Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Texas "Red" & Indian Brown Ale

As some of you may have heard, Sarah and I are on the cusp of a pretty big change.  If you read the Smoked Beef Brisket Benedict post you might recall that I had some important guests visiting from the far off land of Denmark about a month ago.  In actuality, those guests were the fine folks from Mikkeller (yes, that Mikkeller!) who were in town on business and, among other things, interviewing me for the barbecue chef position at Warpigs, the soon-to-be legendary collaboration brewery they are launching with the equally fine folks at 3 Floyds.  Well friends, I am very pleased to announce that I was offered and have accepted that barbecue chef position which means that Sarah and I are soon moving to Denmark!  That's right, in the very near future, The Beer and Food Project will set up post in the exciting city of Copenhagen where I will help to lead the introduction of American style barbecue to the Danish people.  Pretty damn exciting!

So aside from barbecue - which has pretty much occupied most of my culinary brain for the last month - for nostalgic reasons, I've also been spending some goodbye time with the foods I find to be distinctly "Chicago." Chili is definitely one of them.  Technically it didn't originate in Chicago (like barbecue, it's mostly associated with Texas) but Chicagoans LOVE their chili.  It's the food of Sunday football games and family get togethers and most every Chicago person I know has their own "best" version.   I'm no different and like my chili making counterparts, I'll cockily assert that mine rivals most others.  The difference between them and me, perhaps, is that I'm actually willing to share it here.

It's important to mention that this recipe takes some time.  The prep is fairly uncomplicated but half of what makes chili good, is the slow cooking process.  Don't rush it.  Part of building flavor complexity and coaxing tenderness from meat, is patience.  So with this in mind, I got up early and headed to the butchers counter.  This is a Texas style chili which means NO beans and LOTS of meat.  I veer slightly from true Texan tradition and add bacon and chorizo.  Purists might turn their nose up at this but after multiple hours of slow cooking, the bacon and chorizo almost completely break down, ceasing to be solids and instead becoming pure flavor.  It's pretty awesome to behold and even more awesome to taste.

I also detour from the Texan tradition in the sense that I roast a few tomatoes and fold them into the chili in the last 30 minutes of cooking so that they break down just enough to lose form and become "sauce" but so that they also act as a natural thickener.  Plus their acidity adds a nice twang that's helpful to balance the richness of the meats.   

Of course a good meal is only better with good company.  In our case we had great company in the form of my friend Paul who I've know since childhood and who is kind of a Scoville super hero.  Seriously the guy is fairly amazing when it comes to the amount of heat he can tolerate.  So I wanted this chili to be spicy.  The trick, however, was to make it spicy enough for him but mild enough for Sarah who, I'm sorry to say, can be slightly wimpy when it comes to spiciness.  In the end, I risked Sarah's taste buds and used a respectable amount of chilies but I think, and likely Paul would agree, it could have been a little hotter still and just as palatable.  If you are heat seeker like Paul increase the amount of Arbol chilies according to personal stamina.  Spice aside, using a variety off chile peppers will also increase depth of flavor.  It probably goes without saying but each and every chile pepper has it's own distinctive flavor.  Thus the larger the variety, the more complex the chili.

The other cool thing about using a lot of different chile peppers is that technically they, not tomatoes, are what give chili its signature red "chili" color.  In total I used a mere 2 tablespoons of tomato paste (in what became 4 quarts of finished chili) but the final color was a vibrant and rich red all thanks to the dried Guajillos, Arbols and Anchos. 

I chose DogFish Head's Indian Brown Ale which is a hybrid of an IPA, a Scotch Ale and an American Brown Ale.  Dogfish Head is a great brewery run by great people and has turned the small vacation town of Rehoboth Beach into something of a beer mecca.  Their Indian Brown Ale is a terrific beer that is brewed with the personal touch, that has become synonymous with them and its smoothness went perfectly with the spice of the chili.   Paul and I enjoyed the whole six pack and consumed chili like we were teenagers again.  I sent him home with leftovers that he said went great with his eggs this morning.  It makes me think about the 2 quarts of leftovers I still have and breakfast tomorrow … 


Texas "Red" (Chili Con Carne)

3 lbs. Chuck Roast, large dice
1/2 lb Thick-cut Smoked Bacon, large dice
1/2 lb Chorizo
4 Dried Ancho Chiles, deseeded and torn into 1 in. pieces
4 Dried Guajillo Chiles, deseeded and torn into 1 in. pieces
2 Dried Arbol Chiles, deseeded and torn in half
2 tsp Whole Cumin, toasted
1 tsp Whole Coriander, toasted
1 tsp Whole Black Pepper, toasted
1 Cinnamon Stick
3 large Yellow Onions, 1 large dice, 2 cleaned and whole for roasting
6 Vine-ripe Tomatoes
3 Poblano Peppers
1 Jalapeño Pepper
2 Fresno Peppers
8 cloves Garlic
2 Tbsp Tomato Paste
2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
4 Tbsp Masa Flour
4 Tbsp Cider Vinegar
1 Qt Beef Broth
2 Qt Water

  • Preheat the oven to 475. 
  • In a dutch oven, render the chorizo and bacon for 10-12 minutes over medium heat    Separate the fat from the rendered chorizo and bacon.  Set aside.
  • Heat dutch oven on high with 3 Tbsp of reserved fat and brown the beef.  Do 2-3 separate batches, making sure you do not crowd the pan.   Set aside.
  • Reheat the dutch oven on high and add 3 more Tbsp of rendered fat.  Sauté the diced onions and chilies for 5-7 minutes.  Deglaze the pan with 2 C. beef stock and make sure to scrape the bottom with a wooden spoon to get all the flavor bits from the bottom of the pan.  
  • In a high powered blender add the sautéed onion and chile mixture, cumin, coriander, tomato paste, masa flour, vinegar, the rest of the chorizo/bacon fat, and the remaining beef stock.  If it is too thick, add some water to help blend.
  • Add the beef, chorizo/bacon, red chile mixture, cinnamon stick and the rest of the water to the dutch oven and cook on low for 2 hours. Stir regularly to make sure it is not sticking to the bottom. After 1 hour, remove the cinnamon stick and discard.  
  • Toss the tomatoes, remaining onions, garlic, and peppers in 4 Tbsp olive oil and roast for 30 minutes. Turn them and broil, rotating every 5 minutes for 10 more minutes to ensure a deep char color and flavor.   Let them cool and small dice all the vegetables.  
  • Add diced vegetables to chili and cook on low for a additional 30 minutes.
  • Garnish with cilantro, green onion and sour cream

Pairing Notes
Dogfish Head
Indian Brown Ale 
ABV 7.2%

This beer is one of my favorites because of its hybrid quality and its ability to bridge multiple styles forming something of a super beer.  It has the sweetness of a Brown Ale, the maltiness of a Scotch Ale while also exhibiting the hoppiness of an IPA.  It pours a dark mahogany and smells of dark fruits, brown sugar, and floral hops.  In flavor it truly brings together all the styles in one, well balanced beer. Sweet and sugary malts co-exist with the bitey bitterness harmoniously.  No easy feat. 

Finding a beer that wouldn't drown in the intensity of the rich, complex, and meaty chili was no small task.  I chose this beer because it was bold enough on its own and added some excellent comparable flavors.  The rich meatiness of the chili from the braised beef, chorizo and smokey bacon are enhanced from the caramel malts and sweetness of the beer, providing a collaborative Maillard reaction.   The hops in the beer not only balance the beer's maltiness, they also work to provide a comparison to the spiciness of the chili, refreshing the palate from a complete overload.  Perhaps the most interesting thing about this pairing, however, is the way the multitude of flavor layers in chili mirror the layers of flavor styles in the beer.


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