Full disclosure: I'm a vegetarian chili gal at heart. If there's beef involved, I prefer it in closer to a 1:1 ratio with my beans. This chili, from Tom Mylan's The Meat Hook Meat Book, is not like that. And rightfully so, given that it's coming from a book with 'meat' in the title twice. Instead, it's brimming with a ton of ground meat. Okay, not a ton, but an impressive five pounds—two of beef, two of pork, and one of lamb—or 20 quarter-pounders, to put things in perspective. But it looked so crazy appetizing in the photo, I just had to try it.
The chili's base is a purée of punchy and earthy rehydrated guajillo chilies. There are your typical chili ingredients, like onion, garlic, and canned tomatoes, and an atypical one—hominy, which adds body to the finished dish. Mylan takes no shortcuts when handling his flavors; he calls for toasted and ground cumin seeds, instead of the easier but perhaps inferior powder, and he sets the whole thing on fire with a whopping 1/4 cup of cayenne. Then for the fun part: you take an immersion blender to the pot, breaking down the chunks of meat and hominy until you reach, as he says, Hormel consistency.
All this results in the richest chili I've ever had. So rich that I needed the cheese and sour cream to moderate the intensity! In fact, everyone that shared in this giant pot, and there were lots of us, echoed the same sentiment—that it was delicious, but better suited to go on something, like a chili dog or baked potato. (It would also make killer Cinncinati-style spaghetti or chili-mac.) And then I finally clued in on the line in the book's intro in which Mylan calls his ideal chili "...more suited to pouring over a hot dog than eating out of a bowl." Well, there you go. Mission complete.
Why I picked this recipe: I thought if anyone could make me a meaty chili convert, Mylan could.
What worked: The blend of meats achieved a roundness of fatty flavor that beef alone can't match, and the suggested hit of vinegar at the end definitely helped lift the chili out of gut-busting greasiness. Ultimately, this was a really solid, worth-the-effort chili, with a few caveats.
What didn't: Eating it out of a bowl. Now, I'm sure many of you will love it just that way, but if you go that route, serve with a side of Tums. I, and my many tasters, also found that the cayenne overpowered the other layers of flavor; the full 1/4 cup ended up harsh and unpleasant. One more little note: The recipe calls for two 16-ounce cans of whole tomatoes. That's difficult to find, if it exists; I used the more common 28-ounce can.
Suggested tweaks: Start with 2 tablespoons of cayenne and add more to taste. Another glitch I side-stepped is attempting to brown all the meat at once, as instructed. Though it adds substantially more time to the making of the chili, cook the meat in at least 3 batches if you want any browning at all. That is, unless you have a massive pot. (On that note, you will need at least an 8-quart capacity, and that only left a few inches to the rim.) You could, of course, halve the recipe instead, if you don't need to feed a crowd.
Excerpted from The Meat Hook Meat Book by Tom Mylan (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2014. Photographs by Michael Harlan Turkell. Illustrations by Kate Bonner.
- Yield:Serves 10
- Active time: 1 hour 5 minutes
- Total time:3 hours 10 minutes
- 10 dried guajillo chiles
- 2 pounds ground beef
- 2 pounds ground pork
- 1 pound ground lamb
- Olive oil
- 3 large yellow onions, roughly chopped
- 1 head garlic, separated into cloves, peeled, and chopped, or to taste
- Two 16-ounce cans whole tomatoes
- Three 12-ounce cans hominy
- 1 cup or so toasted cumin seeds, finely ground
- 1/4 cup cayenne pepper, or to taste
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Cheap beer or beef stock (if needed)
- White wine vinegar or cider vinegar (if needed)
- Sour cream, shredded cheese, onions, scallions, and saltines for serving
Let’s start with the most important part: the dried chiles. Take your chiles, pull off the stems, and shake out the seeds. If you’re both anal and want a milder chili, you can slice open the chiles and remove the white veins too.
Once you have your deseeded chiles, you want to boil water equivalent to the volume of the chiles (about 4 cups) in a saucepan and then turn off the heat. Make sure that the pan has a lid, or when you add the chiles you’ll pepper-spray your kitchen with the spicy steam that will result. Add the chiles, punch them down, and put on the lid. Basically, you want to wait until the pan has cooled to the point where you can touch the sides with your hand (45 minutes or so).
Now puree the whole thing with an immersion blender until it’s smooth. This might be a good time to run the paste through a China cap (fine strainer) to get any bigger pieces out, but if you’re not trying to impress anyone with your flawless French Laundry chef skills, skip it.
Next, you want to brown your meat in a large pot, the pot you’re going to be simmering your chili in. Brown over medium heat until, well, brown. I like to sauté the diced onions and garlic separately in some olive oil in a large sauté pan, then add them to the meat, but I don’t think it matters that much.
Now add your chile paste, tomatoes, hominy, most of the cumin, the cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste to the combination of meat and onions. After it simmers over low heat for a while, say 45 minutes, taste it and correct the seasoning. Usually I find that it needs more garlic, heat (cayenne), cumin, and/or salt.
Your chili should simmer for another hour.
Now it’s time to hit the pot with the immersion blender, making sure to break up all the clumps of meat and catch any stray tomatoes. This may take a while! You’re shooting for Hormel consistency here. Now give the chili a taste. Is it too thick? Add beer or stock. Too fatty? Add some white wine vinegar or cider vinegar.
Serve with sour cream, shredded cheese, onions, scallions, and saltines.