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American Classics by Editors of Cook's Illustrated Magazine

Serves  6

     To ensure the best chile flavor, we recommend toasting whole dried chiles and grinding them in a minichopper (or spice-dedicated coffee grinder), all of which takes only 10 (very well-spent) minutes. Select dried chiles that are moist and pliant, like dried fruit.
     To toast and grind dried chiles, place chiles on a rimmed baking sheet in a 350-degree oven until fragrant and puffed, about 6 minutes. Cool, stem & seed, tearing pods into pieces.
     Place pieces of the pods in a spice grinder and process until powdery, 30 to 45 seconds.
     For hotter chili, boost the heat with a pinch of cayenne or a dash of hot pepper sauce near the end of cooking. Serve the chili with warm pinto or kidney beans, corn bread or chips, corn tortillas or tamales, rice, biscuits, or plain crackers. Top with chopped fresh cilantro, minced white onion, diced avocado, shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese, or sour cream.

• 3 tablespoons ancho chili powder, or 3 medium pods (about 1/2 ounce), toasted and ground (see note above)
• 3 tablespoons New Mexico Red chili powder, or 3 medium pods (about 3/4 ounce), toasted and ground (see note above)
• 2 tablespoons cumin seeds, toasted in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 4 minutes, and ground
• 2 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably Mexican
• 4 pounds beef chuck roast, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1 -inch cubes
• Salt
• 7-8 slices bacon (8 ounces), cut into 1/4-inch dice
• 1 medium onion, minced
• 5 medium cloves garlic, minced
• 4-5 small jalapeno Chile peppers, stemmed, seeded, and minced
• 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes or plain tomato sauce
• 2 tablespoons lime juice
• 5 tablespoons masa harina or 3 tablespoons cornstarch
• Ground black pepper

1. Mix the chili powders, cumin, and oregano in a small bowl and stir in 1/2 cup water to form a thick paste; set aside. Toss the beef cubes with 2 teaspoons salt; set aside.

2. Fry the bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium-low heat until the fat renders and the bacon crisps, about 10 minutes. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a paper towel—lined plate; pour all but 2 teaspoons fat from the pot into a small bowl; set aside. Increase the heat to medium-high; saute the meat in four batches until well-browned on all sides, about 5 minutes per batch, adding up to 2 more teaspoons bacon fat to the pot as necessary. Set the browned meat aside.

3. Reduce the heat to medium and add 3 tablespoons bacon fat to the now-empty pot. Add the onion and saute until softened, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic and jalapenos and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the chili powder mixture and saute until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the reserved bacon and browned beef, crushed tomatoes, lime juice, and 7 cups water. Bring to a simmer. Continue to cook at a steady simmer until the meat is tender and the juices are dark, rich, and starting to thicken, about 2 hours.

4. Mix the masa harina with 2/3 cup water (or cornstarch with 3 tablespoons water) in a small bowl to form a smooth paste. Increase the heat to medium, stir in the paste, and simmer until thickened, 5 to 10 minutes. Adjust the seasoning generously with salt and ground black pepper to taste. (For the best flavor, refrigerate in an airtight container overnight or for up to 5 days. Bring back to a simmer over medium-low heat.) Serve immediately.


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