My company hosts a chili cook-off every year. Last year I got to participate as a judge, and since I just love a healthy competition between friends, I decided to give it a shot this year. This is the first time I have ever competed in a chili cook-off (and secret be told, I had only made chili twice before in my lifetime). But I’m still a Texas girl, which means I know what good chili tastes like, and I was determined to do something a little different to stand out in this year’s competition. My instincts served me well and I’m happy to say that I came in 2nd Place! While 2nd place is nice and all, I’m now hell bent on winning that trophy next year!
Since this chili just barely missed first place – I feel okay about giving away my recipe secrets, and good luck to those of you who can replicate it. I kind of cooked on the fly while combining all of my spices together in this mix so I hope that I recorded the measurements down accurately. Chili is all about two things – the meat you use, and the spice blend you flavor it with. And because I’m a Texas girl – that means BEANS are NOT acceptable in CHILI! Texas chili is all about the meat and the heat! (but that’s just my opinion)
The two meats I used in my chili gave a very unique texture and flavor to the array of typically ground up meat chilis. I used equal parts chili ground beef chuck, and bone-in pork butt. I let my pork butt braise in the chili liquid for hours until it all fell apart in to bite sized shreds of meaty goodness. Marinating the pork in beer for a few hours before hand and then braising it in the beer/ chili liquid also helped a great deal.
The chiles I used also made for an interesting flavor punch. I was planning on using a handful of habanero peppers to kick it up a notch, but while I was at the farmers market selecting my ingredients I stumbled upon a farmer who had an intriguing mix of these gnarly green finger-like chili peppers. He swore these cowhorn cayenne chili peppers would be just what I needed. And let me tell you – these bad boys pack a mean punch that would rival any habanero!
Habanero Shiner Chili
Chili spice: Mix all seasonings together in a bowl and set aside. ————————
1 1/2 tbs salt
1 tbs hot chili powder
1 tbs cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tbs garlic salt
1 tbs onion flakes
1/2 tbs onion powder
1/2 tbs oregano
1 tsp cumin
1 large white onion chopped
6 large cloves garlic minced
2 tbs butter (or bacon rendered grease)
6 habanero peppers
2-3 cowhorn cayenne peppers- chopped very fine
4-5 large roasted poblano peppers- chopped very fine
4-5 chipotle chilies in adobo sauce- chopped
1 16 oz can of whole peeled tomatoes
2 Shiner Bock beers
1.5 lbs chili ground beef
1.5 lbs marinaded pork butt (shoulder)
* marinade your pork butt for at least an hour covered in 1 Shiner beer.
You might be wondering about the bacon grease- that’s a little trick I like to use to add more flavor to just about anything. If a recipe calls for sauteing in butter or oil- most of the time you could substitute a little rendered bacon fat. I just keep a mason jar in my fridge so whenever I make bacon for breakfast I pour the grease in to my jar and save it for guilty pleasure cooking later.- Don’t judge me, it’s a guilty pleasure for a reason.
In a dutch oven begin by cooking down your onions and garlic in the butter (or bacon fat) when they become just translucent add the very finely chopped habaneros and cowhorn peppers, let those cook down for about 5 minutes.
Add the can of tomatoes and their sauce, the chipotle chilies and a few spoon-fulls of the adobo sauce from the can (depending on how much smoky flavor you like). Then add your ground beef and all of the seasoning mix and begin to just slightly brown the beef.
By now the bottom of your dutch oven should be getting a little brown from all of the cooked bits on the bottom. De-glaze the pot by poring a splash of Shiner beer in and scrape up all the good brown bits off the bottom. Now add the pork butt to the pot and all it’s liquid. Pour the rest of your second beer in and slightly stir to combine.
Cover and let simmer for at least 2 hours.
In the mean time you can roast and peel your poblano chilies. Set your oven to broil and place the peppers evenly on a baking sheet. Cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side turning once. The papery skin should turn blistered and black. Once cooked, set them aside until they are cool enough to handle. Then remove the papery black skin and seeds. You want the sweet green flesh inside. (see above photo). Dice the peeled peppers and add them to the pot.
After 2-3 hrs of cooking the pork should be starting to soften and fall off the bone- don’t force this! Just let it simmer away and the meat will tenderize itself. As the thick fat layer starts to cook down it will separate from the meat, remove the pork fat and the bone from the pot. If the chili is starting to look dry you can add more beer or tomato sauce. At this point you can begin to taste it for flavor and adjust your seasonings- but I’m warning you it will still be very spicy! Those chilies have a life of their own. You should let them cook down for at least 5 hrs before serving it to anyone with an aversion to chili heat. I like to let mine cook down in the evening. Then I let it cool over night while the flavors mellow and mingle together. Then I crank it on again in the morning and I swear it tastes like a brand new pot by lunch-time. The spicy chili heat renders down to leave nothing but flavor, and the meat has absorbed all that saucy-chili goodness.
Enjoy my friends. Happy Halloween!