Chili For A Cold Winter’s Night

In culinary school, we’ve been braising and stewing large, primal and sub-primal cuts of meat. This week, I had Osso Bucco and Oxtail for the first time. I loved both. Long, slow, moist cooking renders even the toughest meat, like beef cheeks, tender and juicy.

You can tell a cut of meat’s tenderness by how active the muscle was in life. The top loin of a cow, the part of your T-bone steak that isn’t the filet mignon, doesn’t do a whole lot of active work in life. It sort of passively allows the cow to stand and move its legs to walk, and therefore the loin is a tender cut. A tail does a whole lot of swooshing and the cheeks do a whole lot of cud chewing, resulting in strong muscle and therefore a tough cut of meat. 

I am excited to perfect my techniques, and promise to share them with you in the future, but for tonight, I rummaged through the freezer and alas, came upon no cross-cut veal shanks. I do however, have ten pounds of ground, grassfed, organic beef care of my parents cow-share.

A quick word on cow shares. If you want to know that your beef, in life, lived the way god intended and ate grass and breathed air without the company of thirty thousand other cows, you can buy a whole cow, or a share in a cow, from a local farmer. As you may know I am passionate about knowing where my meat comes from. If not, click here. Google search “cow share” and not only will you get information on cow, but also on milk, but that’s a whole other story.

Ok, so I’m making chili, which like tomato sauce or chocolate chip cookies, there are a million variations and everyone thinks that their’s is right. I don’t, I just think its damn good.

Chili 
grapeseed oil
1 onion, diced 
kosher salt
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 T dried thyme
1 T chili powder
1 T dried red pepper flakes
2 tsp ground cumin  
2 tsp ground coriander 
2 chipotle chiles, seeds removed and chopped
2 lbs ground beef
2 cans tomatoes (diced, whole, chopped, whatever, doesn’t matter)

In a heavy-bottomed pot large enough to hold all the ingredients, pour in grapeseed oil to coat the bottom. Heat the oil over medium-high until it shimmers, then add the onions. Add a generous tsp of salt and toss to coat with oil. Sweat the onions until they just begin to soften, then add the garlic. Cook a minute or two more, until the garlic is fragrant. Add the dried spices and stir allowing the flavors to bloom. Add the chipotles and stir. Cook two minutes. Add the beef and cook, stirring occasionally until it is all browned. Add the tomatoes, stir to combine, and bring to a boil. Lower the temperature to simmer and cover. (Careful here. Covering the pan holds in heat so it requires less burner power to maintain a simmer than if it was left uncovered.) 

Simmer the chili for 1 hour, stirring occasionally and monitoring that it is just simmering and not boiling away. After an hour, check the seasoning (aka saltiness) and adjust as necessary. Continue to cook another hour. Check seasoning. Remove cover, simmer 30 minutes more, skimming any fat (the oil slick you may or may not see) as necessary.

Serve over rice.

Optional garnishes:
shredded cheddar cheese
sliced green onions
sour cream
sliced avocado or guacamole
diced onions
diced caramelized onions
hot sauce of your choice

Stay warm and hearty!