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3rd Annual Cold Weather Chili Party

November 2, 2008
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Beef Brisket and Butternut Squash Chili

I love chili party time. It’s the only thing that makes the encroaching cold weather bearable. (It’s 25 degrees outside right now, folks, and I’m not liking it one bit.) In fact, I suspect this, my last East Coast winter, is going to be particularly difficult, and thus am contemplating a mid-winter chili party, a kind of third and a half annual (huh?) in March, just to make the rest of the cold times bearable.

(Just to give you a sense of how terrible my memory is, I thought that last year’s chili party was held in October…but it was actually in January. I think I block most memories of winter and pretend that any good events from those months really occurred in less treacherous times. That is just my theory.)

Regardless of how cold it is, or what month it is, or any of that unimportant stuff, making chili is one of my favorite wintertime things to do. I have a standard recipe I’ve been making for probably about six or seven years, and it’s pretty close to what my mom made throughout my childhood. But I strayed this year, my friends, I strayed. I made chili without any beans for the first time in my life. And I liked it.

You know what it had in it?

Really big pile of meat

Lots and lots of meat. Beef brisket, to be exact, almost five pounds of it. I underestimated what a pain in the arse it would be to cut up all that meat, and I clearly need to have my knives sharpened soon. But all the difficulty was worth it. This is one phenomenal chili.

Bon Appetit calls this Texas Beef Brisket Chili, but I was informed by several native Texans that no Texan would ever consider putting butternut squash in chili. Unless that person was from Austin, and even then, there’d probably be some explaining to do. But you know what? I don’t care. The butternut squash is an inspired addition, and this recipe deserves a place in the Chili Hall of Fame.

It takes about five hours, including prep, so you better plan ahead for this one. It also cooks in the oven, rather than on a stove top, so be sure you have a nice big pot that is oven safe. I needed a bigger pot: I had to halve the amount of butternut squash the recipe calls for because it just wouldn’t fit. But I think more squash would have been overkill, so a basic five- or six-quart pot should be fine.

Beef Brisket and Butternut Squash Chili

  • 6 large dried chiles (I used a mix that my brother sent me, and I don’t really know what they are)
  • 8 ounces of bacon, diced
  • 1 large red onion, diced
  • 1 5-pound flat cut beef brisket, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
  • 6 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 2 T. chili powder
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • salt and pepper
  • a bit less than two 14-ounce cans of fire roasted diced tomatoes (I couldn’t find fire roasted tomatoes, so I used Mexican-style tomatoes. And why a little less than two cans? The original recipe calls for 1 3/4 cups, but I didn’t feel like measuring, so I used about 1 1/2 cans.)
  • 1 12-ounce bottle of beer (I used Corona)
  • 1 small can of green chiles
  • 1/2 c. chopped cilantro stems (reserve the leaves for garnish)
  • about 2 1/2 c. peeled, seeded butternut squash, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • cheese, avocado, cilantro, and sour cream to garnish

Soak the dried chiles in boiling water for at least a half an hour (closer to an hour would have been better, but I was pressed for time). They should be soft enough that the stems come off easily and the skins are pliable.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Saute the bacon in a big, oven-safe pot over medium-high heat. Once the bacon has started crisping up a bit (and smelling amazing) add the chopped onion. Stir together, and let it cook about five minutes, until the onion is soft and golden and you’re just about ready to eat it out of the pot. (Seriously, I’m not sure anything smells as good as onion and bacon cooking together.) Salt and pepper the beef brisket well, and then add it to the pot and remove from the heat. Stir it all together so the bacon and onions and beef can get better acquainted.

Now make a chile puree: Remove the chiles from the soaking liquid (but don’t throw the liquid away!), and remove their stems. Mix the chiles with about a cup of the soaking liquid, the garlic, chili powder, cumin, coriander, oregano, and a bit of salt in a blender, until you have a nice, brick red chile puree.

Chile paste

Spread the puree over the beef in the pot, and stir so it coats everything evenly. Then add the tomatoes (with liquid), beer, green chiles, and the cilantro stems. Stir well, and bring to a simmer over medium heat.

Once the chili is simmering, transfer it to the oven. Cook it covered for about two hours, and then remove the cover and cook for another hour. Then, add the squash, stir everything up again, and cook for another 45 minutes, or until the squash is very tender and the beef is pretty much falling apart. Season with salt and pepper (although I didn’t think it needed anymore). And serve with tasty things to garnish.

Beef Brisket and Butternut Squash Chili

Chili Party would really be incomplete if there was only one chili present, and I’m awfully grateful to housemate Hilary for contributing a delicious vegetarian chili (with barley! I’ve never heard of such a thing, but I quite liked it):

Hilary's vegetarian barley chili

Thanks also to Mr. X, who pulled through like a champion once again and graced us with a delicious white bean chili full of chicken, sausage, and turkey, a chili which he, in true Mr. X fashion, managed to pull together sans recipe while wandering through the grocery store. The man is impressive.

Sean's white chili

And if we’re lucky, maybe both of these chili makers will grace us with a recipe…

Oh, but you think I stopped at chili? Oh no. Every party needs dessert, and I could not disappoint. I made a cranberry upside down cake that is easy and impressive, and has convinced me that I need to spend a lot more time making cakes this winter. That recipe will be coming in a day or two, so don’t stay away too long. And in the meantime, if it’s getting frigidly cold in your neck of the woods, I suggest you make a big pot of spicy, warming chili. It’s the best part about winter, hands down.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Mitch permalink
    November 2, 2008 10:34 pm

    Cheers from Seattle! Found your site today while looking for a Chicken Mole recipe and pretty much got totally side-tracked combing through your posts. I’m saying right now, this chili is getting made next week. Dang it looks good!

  2. November 9, 2008 6:37 pm

    Hmm… a recipe you say… Well there was about 2 cups each of chopped onion, celery and carrots (mire poix).

    Sweat that until soft. add in about 3 cups of sliced fresh chilis (I used a mix of long hots, yellow hots, serrano, jalepeno, poblanos, etc). Add in one lage head of garlic (peeled and rough chopped). sweat over medium heat.

    Take a rotissere chicken (yes, I just bought a cooked one at the market), and pull the chicken into strips. Set the meat aside

    1 package of un-cooked hot chicken sausage: pull off the casing and set aside.

    Add in 1-1/2 lbs. of ground turkey and the meat from above.

    Season all the meats with what dried seaonsings you have / like. I think I used cumin, ginger, paprika, chili powder and cayene (in order from most to least). Prob. a total of 4 tbsp

    mush it all up and brown the meat a bit.

    Add in two quarts of chicken stock, or enough to cover. Simmer for an hour minimum, couple hours is better.

    (oh yeah and don’t forget the white beans. I almost forgot when making this and just now… I used 4 cans of navy beans, drained but not rinsed)

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