Chili Canario

6th April, 2010: Posted by G.L. Pease in Moderate

Chili is one of those ‘controversial’ foods. Almost everyone loves it, and each has at least one opionion about what it is, and what it is not. There are national and world-wide competitions in which contestants try to prove that theirs is, in fact, the best there is. Some like it hot and spicy, and others like it hotter and spicier. One thing is constant; according to the International Chili Society, “Never has there been anything mild about chili.” Well put!

Here’s my version. It’s spicy and rich and wonderful. The Chili Casablanca has some little surprises that add interesting dimensions to the dish. It’s not flame-thrower hot, but presents plenty of warmth. If you want more fire and even more flavor, add a little Flavorevolutions Fatal Attraction hot sauce when you serve it — it complements the spices beautifully. Or, chop some fresh Habaneros, red onions and cilantro to sprinkle over the top. For a twist, garnish with wedge of lime.

There are no thickeners in this recipe. The velvety texture of the sauce comes from cooking the meat long enough for the connective tissues and proteins to break down. The recipe scales well, so double it, triple it, or enter a competition with it, increasing the size of the pot as needed. Just be sure to have enough Chili Casablanca! (And, if you win, unlike one fellow I know, don’t forget to tell them about Chile Casablanca!)

Ingredients – serves 4

  • 3 Tablespoons canola oil
  • 3 pounds beef – cut into 1″ cubes
  • 1 Medium onion, chopped
  • 3-4 Cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2-3 Tablespoons Flavorevolutions Chili Casablanca
  • 0.5 Cup dry red wine
  • 1 Tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 Cup water – to cover

Method – total cooking time, about 3 hours

Pat the beef dry, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

In a stockpot or Dutch oven, over medium-high heat, add enough oil to coat the pan, and brown the meat, in batches if necessary, transferring the meat to a plate kept warm in the oven. Browning well is the first step towards getting a deep, rich flavor in the chili, and there are no shortcuts.

Drain the excess oil, add the onions and garlic, and cook until just golden.

Return the meat to the pan, along with any juices.

Sprinkle with 1-2 Tablespoons of Chili Casablanca, and fry briefly, being careful not to burn the spices.

Add the wine and vinegar, and bring to a boil.

Add water to about half-cover the meat, and give it a good stir, gently scraping the fond from the bottom of the pan.

Return to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer very gently, covered, for 90-minutes, checking occasionally. Add water as necessary.

Adjust seasoning – salt and pepper, and add more Chili Casablanca to taste. The spices mellow a bit as the chili cooks, so adding them in layers keeps things bright and delicious.

After a total coooking time of 2-3 hours, the meat will be tender and the sauce thick and rich. Serve over rice with some excellent cornbread, and enjoy.

The better the meat, the shorter the total cooking time. Use cuts with plenty of flavor, and good texture. Chuck is the standard, and it tastes great, but I prefer the taste and texture of the shoulder Top Blade, often cut into Flat Iron steaks. Buy the roast, slice it 1″ thick, remove the connective tissue that runs through the middle of it, and cut the steaks into cubes. It’s fantastic!

Though some people think of spicy bean dishes when the word ‘Chili’ is mentioned, I don’t. Chili is a spicy meat stew. And, yes, I’m opinionated on the subject.

Beef is arguably the most traditional chili meat, but pork works beautifully in this recipe. The result is different, but equally delicious. Just don’t cook it quite as long, or it will turn into soup.

The spices are added in layers to increase the complexity of their flavors. Many spices melllow as they’re cooked, and we want to bring back some of their brightness. Of course, they also must be cooked long enough to absorb moisture and incorporate into the sauce, or they will give the chili a gritty texture. Be sure to cook for at least 20 minutes after adding the last layer of spices.

5 Responses

  1. Matty Says:

    Im doing my Halloween chili test run this weekend along with the lemons and Quattro pizza with the works. I never heard of chili casablanca and when I click it it says url not found. A google search shows nothing. Is it some sort of spice? Does trader joe’s carry it.

    Im just guessing my 3 kids won’t want any pizza when I tell them its hotter than the sun, and ah salt packed anchovies and olives are on it.
    Finally left over pizza:)

  2. Matty Says:

    Some french bread and Chevre to dip in the chili, can’t wait til Sat.

  3. Matty Says:

    Greg, can I substitute the Chili Casablanca with chili powder?

  4. G.L. Pease Says:

    Ah, yes. That link slipped through the cracks, and needed to be fixed. I’ve just done it… Thanks!

    Flavorevolutions Chili Casablanca is a marvelous blend of spices, sadly not yet on the market. We were supposed to have it out by now, but we’ve had some setbacks. The best laid plans of mice and men.

    Chili powder won’t give the same results. Chili Casablanca is a complex blend of spices that is really magical in what it does to the food.

    Oh, and a bit of chevre ON the bowl of Chili would be fab. And a little drizzle of good olive oil.

    I’ll send you an email in a few minutes…

  5. Matty Says:

    I finally got my hands on some Chili Casablanca. Well worth the wait.
    It really does give the cheap cut of meat (chuck) layers of flavor. I diced up a few golden habeneros from the garden which did wonderful this year for some reason. Must have been the sulfer. Anyway I had some leftovers, and being from Philadelphia, I threw it on a long roll with some roasted long hots. Thats what I call a SAMBO (better than a sandwich)
    This is a very simple dish. Give it a try, Im glad I did.