chili

chunky beef and bean chili

Ugh this weather.

chunky beef and bean chili | Brooklyn Homemaker

Hot. Cold. Hot. Cold. Sunshine. Snowfall. Short sleeves. Heavy coats.

I know that I’ve whined about New York’s weird weather before, last week in fact, but oh lord is it annoying. I’ve lived in New York State for my entire existence so I suppose I should be used to it by now, but I’m not okay?
Every spring I get the itch to get outdoors and when that shady bitch Mother Nature dangles 70 degree temperatures in front of my face and a few days later tosses a little snow storm my way I start to get cranky.

chunky beef and bean chili | Brooklyn Homemaker

After last week’s unusual heatwave, we had snow over the weekend.

My first instinct was to stand in the window shaking my first (There may have also been a few “why I oughta”s thrown in), but I got tired (and cold) after a while so I decided to take my pity party into the kitchen and see what I could do to make myself feel better.

chunky beef and bean chili | Brooklyn Homemaker

Full disclosure:
I’ve posted this recipe, or at least a version of it, before.

This is one of my absolute favorite cold weather recipes and I’ve made it countless times since I first posted it. Since then I’ve made some changes to streamline some steps and make a few little improvements.

chunky beef and bean chili | Brooklyn Homemaker

Another moment of full disclosure:
I like my chili with big chunks of meat, a bit like a stew, rather than ground beef.
I also like lots of beans in my chili.

I realize my Texas friends are probably rolling their eyes and/or recoiling in horror right about now, but I’m a Northeasterner through and through. This is not “Texas Chili” and I make no qualms about this being an “authentic” recipe.

This is just how I like it. It’s freaking delicious. So deal with it.

chunky beef and bean chili | Brooklyn Homemaker

There’s a very good reason that I wanted to try this chili again and re-post the recipe for you. A while back I read an article on thekitchn that said a great way to ensure tender slow cooked meat in stew is to wait a bit before adding acidic ingredients like wine or tomatoes. While acidic ingredients can help tenderize meats in marinades, they can have the opposite effect and actually prevent or prolong tenderizing in braised dishes. Instead, they suggest that you make your stew (or chili in this case) without the acid, let the meat loosen up and get a head start on tenderization, and then add your acidic ingredients and continue to cook just long enough that they no longer taste “raw”.

I said before that I’ve made this recipe countless times with countless variations, but as soon as I read this tip I just had to try it with my chili. I gave it a go and was floored by how well it came out so I HAD to share the results with y’all.

chunky beef and bean chili | Brooklyn Homemaker

Okay one last bit of full disclosure:
I’m a big fan of heat and bold flavors so I tend to go a little overboard with the jalapeños, cayenne, and chili powder.

In the recipe below, the ingredients listed have ranges for those three ingredients. When making this for myself I used the maximum amount of spice listed on all three counts and I thought it was absolutely perfect. Russell however, complained (multiple times) that it was too spicy and said that I should reduce the heat for y’all.
So, if you like the heat feel free to go crazy and use the full amounts listed below. If you like things on the milder side, use caution and stick to the minimums. If you’re somewhere in between, stay somewhere in between.

When it comes to the meat, I usually like to buy a small chuck roast and cut it up into chunks myself. I find that A) this method is cheaper, and B) I know exactly what cut of meat I’m getting rather than the “grab bag” of leftovers they package as stew meat at the grocery store. I also find that the stew meat at my local grocery stores is usually cut too large to actually eat in one bite, and I always need to cut it up smaller myself anyway.

chunky beef and bean chili | Brooklyn Homemaker

Either way you go, this chili is insanely good. Thick and rich and tomatoey with a great flavor and as much heat as you like. Fall-apart tender chunks of beef mixed with hearty veggies and plenty of beans make this chili feel incredibly hearty and filling. Perfect for a chilly spring day.

If you do go a little overboard with the spice, a heaping dollop of sour cream, a handful of grated cheddar, and some rich and creamy sliced avocado can go a long way to tame that heat.

chunky beef and bean chili | Brooklyn Homemaker

adapted from my own recipe

2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 pounds beef chuck or beef stew meat, cut into 1″ cubes
2 tablespoons masa corn flour (or all-purpose)
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse Kosher salt (maybe more as necessary)
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper (maybe more as necessary)
1/4 to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (depending on how spicy you like it)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1 1/4 cup good Ale or dark beer, divided
2 medium onions, chopped
2 red bell peppers, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 to 2 jalapenos, seeded and finely diced (depending on how spicy you like it)
5 to 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped or crushed
3 cups beef stock
28 oz  can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup tomato paste
15 oz can red kidney beans
15 oz can black beans

Optional garnishes:
grated cheddar cheese
sour cream
torn cilantro leaves
sliced avocado

If using pre-cut stew meat, you may need to cut it smaller to get 1″ pieces. Toss beef in salt, pepper, cayenne, cumin, chili powder, & masa to evenly coat.
In a large heavy bottom dutch oven or stockpot, heat about 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Brown the meat in batches for 5 to 6 minutes, turning each piece about half way through to brown multiple sides. Do not overcrowd the pan or the meat will steam, not brown. Transfer browned beef to a bowl to rest while you brown the next batch, and repeat until all meat is browned. Add more oil between batches if necessary.

Once you’ve removed the last batch of meat, deglaze the pan with about 1/4 cup of the beer. Scrape up any stuck bits off the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Reduce beer to almost dry. Add another tablespoon of oil and, once the oil is hot, sauté the onions for a minute or two. Add bell peppers, jalapeños, and garlic and cook 3 to 4 minutes more. Add beef stock, remaining beer, and browned beef cubes to the pan and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer for one and a half hours, stirring occasionally. Uncover and simmer for one half hour more. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and beans. Continue to simmer uncovered for at least 30 minutes more or until the beef is fork tender and the liquid is slightly reduced and nicely thickened.
Taste and re-season with salt and pepper if necessary. If the chili is too thin, continue to simmer uncovered until it’s thick enough. If too thick, thin it out with additional beef stock, about 1/4 cup at a time.

Garnish with grated cheese, sour cream, torn cilantro leaves, and/or avocado. Serve with warm cornbread if desired.

best chunky beef chili

Guess what everyone. It’s winter. Surprise!

best chunky beef chili | winter in brooklyn | Brooklyn Homemaker

We just made our way through a bitter cold front here in New York City, and though it was a bit warmer for a few days, today we’re supposed to be hit with another, along with several more inches of snow. I’m no stranger to harsh winters.  I’ve lived in New York for my entire life and went to school in upstate’s Adirondacks, where I lived in the coldest town in the entire state. Winters in Saranac Lake often saw night-time temperatures dipping 20, 30, even 40 degrees below zero. The lakes would freeze so solid that people used them as extra parking during winter games, packing dozens of cars and trucks onto the ice when the parking lots filled up.
There were nights that were so frosty that the three block walk home after work would cause the condensation in my breath to freeze into my facial hair and turn my upper lip into a mustache-sicle. Winters in Brooklyn are nothing in comparison to the extremes upstate, but that doesn’t stop me from being affected by the seemingly unending frigid days and nights.

best chunky beef chili | Brooklyn Homemaker

If there’s one thing that I’m consistently inspired to do by cold weather, it’s to cook. And to eat. I love making soups, stews, braises and any number of hearty slow-cooked meals during the winter, and one of my favorite cold weather meals is chili. Traditionally chili is thought of as a warm weather meal, something eaten in Texas and the Southwest, but maybe that’s what draws me to it in winter. Cranking the heat and sitting down in flannel pajamas to a big steamy bowl of thick spicy chili helps me forget that outside the wind is whipping snowflakes through the streets of Brooklyn.

best chunky beef chili | Brooklyn Homemakerbest chunky beef chili | Brooklyn Homemakerbest chunky beef chili | Brooklyn Homemaker

Chili is a dish that people take very seriously. Web searches will turn up thousands of pages on the subject. The legendary outlaw Jesse James is said to have declined to rob a bank in McKinney, Texas because the town was home to his favorite chili parlor. The American mystery writer Rex Stout once said that, “Chili is one of the great peasant foods. It is one of the few contributions America has made to world cuisine. Eaten with corn bread, sweet onion, sour cream, it contains all five of the elements deemed essential by the sages of the Orient: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, and bitter.” That is a big reputation to live up to for such a simple, unfussy food.

Chili has a long history in the United States and there are a great many opinions about how this dish should be prepared. I’ve even seen people go so far as to say that adding beans to chili is sacrilegious. The thing is though, that I don’t really care what the chili experts say. I’m not from Texas. I don’t live in the old wild west. I like chili how I like it, and if some “purists” think I’m doing it wrong, so be it. It doesn’t change the fact that this recipe is friggin delicious.

best chunky beef chili | Brooklyn Homemaker

In my defense, not that I  believe I really need defending, not everyone takes chili so seriously. Texas native Carroll Shelby had ideas about chili that were closer to my own and said, “The beauty of chili to me is that it’s really a state of mind.”  “It’s what you want when you make it. You can put anything in there you want, make it hot or mild, any blend of spices you feel like at the time. You make it up to suit your mood.”

I was a vegetarian when I lived in the Adirondacks, and chili with lots and lots of beans was one of my favorite ways to warm myself up on cold days. When I lived in Ithaca, New York, I worked at a restaurant that won a chili cook-off with a recipe that used chunks of stew meat instead of ground beef. My love of spice has grown since I’ve moved to a part of Brooklyn that is heavily dominated by Mexican and Puerto Rican culture. All of my past experiences have helped guide me to the recipe we have here today. Chunky beef chili made with stew meat instead of ground beef, with a variety of beans, and a healthy dose of heat and spice.

When I was growing up, chili was only ever made with ground beef, so when I first saw it made another way and started trying it myself, the idea of using stew meat was completely novel to me. Later I realize that it’s not really so uncommon, and that it’s probably how the dish originated. The idea used to be so foreign to me that I wanted to try to change the name to reflect its unconventional ingredients. The problem was that there’s no delicate way to combine the names chili and stew. No one wants to belly up to a steaming bowl of “Stewli”, no matter how delicious.

No thank you.

best chunky beef chili | Brooklyn Homemaker

So. Chunky chili it is!

This recipe is thickened with corn flour, but if you don’t have corn flour feel free to use all-purpose flour. I used stew meat that was already cut into chunks at the grocery store, but ended up needing to do some cutting of my own to bring the chunks down to the right size. Most stew meat bought in grocery stores comes in pieces about two or three inches in size. This recipe works much better with smaller pieces and I cut them all down to about one inch cubes. I made this recipe with beef this time around, but I’ve made it with venison before and it’s delicious. If you love venison, by all means, knock yourself out.

I think this chili translates to a slow cooker recipe really well too.  I would suggest that you brown all your veggies and meat ahead as stated in the recipe, and follow the steps through to where you scrape up the browned bits from the pot with half a cup of beef stock. Then you would transfer the browned meat and onions to the crock pot, add the remaining ingredients, and cook on high for four hours, or low for eight. The only thing that might be tricky is to get the chili to the correct consistency, so you may need to add more corn flour to help thicken it.

Since I’m usually just feeding myself and Russell, this recipe made plenty of leftovers for us, and I have to say, I think this chili improves with age. The second day the flavors seemed to have really married perfectly and the meat was even more tender and delicious. I suppose this is what he meant when John Steele Gordon said that “Chili is much improved by having had a day to contemplate its fate.”

best chunky beef chili | Brooklyn Homemaker

Best Chunky Chili

adapted from Emeril Lagasse for Food Network

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 to 2 jalapenos, seeded and finely diced
Salt
Cayenne
2 pounds stew meat, cut into 1″ cubes
2 tablespoons corn flour (or all-purpose)
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups beef stock
28 oz  can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup tomato paste
15 oz can red kidney beans
15 oz can black beans

Directions
In a large heavy bottom stockpot of dutch oven, heat the vegetable oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions and saute for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the vegetables start to wilt. Add jalapenos and garlic and cook 1 to 2 minutes more. Season with salt and cayenne. In a large bowl, stir together corn flour, chili powder, & cumin, and toss and coat meat in the mixture. Brown the meat for 5 to 6 minutes. Add about 1/2 cup of the beef stock and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any brown bits of beef and corn flour stuck to the bottom of the pan. Stir in remaining stock, tomatoes, tomato paste, and beans. Bring the liquid up to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer the liquid uncovered for the first hour, stirring occasionally. Cover the pot and simmer for another hour or until the beef is fork tender.
Taste and re-season with salt and cayenne if necessary. If the chili is too thin, simmer uncovered until it’s thick enough. If too thick, thin it out, a tablespoon at a time, with beef stock. Garnish the chili with the grated cheese, sour cream and avocado. Serve with cornbread.