Put Florida and red in the same sentence and a Caribbean fish species – Red Snapper – is what comes to mind. A bowl of chili might be the last thing one thinks of in Florida.
While chili originated in the southwest and the best bowls may be found in Texas, there are great Florida versions. Chili has become a ubiquitous American dish from basic meat only chili in the Southwest; to vegetarian versions, white chicken chili and the Greek inspired, sweet spiced, “Cincinnati” style chili of the Midwest states.
This recipe is for an honest bowl of basic “Red” that can be tailored and altered to meet individual taste and the availability of different proteins, chilies, braising liquids, spices and garnishes. A good chili consists of little more than beef, a mixture of fresh and dried chilies, and a modest list of spices – cumin chief among these.
Preparation begins by rehydrating dried chilies. In a saucepan add water to cover whatever dried chilies you like, bring to a boil, remove from the heat and let steep for about 30 minutes. Four, or five Guajillo chilies were used here. When the chilies can be handled, cut of the stems and tap the pods to remove most of the seeds. Put the hydrated chilies along with a few jalapenos (seeds removed) into a blender with a bit of the steeping water and spin until a coarse paste is formed.
While the chilies are steeping, slice a 3-pound beef chuck roast into cubes about 3/4” by 3/4”. Season the beef with salt and pepper and brown in batches with a mixture of olive oil and butter. After the beef is browned, a diced, medium onion is sautéed in the same pan (a Dutch oven is a good choice here) until translucent. A couple of cloves of minced garlic are then sautéed before beef is added back to the pan along with a braising liquid consisting of the craft beer of your choice and beef broth.
As the braising liquid is brought to a boil, spices are added including cumin, Mexican oregano and ancho chili powder. Other spices can be used to your liking, but these are the basics. Start with a generous tablespoon of each initially, but plan on adjusting throughout the cooking process. After the liquid comes to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, cover and let cook for about 2 hours.
If additional salt is needed, add it late in the cooking process. As seasonings are adjusted, add just a little at time to avoid overshooting any individual flavor profile. A bit of corn flour can be added to thicken the chili if needed.
My approach to chili has gotten simpler over the years. Beef, chilies, a modest list of spices and one, or two garnishes. This bowl includes a garnish of sliced radish, sour cream, a squeeze of lime and a few good quality corn chips on the side. Chili is often garnished with various cheeses (with cheddar being the most popular). I steer away from cheese in my chili these days though I do like a little green onion if it is handy.
Serves 4. Buon appetito!
- 3 pounds of boneless beef chuck roast
- Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
- 4 tablespoons everyday extra virgin olive oil
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Four to six dried Guajillo chilies (or any combination of dried chilies)
- 3 jalapenos with seeds removed
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 – 12 ounce bottle of craft beer
- 8 ounces of prepared, low sodium beef broth
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste (optional)
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin seed plus more to taste
- 1 tablespoon ancho chili powder plus more to taste
- 1 tablespoon Mexican oregano plus more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon cane or brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- Cornmeal to thicken if needed
- Slice the beef into approximately 3/4” by 3/4” cubes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Place the dried chilies in a saucepan and add water to completely cover. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat and let the chilies steep for 30 minutes. When the chilies can be handled, cut of the stems and tap out most of the seeds. Cut into smaller pieces and place in a blender along with the jalapenos and a ladle of the steeping liquid. Spin in the blender until a paste forms.
- In a large Dutch oven, add 3 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of butter. Bring to a medium high heat. In batches, brown the cubed beef and then set aside to drain on paper towels. Add reserved olive oil and butter as necessary to complete browning the beef.
- Add diced onion to the Dutch oven and cook over medium low heat until the onions begin to look translucent. Add garlic and cook for two additional minutes.
- Return the beef to the pan along with the chili paste. Add beer and beef broth to cover. Bring to a boil before adding the initial spices and optional tomato paste.
- Lower heat to a simmer, cover and cook for two hours. Check often and adjust seasoning as necessary. In the last 30 minutes of cooking time add sugar, vinegar, adjust seasoning and if necessary add a handful of cornmeal to thicken the chili.
- When the beef is tender, ladle into a deep bowl and serve with garnishes of your choice.