Saturday, September 17, 2011

chili con carne, daube style

Twenty years ago, I bought this beautiful book, A Glorious Harvest, because of the pictures. I still refer back to this book on a regular basis, because of its focus on the way our modern day ancestors ate. Whole foods in classic form. I very rarely make recipes directly from the cookbooks that I buy and own, but I'm a firm believer in reading many and learning from each. I love this book for it's beauty and purity.

One recipe that I did make regularly was Daube of Beef (page 136). A daube is a slowly simmered stew of beef with wine, spices, and an immense flavor. From this simple recipe, I learned the art of cooking meat slowly and concentrating flavors. It's also a simple dish, only made complex by what you add to it at the table. To me, daube of beef is a pure dish.

Now, onto the chili con carne, or carne con chile as is more like it – I'm sort of a chili purist. I do like chili with beans, and even turkey chili. As a kid, Chili Spaghetti was a Bob's Big Boy favorite. But, when I make chili, I like to make a purist chili.
Traditional Red Chili is defined by the International Chili Society as any kind of meat or combination of meats, cooked with red chili peppers, various spices and other ingredients, with the exception of beans and pasta, which are strictly forbidden.
Pure. There. It's been said.

Let's bring this all together, combining these two pure concepts. I'll still call it chili, since the term daube is too much of a stretch for this dish, but I feel the daube's roots in my chili's simplicity, slow cooked tenderness, and thick sauce unadulterated by anything like flour or corn starch. This chili is as pure as pure can be.

Carne con chile

Serves 4


3 oz various dried chiles (like aji amarillo, mulato, guajillo, California, etc.)
2 cups water
1.6 lbs boneless blade or chuck roast
1 tbsp bacon fat or good lard (don't buy store bought lard just for me, it's nasty, and olive oil also works)
1 medium onion
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp cumin, ground
1 tsp cinnamon, ground
1 tsp salt
4 bay leaves
additional water or deglazing liquid to just cover
cheese (optional)
sour cream (optional)
avocado (optional)


Using scissors and kitchen gloves, cut the stems and clean seeds from the chiles. Place the chiles in a saucepan with the water. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Allow the chiles to cool for a few minutes, then blend well in a covered blender. Strain the mixture through a colander, coarse strainer, or foodmill, discarding the residue. If using a strainer with a fine mesh, you may have to stir and rub with the back of a spoon until all the purée is pushed through, leaving any seeds and tough skins behind.

Slice the beef across the grain into slices or disks that are about 2-3 inches by 2-3 inches. I hate to say "bite size," because the beef will shrink and break apart as it cooks, so don't worry about these being too big. Don't worry that some of it ends up being too small, either; it will still be amazing.

Chop the ends off the onions, then half them cross-wise and then quarter them so they will fall into "petals" when you cook them. This makes them a complementary size to the beef slices.

Mince the garlic and have it ready.

In small batches, brown the beef in a heavy pan using the fat, lard, or olive oil, then remove to a slow cooker or heavy pot with a tight fitting lid.

Add the onions to the pan and brown them until they are translucent. Add the garlic and ground cumin and keep stirring for 30 seconds until very fragrant. Quickly transfer the mixutre to the pot with the meat. The quickly part is so the garlic doesn't burn.

Add the chile purée, cinnamon, bay leaves, and salt to the pot and stir to coat.

If you like, you can deglaze the pan with some water, but taste the liquid to make sure it isn't bitter or burnt tasting. If it's good, then you can use it as additional liquid to cover the beef for simmering. If it tastes bad, throw it out and just add water to the pot until the beef is just covered by liquid.

If using a slow cooker, set it to a lower cooking temperature and let it go for most of the day. I think mine was on low for 8 hours. Every cut of beef is different, so your mileage may vary on the cooking time.

If using the oven, make sure it's tightly covered, and set the over to 300°. Cook for 2.5 to 3 hours until things are tender and most of the liquid has thickened up.

Since the oven is going to be on for so long, why not take this time to also do some slow roasted tomatoes, root vegetables, or vegetable chips?

Serve garnished with some cheese, sour cream, or avocado, plus a generous helping of vegetables.


  1. Hummm, sound really good. I have to check out that cookbook. I like to put cinnamon in my chili too. Gives it a richer layer. I've never made my own chili paste, always used chili powder. Is it super hot?

  2. Sometimes I do you powder, but I choose powdered chilis vs chili powder. Chili powder is often a spiced blend of dried chilis, while powdered chilis are just the chilis, dried and pulverized.

    Is it hot? Only if you choose hot chilis, whether it's fresh, dried, or powdered. In general, they go like this (mild to hot):

    paprika (American "normal" or sweet) (powdered)
    california chilis (dried or powdered)
    anaheim chilis (dried or powdered)
    paprika (Hungarian/foreign, hot) (powdered)
    ancho/poplano (dried or powdered)
    guajillo (dried)
    aji (dried)
    chipotle (smoked jalepeno)
    japones (dried)
    habanero/scotch bonnet/ghost chili (dried)

    There are lots of other ones in between, but these are ones that you might actually find at a store. :)


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