Chili, My Way



  • 1 beef chuck roast, blade or 7-bone, 2 to 3 pounds
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
  • 2 cups water
  • 6 to 8 whole dried California or New Mexico chile pods
  • Scant teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 cups cooked beans (black, pinquito, small red, or pinto; optional)

Time estimates

Prep time: 45 min  

Cook time: 2 hr 30 min  

Total time: 3 hr 15 min  



  1. Separate the roast along the natural seams and remove the large pieces of fat. Bone out the flatiron (see technique note in Daube of Beef) and keep it separate for another use, if you like. Heat a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven over medium-low heat and rub it with a bit of the fat to grease it lightly. Season the meat with a little of the salt and brown well on both sides. Add the water, plus the bones if you have no better use for them; cover the pan, and adjust the heat to a low simmer.
  2. While the meat cooks, heat a small dry skillet and toast the chiles until pliable but not scorched. Remove from the pan and cut off the stem ends with scissors. Shake out the seeds and pull out as much of the ribs as you can (you can do this with the scissors to avoid getting chile oil on your fingers). Cut the chiles into 1-inch pieces and add them to the pot with the meat and water. Toast the whole spices in the same pan until fragrant, and transfer to a mortar or spice grinder; grind at your leisure.
  3. Cook the meat covered, on top of the stove or in a 250˚F oven, until quite tender, about 2 hours. Transfer the meat to a plate and strain the contents of the pot into a heatproof container. Let the broth stand until the fat rises to the top, then ladle 2 tablespoons of the fat back into the pot. Add the onions, garlic, ground spices, and oregano and cook over low heat until the onion is translucent. Meanwhile, pick out the chile pieces from the strainer and the meat platter and place in a blender.
  4. Discard the remaining fat from the broth. Transfer the cooked onions and other contents of the pot to the blender and add enough of the broth to facilitate blending. Blend to a smooth paste and pour it back into the pot. Use the remaining broth to rinse out the blender jar and add it to the pot. Add the remaining salt and bring to a simmer.
  5. Chop the meat coarsely with a large knife or cleaver, discarding the bones and any visible fat. Add to the pot to reheat in the sauce. Correct the seasoning and serve with or without beans.


Makes 6 servings


Good to know

If you can find pure ground California or New Mexico chile powder that is reasonably fresh (in a Mexican market or another place where the stock turns over quickly), you can skip toasting and cutting up the chiles and add 2 tablespoons of the powder to cook with the meat. In this case, you can also skip the step of puréeing the sauce, which is mostly about grinding up the chiles.


What beer should I drink with this?

Märzen or a not-too-hoppy amber ale



One could write a whole book — in fact, I’m sure many books have been written — on the subject of chili, and how the Mexican carne con chile colorado ("meat with red chile sauce"), evolved into the archetypal Tex-Mex dish chili con carne, now available in cans in every supermarket in America. I can’t think of another dish that has spawned so many variations, with every imaginable meat and variety of chile, with tomatoes and bell peppers, with or without beans, and vegetarian versions. Not to mention serving it as a topping for hamburgers and hot dogs, and even over spaghetti (Cincinnati style).


Everyone who has ever eaten or cooked chili has some idea of what it is supposed to be — now I’m going to tell you mine. First of all, it’s a meat dish. You can make a tasty stew of beans and vegetables, but please don’t call it chili. Second, it should be made with dried red chiles and selected spices, not some preblended "chili powder." I like to use a north-of-the-border chile like the long, smooth, mild-to-medium California chile or its slightly hotter New Mexico cousin. But if you want to use ancho, guajillo, or another Mexican variety, be my guest. Third, I like the meat chopped, not ground.


And on the all-important question of beans or not? To tell the truth, I like it both ways. Sometimes I stir beans into the chili, sometimes I serve them on the side, sometimes I serve it without beans. As for the type of beans, pintos are classic, and black beans, once trendy, are now standard in much of the West. My favorite, however, is the pinquito, the "little pink" bean that is like a smaller pinto, and I also like the small red bean used in New Orleans red beans and rice. Kidney beans are far too big and beany for my taste, plus they are the wrong color.


Technique note

Most of the heat in chiles is in the ribs and tissues carrying the seeds, so if you want a milder chile, take care to remove as much of the ribs as you can. On the other hand, if you want it hotter, leave them in.


Also from The Microbrew Lover's Cookbook

• From the Beer Belt

• Pizza and Beyond

• From the Spice Bazaar

• Malt and Hops, Meet Ginger and Soy

• From the Home of the Chile Pepper

• Beer in the Melting Pot


Go back to The Microbrew Lover's Cookbook index page.


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From The Microbrew Lover’s Cookbook, Copyright © 2002 by Jay Harlow. Used by arrangement with Jay Harlow.




Photo: Nathan Y/Flickr

Chili, My Way
What to serve with chili? There are lots of options — from topping with grated cheese and shredded lettuce to cornbread or corn chips.