showed how two make her award-winning Tex-Mex Chili, I think I'd made enough tweaks to call this my own Cal-Tex Mex Chili!  To see the original recipe, click here. Otherwise, a printable recipe (with my own tweaks) is at the bottom of this post.









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14 comments:

Bridgett said...

What a gorgeous and hearty looking chili. I love all the textures going on in this dish and your photos tell a wonderful story of the flavors. I'm craving a bite!

Chef E said...

Mmmm, now I want this, or some homemade chili...oh whoa is me! The dentist ruined me...well, I ruined myself...but this sure looks good!

Kate said...

Oh Debby, your chili looks and sounds fabulous! I love chili. I must give your recipe a try. Yum!

Joanne said...

It's so funny how worked up people can get about their chili. I have no such ties so I can shamelessly say that this sounds fantastic!

bellini valli said...

With beans it was always chili con carne to me, but as you say it depends on what part of the world you are from. No matter I just say this is good chili:D

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Chili is totally customizable! I wouldn't turn my nose up at brisket, but I also say the more beans the better! Coffee, huh? It makes sense - I'm going to try it.

Faith said...

Well, LOL, I am surprised no Texans chimed in on here! They are intense about their chili..that being said.. I am originally from Texas and (this is blasphemy!) I love beans in my chili! My dad on the other hand with have no part of that!
I think that looks like a great recipe for chili and I am intrigued about using brisket!

Contemporary Kitchens said...

That's a great looking chili 'stew', I'd have to favour the addition of the beans simply because of the extra dimension it gives the dish when it comes to texture. I will definitely try this!

Kay Heritage said...

What beautiful and hearty dish, Debby! I love all the texture in it! :)

Pam said...

What a great chili! It looks and sounds fantastic with those pinto beans!

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Everyone has an idea of what chili should be. I've heard "real"chili doesn't have beans, but how many chili recipes have I see with beans no matter what the source? I hardly eve rsee true Texas chili in my neck of the woods.

I like pinto beans too. I've never been a fan of the kidney.

That brisket must have given this such a great texture!

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Forgot to add that the coffee idea is great. Many people add chocolate for more flavor. I think coffee is an equally good option.

Emily said...

I love beans, this soup looks so hearty and delicious. Perfect for this time of year!

Val said...

You make the best food!! I get so hungry every time I stop by!! Have a wonderful weekend.