March 15, 2015

Spicy Beer Chili

St. Patrick's Day is huge up in the Midwest. Chicago dyes the river green, there are parades everywhere, and Madison parties (well, more than usual). But you can only drink so much beer and eat so much soda bread before you need to eat some real food. That's where this beef and beer chili comes in. I suppose this is a Texan-Irish fusion dish since it's essentially spicy Texas beanless chili with a hearty splash of beer.

It all starts with the aromatics: onion, garlic, and jalapeno. It's just a stew, so you don't need to make all the cuts perfect and pretty, but how you cut them is how you eat them, so try to avoid large chunks of anything (especially the jalapeno!). If you like things a little spicier, you can add more jalapeno or swap it for a hotter pepper, though you will be adding cayenne, chili powder, and hot sauce later on.

Actually, later on is pretty soon. Once the aromatics are tender and fragrant, it's time to stir in all the spices. It may seem like you're overseasoning, but this makes a nice big pot of chili, so you need a lot of spice. I add cayenne, chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, and ample salt and pepper.

The ground beef goes in at about the same time as the spices. The fat content isn't a huge deal here, though I recommend staying between 80 and 90 percent lean here for maximum flavor. If you go with a leaner cut, it won't be quite as tender or flavorful, and if you go with a fattier cut, you miss out on some of the meat. The goal when cooking it is just to brown it to start developing the flavor without cooking it all the way through since it still has to cook for another 30 minutes or so and you don't want it to get tough. Once the beef is browned, I stir in some tomato paste, which deepens the flavor, especially if you add it this early in the process and it has time to brown a little bit.

Now it's time for the beer. You want to add it early enough for all the flavors to combine and for some of the alcohol to cook off but not too late that you can't taste it. I'm not a beer connoisseur, but you want to use something with a fairly strong flavor without any particularly bitter or odd notes. Now is not the time to try that cool new flavored beer.

You may notice that, despite the addition of beer, the chili still doesn't have too much liquid. Sadly, the answer is not to add more beer (though you could add a little more if you so desire, but that means there's less for you to drink). I add a can of diced tomatoes, which have a fair amount of liquid in the can, along with some beef broth. Lastly, there's the hot sauce, which can add that extra kick if you didn't add enough jalapenos or cayenne earlier. In my opinion, it's much tastier to add a splash of hot sauce than to throw in a few spoonfuls of diced raw jalapeño.

All that goodness simmers together for only 20 minutes or so. I like to serve mine with some shredded cheese (cheddar or some sort of jack would work well), scallions (for color), and a big hunk of soda bread (for St. Patrick's Day). This recipe is quick and easy, which makes it perfect for St. Patrick's celebrations or just a cozy weeknight meal.

1 Large Yellow Onion, Diced
6 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 Jalapeño, Minced
1 ¼ lbs Ground Beef
1 tsp Cayenne
2 tsp Chili Powder
2 tsp Paprika
½ tsp Cumin
2 tsp Garlic Powder
2 tsp Onion Powder
6 oz Tomato Paste
1 Cup Beer
1 14.5 oz Can Diced Tomatoes
2 Cups Beef Broth
2 T Hot Sauce

Heat some oil in a large pot. Saute the onions until almost tender, about 4 minutes, then stir in the garlic and jalapeño. Cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in the ground beef and cook for 4 minutes or until almost browned, seasoning with the cayenne, chili powder, paprika, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt and pepper. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes. Add the beer and cook for 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, beef broth, and hot sauce and simmer for 20 minutes.

Serves 6
Recipe Adapted from Melanie Makes

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