I rely on the New York Times for sage food advice, especially from Melissa Clark and Mark Bitman (whose "How to Cook Everything" is disintegrating in my kitchen from use). Recently Ms. Clark posted a vid/recipe for short rib chili. I love chili, including the basic ground beef and pinto beans version, but this particularly meaty, bean-free recipe caught my attention.
My friend Chef Bill Fuller once dubbed chili "America's curry," meaning it is both endlessly adaptable and has developed unique regional differences over time, like India's curries. (According to the author David Burton, of the excellent The Raj at Table, "chili powder"-- the mix of cumin, dried peppers, and onion powder, which your mom bought in small plastic jars to season ground beef-- was invented by an Indian-raised Englishman in Mexico who was homesick for the flavors of his youth.)
An inveterate tinkerer, I had to adapt Ms. Clark's recipe, chiefly by adding a puree of toasted whole dried chilis, and adding about a cup of cooked cranberry beans. The result was earthy, meaty, smoky, spicy, and entirely satisfying.
Here's her recipe, my additions in bold:
4 pounds bone-in beef short ribs, patted dry (I used about 2 pounds, which was ample; I also very lightly floured the beef prior to browning them)
5 teaspoons coarse kosher salt, more to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
5 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
2 jalapeño or serrano peppers, halved lengthwise, seeded if desired (I used one)
1 onion, peeled and quartered lengthwise
1 (28-ounce) can chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro stems, and 1/4 cup chopped leaves
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 to 2 tablespoons chile powder, to taste
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander (I left this out, but added a tablespoon of tumeric)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 (12-ounce) bottle Mexican lager, like Negra Modelo (I used Great Lakes Brewing lager)
A dried Chipotle pepper
A dried Poblano pepper
A Chipotle pepper from a can of Chipotles in Adobo sauce
1.Heat oven to 325 degrees. Season short ribs with 3 teaspoons salt and the black pepper. Let rest while you prepare sauce.
2.Place a large, dry Dutch oven over high heat. Add garlic, peppers and onion to the dry pan. Cook, turning occasionally, until lightly charred all over, about 10 minutes. I added a dried poblano and a dried chipotle pepper to the pan.
3.Transfer garlic, peppers and onion to a blender. Add tomatoes with juice, cilantro stems, oregano and 1 teaspoon salt. Purée until smooth. Place the toasted dried peppers in a bowl and cover with about a cup of boiling water and let soften for 10-15 minutes. Deseed and devein the soaked peppers (or leave seeds and veins in for more heat). Puree the peppers with two cloves of smashed garlic, half a canned chipotle with some of its adobo sauce, some oregano, salt and pepper and some of the soaking liquid to make a paste. Set aside.
4.Return Dutch oven to medium-high heat. Add olive oil. Sear short ribs in batches, until well-browned all over, about 20 minutes. Transfer browned ribs to a bowl. Finely chop a medium onion, stalk of celery and carrot and sautee in Dutch oven til soft, about 10 minutes.
5.Stir dried spices into pot and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in tomato paste and cook until it begins to caramelize, 1 to 2 minutes. Add purreed dried peppers to taste to the vegetable puree; I used about half. Stir for about a minute. Stir in tomato-pepper purée and beer and bring to a simmer. Return short ribs to pot, cover and transfer to oven. Bake for 1 1/2 hours, then uncover pot, give meat a stir, and continue baking until ribs are fork tender and falling off bone, 30 to 45 minutes longer, for a total cooking time of 2 to 2 1/4 hours. (If you have time, let short ribs mixture cool, refrigerate overnight, then remove fat before proceeding.)
6.Once ribs are cool enough to handle, remove from pot, reserving sauce. Shred meat and discard bones and gristle. If sauce seems thin, simmer on stove until it thickens enough to coat a wooden spoon. Return meat to pot.
Ms Clark severed them atop tortilla chips with melted cheese, salsa, sour cream and guacamole-- nachos. I'm sure they'd be excellent, but I served it as a hot dog topping one night and just as stand alone chili the next-- on rice, with a little grated cheddar. It was superb, especially on a cold, snowy evening.