by rachel tsunami

Earlier this month, Queen B. Shenaynay posted a treatise called Chili Apologetics, a thought-provoking piece about the virtues and benefits of capsaicin, and endorphins, and pain. As best I could tell, she believes (through extra-biblical revelation), that Adam and Eve ate chili on their first date. Of course, none of us can prove her wrong, nor would we want to.

At the time, I proffered a comment about the following recipe, which has found a happy home in my collection, and was pressed to share it, which I happily do here. However, I need to be perfectly clear about this. I did not try to claim that this chile is “better” than Shenaynay’s, only that it is very good, and that it has caused a shift in my chili paradigm. I don’t know about you, but in my world, there’s room for more than one chili, and each family has its favorites for different reasons.

~masa harina isn’t hard to find. Most any grocery store will have it.
~obviously, the quantity of jalepenos can be adjusted up or down according to how many brain cells you can spare.
~as usual, when cooking with beer or wine, they are added for the flavor. I can’t vouch for the taste if you omit the beer. It might be just fine.

All in all, a really good recipe!

Beef Chili with Masa Harina

There are as many versions of chili as there are chili cooks. This one includes a signature flavor of the American Southwest: masa harina. The Mexican corn flour used for making tortillas and tamales, masa harina is made by grinding corn kernels that have been simmered in a slaked lime solution and then dried. It is sold in well-stocked food stores and in Latin markets. Added to the chili near the end of cooking, masa harina thickens the liquid slightly, giving it body, and imparts a subtle corn flavor.Grind the meat yourself or ask the butcher to grind it fresh for chili, using the large holes of a meat grinder to give it a coarse texture. Accompany the chili with small bowls of sour cream, salsa, shredded cheddar cheese and chopped green onions.

5 Tbs. vegetable oil
3 lb. beef chuck, ground for chili
3 large yellow onions, finely chopped
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeño chili, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 cup chili powder
2 Tbs. ground cumin
1 Tbs. ground oregano
2 tsp. ground coriander
1 1/2 cups lager-style beer
2 1/2 cups beef stock
1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes
1 can (15 oz.) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (15 oz.) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
3 Tbs. masa harina
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

In a large nonstick fry pan over medium-high heat, warm 1 Tbs. of the vegetable oil. Add half of the beef and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a colander placed over a bowl to drain off the fat. Repeat with 1 Tbs. of the oil and the remaining beef.
Drain and set aside.

In a large pot over medium heat, warm the remaining 3 Tbs. oil. Add the onions and sauté, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the jalapeño, chili powder, cumin, oregano and coriander, stir until well combined and cook for 1 minute more.

Add the reserved beef, the beer, stock and tomatoes and bring to a gentle simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 50 minutes. Add the kidney and pinto beans and masa harina. Simmer until the chili is slightly thickened, 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve in large bowls.

Serves 8 to 10.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series,Soup,by Diane Rossen Worthington (Simon & Schuster, 2001).