Unsilent's Chili

Via KSK Founder, Unsilent

Unsilent’s Great F*cking Chili, adapted from Serious Eats

I love chili. Few things in the world make me as happy as the process of making a big ass pot of the good stuff. I am always looking to try new things, but invariably come back to the same standby ingredients and flavors that I prefer. Rich, smokey, spicy and meaty with enough acidity to keep it interesting bite after bite (bowl after bowl, really).

The batch I made over the weekend is probably my all-time favorite. It, like many other recipes in my arsenal, was heavily influenced by Serious Eats Chief Creative Officer J. Kenji López-Alt. Following his well thoroughly vetted methods have led my burger game to new heights, so I was confident that the work and ingredients needed for his “Best Chili Ever” would be worth the effort.

Go ahead and open that link in a new tab. If you care enough about chili to read this, you’re going to want to read that.

Another reason I felt good about this recipe were the many familiar flavors. I’m a big fan of bitter elements in my chili, and this recipe embraces them. Despite differences in choices of chiles and umami bombs, this recipe is pretty close to Kenji’s. Pay close attention, because the technique is a revelation even if you don’t like chocolate and anchovies in one pot.

1 pound dried dark red kidney beans
~10 tablespoons of kosher salt
4 quarts water
3 whole ancho chiles, torn into large pieces and seeded
2 whole negro chiles, torn into large piece and seeded
1 whole chipotle chili, torn into large pieces and seeded
6 pounds bone-in beef short rib, trimmed with fat reserved
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 cups unsalted chicken stock
1.5 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 tablespoons whole cumin seeds, toasted
2 teaspoons whole coriander seeds, toasted
2 whole cloves, toasted and ground
1 star anise, toasted and ground
1 tablespoon extra-finely ground espresso (something rich, not acidic)
1 ounce chopped unsweetened chocolate
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 fresh serrano chiles
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon dried oregano leaves
2 bay leaves
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup cider vinegar
6 good shakes of Frank’s
2 tablespoons molasses
1/2 of good double chocolate stout (drink the other half, or just pour it in because you have perfectly good whiskey in the other hand)
Like I said, very similar to Kenji’s recipe (which is better because he doesn’t omit all of the bourbon because of a pregnant wife).

-Mix six tablespoons of the kosher salt with the water in a big ass bowl. Add the dried beans and soak overnight. Don’t be an asshole and forget this step. Once you’re ready to use them (read on) drain them and rinse them.
-Toast the whole spices (cloves, cumin, coriander and star anise) on medium heat in a nice big pot. This will be home to everything for the rest of the day. After a few minutes and some good smells transfer them to a grinder or mortar and reduce in size by a factor of a million or so, and set aside.
-Next, reheat the pot and toast the chiles for a few minus until fragrant and set aside.

-Wipe down the pot so you don’t burn little bits of chile left behind, then season the short ribs with salt and pepper, and sear them in batches on all four sides. Don’t crowd the pot.
-Toss the reserved beef fat into the the pot and allow it to render. Pour the rendered fat into a container that won’t crack under the heat of boiling animal fat and set aside.

-Pour one cup of the chicken stock in the pot, then scrape up all of the brown bits with a wooden spoon or spatula. Add the toasted chilis to the pot, and simmer in the thin layer of stock until it’s reduced in half and a dark reddish brown. #HTTR

-Transfer the chili and stock mixture to a blender or food processor and ground spices, tomato paste, fish sauce, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, chopped chocolate, ground coffee. This is your chili slurry. It is the backbone of your future meal. Give it a little taste. It’s going to be a bittier and a bit meaty despite not having any actual meat in it.

-Cut the meat off of the bone and cut it into cubes the size of which you could envision eating. Put all of that goodness in a bowl along with the bones. Then toss the bowl in the fridge.

-Wipe the skillet down again, then heat it back up and add four tablespoons of the rendered beef fat.

-Toss those diced onions into the delicious fat, and stir until beginning to soften. Then add in the garlic, serranos, oregano and a couple pinches of salt. Now SMELL IT.

-Take your slurry and throw that into the pot. Fry it up good with that onion mixture. It’s going to smell great. Try to not die as you stir it for the next few minutes.
-Add remaining chicken stock, bay leaves, beef and bones to the pot. Stir and simmer with the lid slightly ajar for an hour with the heat on the lowest setting. Use the time to amuse yourself in the other room.
-Head back to the kitchen and add your tomatoes, vinegar and dried beans to the pot. Give it a stir, because it’s starting to really look like chili. Leave the slightly ajar and continue to cook on the lowest heat level for a few hours, checking in and stirring every half hour. There’s probably going to be a slick of fat on top of the pot. Skim some of this off. Not because it’s healthy, but because greasy chili isn’t ideal. Once the beans start to become edible, add the beer. Cook for another half an hour then stir in the Frank’s and molasses.
-Taste it! Now stop eating and let the whole thing cool down. Throw the covered pot in the refrigerator and leave it there until tomorrow. It’s worth it!

-Pull that pot out of the fridge about 90 minutes before you want to eat. It’s going to be an insanely thick mass of goodness. Heat it up over low heat with the lid slightly ajar, and it will start to loosen up. Once that happens remove the bones and bay leaves. Their jobs are done. Also, pick out any big pieces of tissue that were attached to the bone. There’s probably some meat here, but also a bunch of connective tissue. either chop it up really small, or just toss it. Give the chili one more taste and add salt, hot sauce or vinegar if needed.

-Serve with cornbread and/or tortilla chips and/or flour tortillas. Toppings are also good. I like toppings. I went with pickled red onions, sour cream and minced jalapenos that I pickled in some of the onion brine. Those jalapenos were good.

-Pour yourself a crisp beer or an off-dry Riesling if you’re fancy.