I made this recipe last year for my neighborhood’s annual ‘Torrey Pines Butt Kickin’ Chili Cook off’ and really enjoyed it. Last year I was also involved in cooking my way through Tyler’s Ultimate Cookbook with my girls I decided to look there first for a recipe. Unfortunately there was no chili recipe in the book. I thought about it for a while and decided that I still wanted to use a recipe by Tyler so looked on his website and came upon one called, “Beef Chili with Ancho, Red Beans, and Chocolate”. Now this sounded really good. I was intrigued by the inclusion of chocolate in a chili recipe.
I read through the ingredients and they seemed easy enough to find so off I went to the grocery store. I needed ancho chiles, chipoltle peppers in adobo and a jalapeno. The first place I looked was the fresh produce section and found my jalapeno but no ancho. Then off to the ethnic foods aisle and found my chipoltle peppers in adobo but no ancho.
Okay, so what is an ancho and where do I find it? I went back to the produce section and asked a very nice employee who was busy restocking. “Sir, do you know where I can find an ancho chile?” He looked at me a little perplexed and said, “I don’t know what an ancho chile is. I never heard of those. Let me see if I can find someone to help.” He found another employee who was working restocking the frozen food department. He too did not have any idea what I was looking for and asked if I had looked in the ethnic foods or spices aisles.
I assured both men that I had indeed looked in both aisles with negative results. But I decided to try again thinking that perhaps I had just overlooked them. So, back I went to no avail. Not to be deterred I proceeded to the office to find a store manager. I explained what I was looking for and he too looked very perplexed and mentioned all the areas I had just looked through. He then called over another store manager but to no avail.
After talking to the managers I decided to look one more place in the store. There is a section away from the ethnic aisle that sells Goya foods. Goya foods are from Spain. Not really sure why they don’t consider Goya an ethnic food but, oh well. Now here I found dried peppers called Pasilla chilies. Nowhere in the store could I find anything that had the word ‘ancho’ on it.
I went ahead and purchased the rest of my ingredients and headed home. I went straight to my computer and did a Google search on ‘ancho chiles’. I love Google! There popped up a whole list of sites to go to. What I discovered is that an ancho chile is just a dried poblano chile. In the process of drying they widen hence the word “ancho” which means wide in Spanish.
I also noted on the Google search that ancho chiles were sometimes substituted with pasilla chiles. Aha! I saw that name at the store in the Goya foods section. Back to the store I went. Not the exact food I was looking for but given the fact that I only had a few days to prepare decided to go with them.
Preparing the chili was pretty easy especially as I had all the ingredients measured and prepared ahead of time. I really liked the way Tyler explained, “chili is nothing more than mounting layers of flavor and letting them all simmer together”. ‘Mounting of layers’ a very cool way of explaining making chili. I really liked that.
The first thing to prepare was the chili powder using the pasilla chiles. After toasting the chile pieces and pulsing them in the food processor I had this wonderfully smoky flavored powder. I really liked the aroma of the pasilla chiles and knew that it would add a really nice layer to the chili.
Now I understood all the ingredients except one, the cornmeal. I assumed it was to thicken the broth but that would have happened anyway as the chili continued to simmer. I thought it made the chili pasty. I understand that is a personal opinion someone else may feel differently.
The ingredient that I liked to add most was the chocolate. I was really interested in seeing how this ingredient would impact the chili. I seem to remember reading on the Internet that chocolate is considered an authentic Southwestern, Mexican spice. And, no your chili will not taste like a candy bar! It is used to enhance all the other flavors.
How did it taste? Very good! The chili had a very nice smoky aroma and taste with a back kick of heat. I loved the crushed saltines and white cheddar cheese garnish.
Did I win the chili cook off? No. My neighbors Marvin and Elaine won year. They made a ground beef, red bean chili with quite a kick to it. Actually there were four chilies entered that had quite a kick to them. So, of course, everyone had to have their share of liquid refreshments to wash them down. Chuckle, chuckle!
Will I cook this recipe again? Yes but without the cornmeal. I would be interested in seeing what a difference it would make if I eliminated the cornmeal. And, in the interim I will look for ancho chilies so I will have the original ingredient called for. Randy really liked this chili precisely because it was not overly hot but he found that there was a kick back that he found interesting but not overwhelming.
Well, two chocolate chilis and no winner. I will have to try something new and different for next year’s cookoff. Anyone out there have a recipe they want to share?