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updated: 3/8/2011 12:51 PM

Smoky Texas Chili

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  • Smoky Texas Chili relies on dried and smoked peppers to give it a summer-grilled flavor.

    Smoky Texas Chili relies on dried and smoked peppers to give it a summer-grilled flavor.
    Photo for The Washington Post by Deb Lindsey; tabl


10 dried ancho chili peppers

3 (or more) cups hot water, for soaking the dried ancho chili peppers

cup vegetable oil (may substitute 2 ounces beef suet)

3 pounds lean beef, preferably stewing meat

1 canned chipotle, seeded and minced

1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon crushed cumin seeds

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons masa harina or cornmeal, optional

Rinse all 10 of the dried chili peppers well, then put them in a large bowl with at least 3 cups of hot water for 20 minutes. When they are soft, remove the peppers from the bowl, then seed and stem them. Use a rounded table knife or a fork to scrape the chili peppers from their skins; discard the skins.

Line a fine-mesh strainer with a few layers of cheesecloth. Strain the ancho soaking water through the lined strainer into a bowl, reserving at least 2 cups.

Finely chop 6 of the scraped ancho chili peppers. Coarsely chop the remaining 4 and place them in a small bowl.

Heat the oil in the Dutch oven over medium heat until the oil shimmers. (Alternatively, heat the suet in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until its fat is rendered, about 10 minutes. Remove the suet.)

Increase the heat to medium-high; add a half or third of the meat, searing it on all sides. Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining meat. (If using vegetable oil, discard all but 1 or 2 tablespoons of the oil after all the meat has been seared.)

Return all of the meat to the pot. Add 2 cups of the ancho soaking water and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium or medium-low (so the liquid is barely bubbling at the edges); cover and cook for 30 minutes.

Add the chipotle pepper, the 6 chopped ancho chili peppers, Tabasco, dried oregano, salt, crushed cumin seeds and garlic; cover and cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. (If you used suet, you'll need to occasionally skim off the surface grease.)

Stir in the 4 remaining chopped anchos and the masa or cornmeal, if using. Cover and cook for 30 minutes to 1 hour, until the meat is tender. Add some of the remaining ancho soaking liquid (or water) as needed to achieve a stewlike consistency.

If possible, cool and refrigerate for at least 1 day to allow the flavors to mingle.

Serves six to eight.

@Recipe nutrition:Nutrition values per serving (based on eight): 310 calories, 11 g fat (3 g saturated), 12 g carbohydrates, 5 g fiber, 42 g protein, 95 mg cholesterol, 1010 mg sodium.

Adapted from "A Bowl of Red" by Frank X. Tolbert (1953 Texas A&M University Press)