The best thing about this chili is all the "B's" involved: beer, bacon, and brisket. And of course, then there is the butternut squash. Technically this is the fourth "B" of the recipe, but I leave it out of the bragging title, because for some reason thinking about squash in chili turns people off. While bacon, beer, and brisket perk the salvation glands, the thought of squash can dry them right back up. So I leave it out of the title, even though the squash is the shining star of this pot. It totally and completely takes the chili from good to AMAZING.
When you scan the ingredients list, your first thought might be that this chili is destine to be scaldingly spicy. After all, it has anchos, chili power, and chopped green chilis to give it heat. But the interesting thing is that the final product actually tastes more sweet and earthy, thanks to the addition of the squash. Plus, in a no-bean chili, the squash adds a hearty dose of bulk and fiber to keep things healthy and filling. And the flavors meld so nicely, making this a very comforting fall and winter dish.
The first time we made this, we started it after dinner. It was for an event the next day, and we did not realize we were in for four hours of braising. Needless to say, that night we had to set the alarm into the wee hours of the morning several times in order to add ingredients, stir, and finally remove from heat, all in our jammies with bleary eyes.
This time, we budgeted our time accordingly. We made the chili for a Fake Surprise Party, also known as Lauren's Surprise Party #1. We needed something to eat as we pretended to be at her real party. To prepare, Sam and I spent all day in various states of chili making, and I do hope the final project met her fake party expectations. It must have been alright, because her husband John ate my portion's leftovers straight from my bowl (he did use his own spoon).
I highly encourage adding this to the fall repertoire, especially if you live in a climate even slightly reminiscent of autumn. It would go so well with a crisp afternoon, golden leaves on the trees, and perhaps some college football on the tube. Eat up, there might be a game of tag football in the leaves afterwords (or perhaps a real Surprise Party #2, depending on if you are Lauren or not).
Texas Beef Brisket Chili
Bon Appétit* by Bruce Aidells* October 2008
A cold-weather favorite, this all-beef, no-bean chili gets added appeal from a seasonal ingredient: butternut squash. For best results, make the chili at least one day ahead so that the flavors have time to meld.
* 6 large dried ancho chiles*
* 6 ounces bacon, diced
* 1 1/4 pounds onions, chopped (about 4 cups)
* 1 5-pound flat-cut (also called first-cut) beef brisket, cut into 2 1/2- to 3-inch cubes
* Coarse kosher salt
* 6 large garlic cloves, peeled
* 2 tablespoons chili powder
* 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
* 1 teaspoon dried oregano
* 1 teaspoon ground coriander
* 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
* 1 1/2 10-ounce cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes with green chiles (1 3/4 cups)
* 1 12-ounce bottle Mexican beer
* 1 7-ounce can diced roasted green chiles
* 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro stems
* 4 cups 1 1/2- to 2-inch chunks seeded peeled butternut squash (from 3 1/2-pound squash)
* Fresh cilantro leaves
* Chopped red onion
* Diced avocado
* Shredded Monterey Jack cheese
* Warm corn and/or flour tortillas
Place chiles in medium bowl. Pour enough boiling water over to cover. Soak until chiles soften, at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Sauté bacon in heavy large oven-proof pot over medium-high heat until beginning to brown. Add onions. Reduce heat to medium; cover and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle beef all over with coarse salt and pepper. Add to pot; stir to coat. Set aside.
Drain chiles, reserving soaking liquid. Place chiles in blender. Add 1 cup soaking liquid, garlic, chili powder, cumin seeds, oregano, coriander, and 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt; blend to puree, adding more soaking liquid by 1/4 cupfuls if very thick. Pour puree over brisket in pot. Add tomatoes with juices, beer, green chiles, and cilantro stems. Stir to coat evenly.
Bring chili to simmer. Cover and place in oven. Cook 2 hours. Uncover and cook until beef is almost tender, about 1 hour. Add squash; stir to coat. Roast uncovered until beef and squash are tender, adding more soaking liquid if needed to keep meat covered, about 45 minutes longer. Season chili to taste with salt and pepper. Tilt pot and spoon off any fat from surface of sauce. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Cool 1 hour. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled.
Garnishes: Set out garnishes in separate dishes. Rewarm chili over low heat. Ladle chili into bowls and serve.
*Available at many supermarkets and at specialty foods stores and Latin markets.