Is chili meant to be served with or without beans? Ah, that's an unresolved issue-- depending on where you're from and how you were raised. As a kid, my mother made Chili con Carne, because my father was Mexican. My mother never used kidney beans. Ever. She always soaked pinto beans and added them to seasoned ground beef, with lots of onion. The chili was always served with hot flour tortillas and a side bowl of salsa. Mimicking my father, I'd tear each tortilla into quarters, fold over the pointed end and fold it into a scoop to hold a mound of my chili --and eat it with great relish. To this day, I must have flour tortillas when I eat re-fried or chili beans, or something feels like it's missing. I love me some beans, and I do make a delicious pot of chili beans, if I do say so myself. Super Bowl Sunday wouldn't be complete without a pot of my chili con carne.
A year ago, I caught watched a pre-recorded show on the Barefoot Contessa. Ina's friend ("Devon") was showing how she made her award-winning Tex-Mex Chili. I forgot about these photos (which are taken with my old camera), but I do think this recipe is worth sharing.
I was intrigued, because she used brisket, and I happened to have one that was frozen in my garage freezer. Once thawed, I cut it into bite-sized pieces and made sure they were patted very dry.
I also liked that she used fresh tomatoes, bell peppers ...
and strong coffee...
I haven't used any of those ingredient in my own chili, and I've heard that coffee adds another layer of flavor to the spices. Before I made this recipe, I decided to read the review. Whoa! I was taken aback at the backlash of true Tex-Mex lovers who said that this recipe was in no way Tex-Mex! Many reviews said that a Texan would never use beans. Okay. Now, I will agree that I found it very strange that Ina's friend used basil to flavor the sauce. Really? While I love basil, I nixed that idea. Instead, I opted for my beloved cilantro (which Ina Garten strongly dislikes). As a result of my tweaks, I have renamed this recipe to be Cal-Tex Mex chili, because I'm going to use beans. Hopefully, this will give me some leeway in my tweaks and I won't get spanked by my Texan friends.
All those brown bits are going to give this chili a lot of flavor.
Now, I added the vegetables and I decided to add about a cup of beef broth (which wasn't in her recipe) because I wanted more braising liquid and I wanted to deglaze all of that lovely fond.
I also added 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes.
At this point, you could transfer this to a slow cooker. Since I was home, I let this simmer for about a couple of hours. I tasted it. It was good. Dear Texans, I'm sorry. I must have beans with my chili! Kidney beans won't do. I must have pinto beans. I keep an assortment of canned beans on hand, because there is nothing wrong with them-- especially when I don't think to soak dried beans the night before. I always rinse and drain canned beans, though, because I don't like the slimy film from canned beans.
I added two 15-ounce cans...
That's more like it! This smells delicious, but I'm going to add strong coffee. Why not?
1/2 cup strong coffee (and I drink dark roast every morning) should do it. I added the coffee after the beans, instead of before. I don't think it matters, really. No, you can't taste "coffee", but I think it made the sauce taste richer with more depth of flavor. I let this simmer for 2 1/2 hours and it was time to serve this:
The chili con carne that I make is very thick, with a rich and spicy sauce. I would call this more of a "stew", since the sauce has more liquid to it. The brisket was very tender, since I cooked it low and slow for more than two hours. You can leave out the beans, and I still think this would be delicious. Would I make this again? Yes, because anything with Mexican seasoning, a sauce with the background of tomato and bell peppers is a winning combination. Searing the meat can take up to 30 minutes, but I think it's well worth it.
I do need to make a batch of my own chili con carne. It's been far too long, and I don't have a recipe. I just grab some of this and some of that. I'll have to take the time to measure it so I can share it with you. Then, I'm ready for a Chili Throwdown with Ina's friend. Basil in chili? Really? That must be a Hampton thing. So while Ina's friend, "Devon" showed how two make her award-winning Tex-Mex Chili, I think I'd made enough tweaks to call this my own Cal-Tex Mex Chili! To see the original recipe, click here. Otherwise, a printable recipe (with my own tweaks) is at the bottom of this post.