Why, that's my baked acorn squash stuffed with leftover Texas Red, that's what that is.
I have been eating chili all my life, but until I left home, I had only had chili that was made from ground beef and contained kidney beans. I loved it. I still do. But I soon realized that it's not the only chili kid on the block, and there are an awful lot of tasty contenders to get wrapped up in. These days, my chili might be made with ground buffalo and black beans, or, in Palle's case, ground turkey, pumpkin, and beer.
There is the great debate, of course: beans or no beans. People have very strong opinions on the subject, and while I am a fan of beans, generally speaking, I've certainly enjoyed the bean-less chiles that I've had. Tomatoes or no tomatoes is an almost as heated question. Certainly the chile of my childhood depended on tomatoes as part of the flavour and texture and overall body of the dish.
As I considered the different styles and recipes available, it gradually dawned on me that the dish I really wanted to make was closer to Mexican Carne con Chile than anything I had eaten as a kid, but I wanted an American style. A classic. I started doing some research on the classic preparations of Texas style chile, the infamous, notorious bowl of red.
Because I do like beans, I opted for red kidney beans on the side, and made them nice and spicy with lots of fresh green chiles. That's a whole separate recipe. And, because I do like cornbread, I made some to go with.
After extensively slogging my way through old American cookbooks and the interwebs in general, I found in Homesick Texan the inspiration for the chili that I wanted to make. It had almost everything I wanted: chocolate, ancho chiles, beer, chunks of tender meat braised long and low.
I confess to the scandalous addition of tomato paste, because I like the depth of flavour it brings, without contributing a particular tomato-y-ness to the entire affair.
Texas Red Chili
Adapted from Homesick Texan
4 ancho chiles
2 pasilla chiles
2 pounds of bottom blade beef, cut into 1/2 centimetre cubes
1 large onion diced
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 bottle of beer (I used Tankhouse Ale)
2 cups of water
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp cayenne
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon ancho powder (just for good measure)
1/3 mexican chocolate tablet, grated
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon Bufalo Jalapeno Hot Sauce
I heated the dried chiles by holding them over a flame on my gas stove until they became pliable. I tore them open and removed the seeds, and tore the pods into pieces. They went into a bowl with enough water to cover, and were let to soak for half an hour while I cut up the meat. I sprinkled the meat lightly with kosher salt.
I seared the meat in batches in my Dutch oven, then added the onions and garlic, and stirred them around until the onions became translucent. I added the tomato paste and dry spices, and stirred them around until everything was evenly coated. I deglazed the pan with some of the beer, then added the rest as a braising liquid, along with the water.
The chiles were retrieved from their soaking liquid, and pureed in a mini food processor with a little water to make a thin paste/thick sauce. This was then added to the chile pot.
Once the chili began to boil, I turned the heat down to low and let it simmer for about three hours, stirring occasionally.
I smashed up a couple of wedges from a Mexican hot chocolate disc using my meat mallet, and sprinkled the cocoa dust into the pot. I had some masa harina standing by to thicken it up, but it really didn't need any help, as far as I could tell Maybe a Texan would have wanted it thicker, but the spoon was standing up pretty well on its own, so that was good enough for me. I let the chili simmer for another half hour or so, and served as you see above.
Oh, and if you want to serve it (or the leftovers thereof, perhaps mixed with any leftover beans, or perhaps not) in a squash, simply hollow out a nice acorn squash, brush with canola oil and sprinkle with cumin and smoked paprika. Bake uncovered in a baking dish at 350℉ for about 20 to 30 minutes. Fill with hot chile, and maybe a nice coleslaw on the side.