Although the late founder of the International Chili Society, race car legend Carroll Shelby, maintained there was no such thing as bad chili (some's just better than others, he said), people who say they don't like chili haven't had good chili. Generally speaking, quality ingredients will yield quality chili, even if you don't time everything to the nanosecond or measure your ingredients with an eyedropper. The key thing is to have fun making it; chili leaves you lots of time to mingle with your guests instead of being stuck in the kitchen, making small deep-fried objects while everyone else is partying . Another key point is, good chili doesn't mean incendiary chili. How hot is too hot? One tip-off is when you have to ask your guests to stop screaming. Anyway, this is a spin on an earlier recipe, A Bowl of Red, incorporating one of our favorite beverages, Guinness. —wssmom
Chile paste and roasted garlic
2 ounces dried New Mexico and Guajillo chile pods
1 smallish head of garlic
9 ounces Guinness or other stout
1 teaspoon dried marjoram (if stuck, use oregano)
2 slices bacon, to yield about one tablespoon bacon fat
3 pounds trimmed tri-tip, neatly diced into one-half of three-quarter-inch dices. Partially freeze the meat for easier slicing. You can use chuck or short ribs or even sirloin, but avoid round because it turns into rubbery little cubes.
1/2 pound bulk sausage without fennel, sweet or hot, your choice
freshly ground black pepper
2 cups diced sweet onion
1 1/2 cups homemade chicken broth
10 tablespoons premium salt-free chili powder, such as Gebhardt's or Whole Foods
Use latex or rubber gloves to stem and seed the chile pods; cover with near-boiling water. Let steep for 30 minutes, then pour off the water and puree the softened pods in a food processor until they form a paste. Pass through a sieve to remove skins and errant seeds. Because chili pods can have a dizzying range of heat, from bland to volcanic, taste and adjust, adding some red pepper flakes if you like it hotter. Set aside.
Meanwhile, lop off the head of the garlic so it’s basically sliced horizontally in half, nestle in some aluminum foil, drizzle with vegetable oil, cover loosely and roast at 325 degrees for 30 minutes or so until squeezably soft. Set aside.
First, crack open that bottle of Guinness and consume so that there are exactly 9 ounces remaining. You might have to use two bottles for this to get it right. Pour the 9 ounces over the marjoram and let steep. Then, cook the bacon until crispy in a really big skillet, remove, and eat. Pour off all but one tablespoon of fat, and saute the beef and sausage, working in batches, until no longer pink. Drain off any excess fat. I usually use a colander.
Strain the Guinness/marjoram through a fine sieve and use it to deglaze the skillet. Place the brew along with the meat, lots of freshly ground pepper and diced onions, in your favorite chili pot. According to H. Allen Smith, if you don;t have a favorite chili pot, you are not civilized. Go out and get one. Bring to a boil, add 1 cup of the chicken broth, bring to a boil again, and then lower the heat until it’s barely bubbling. Cover and simmer for 90 minutes. In the meantime, if you haven’t already done so, read Smith's brilliant piece "Nobody Knows More About Chili Than I Do." (Here's a link: http://www.chilicookoff.com/history/history_started.asp).
Your guests should be arriving by now. After the 90 minutes are up, uncover, and stir in the chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt, tomato sauce, chocolate and half the chile paste. Squeeze in the garlic, mush it around, and tell your guests to be patient. Cover and cook for another half-hour or so. Check for consistency. If it's too thin, scoop out the meat and reduce the sauce until you're happy with it by bringing to a boil. Return the meat to the pot. Conversely, if you think it’s too thick, add some more Guinness - if there's any left - or some broth. Stir in the brown sugar.
When it looks as amazing as it smells, summon your fellow chiliheads abd serve with a squeeze of lime and a dollop of sour cream.