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Haymarket Chili: Deep, Dark, Real Chile Flavor

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Use a variety of chiles to make Haymarket Chili.

San Antonio culinarians Ron Bechtol and Cynthia Guido Williams served this dish at a gathering we attended recently. What a treat it was. They took no shortcuts; the chili looked and tasted like what might have been served at the downtown San Antonio Haymarket so many years ago.

Haymarket Chili

2 pounds lean chuck or shoulder roast, cut into small cubes (save trimmings for rendering and/or ask for beef fat [suet] from the meat market)
4 cloves  peeled garlic (or more to taste) toasted
1 teaspoon whole comino, toasted
¼ teaspoon dried oregano (Mexican, if possible), toasted
1 ½ teaspoons  salt, or more, to taste
6 tablespoons ancho chile paste (see below for preparation)
1 ½ tablespoons pasilla chile paste (see below)
2 teaspoons canned chipotle chile in adobo, or more to taste, chopped
1 ½ teaspoons tomato paste
1  (14 ½ ounce) good-quality, low-sodium beef broth
¾ cup water
½ cup Shiner Bock beer
4 teaspoons Quaker Masa Harina toasted and mixed into ¼ cup hot water

Trim the beef of all gristle, tough skin and loose fat, saving the fat. Cut into small (quarter-inch) cubes or have the butcher do it for you. Cut into ¼ inch cubes—or have the butcher do this for you.  Brown in batches in rendered fat and additional suet (some canola oil also OK.) Put aside, but do not clean pan

For the spice preparation: Toast the garlic, comino and oregano in a dry skillet (preferably cast iron) until the garlic blisters slightly and the seeds have begun to darken—do not let burn.  Blend together with the salt in a blender, adding just enough water to facilitate blending
Set aside.

To prepare chiles: Wipe clean the dried ancho and pasilla chiles (some guajillos may also be used, but be sure to have at least a portion of pasillas) and toast separately in a dry frying pan until chiles begin to puff and blister. Turn frequently to keep from burning. (1 ancho = about 1½ tablespoons paste; one pasilla chile = about ½ tablespoons paste, but amount varies with size.)

Remove chiles from pan, split open and remove seeds and obvious interior veins. Cover chiles (separately) with boiling water and let soften for 15 minutes or more. Purée separately, using just enough of the soaking water to facilitate blending. Set aside.

Note:  Recipe may be done ahead to this point. Keep ingredients refrigerated for a day or two.

To assemble: Using the frying pan in which the meat was browned (add a bit of canolaoil  if necessary), fry the garlic mixture briefly, than add the chile pastes (reserve any extra), the chopped chipotle and the tomato paste and fry a few more minutes, stirring frequently.

Add the beef broth and water, cook briefly to blend, than add the browned beef. Simmer, partially covered, until the beef is tender and the flavors have blended, 30-45 minutes.

Taste and add more chile paste or chopped chipotle if desired (a little paprika may also be added.)

Add beer and cook a few minutes more. Taste for salt, adding more if desired. Toast the masa harina in a dry skillet, stirring frequently, until it begins to darken. Mix with ¼ cup hot water to make a slurry and add to chili.

Simmer until the chili “binds” and the masa flavor is absorbed. If chili is too liquid at this point, simmer, uncovered, until desired consistency is reached. If too thick, add more beef broth or water

Serve with beans (if you must) on the side, along with chopped green or white onion and (optional) grated cheddar.

Serves 4-6.

By Ron Bechtol & Cynthia Guido Williams

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