McFadden Mushroom Chili

McFadden Mushroom Chili

This recipe is another from America’s Test Kitchen that was modified by John Cesano to serve in the tasting room during the Mendocino County Mushroom, Wine & Beer Fest, paired with our 2012 McFadden Old Vine Zinfandel.

A great beef chili should be a mainstay of every home. In its essence, chili is a form of beef stew and employs a long, slow, moist-heat cooking process to tenderize tough meat. For the best meat, you need to choose cuts from the shoulder; blade steaks or a chuck-eye roast provide plenty of flavor and a silky texture.This recipe uses a twist on the ready-made chili powder, which can give chili a gritty feel, as well as a rather dull flavor. Instead, we toast dried chiles and then process them with flavorful ingredients and chicken broth to make a deeply flavored, smooth textured paste.

Finally, we know that stews of any kind, and chili in particular, can be time-consuming to prepare. So while the chile paste, vegetables and sauce are simmering, we brown the beef in batches, separately in a 12-inch skillet, and then deglaze the pan with good old beer. Its flavor, a perfect match with chili, only enhances the overall dish. Then it all goes into the oven, where the all-around heat cooks the meat, beans and everything else to tender perfection.

Serve this chili with the usual garnishes. We like diced avocado, chopped red onion, chopped cilantro leaves, lime wedges, sour cream and shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese.

Why this recipe works
Blade steak was easy to cut into pieces and cooked up tender, so it served as the base of our chili recipe. We avoided the grittiness of supermarket chili powders by making our own. Adding cornmeal to our chili powder thickened the chili. For secret ingredients, our chili recipe relies on lager, unsweetened cocoa and molasses.
Serves 6 to 8

A 4-pound chuck-eye roast, well trimmed of fat, can be substituted for the steak. Because much of the chili flavor is held in the fat of this dish, refrain from skimming fat from the surface. Wear gloves when working with both dried and fresh chiles. Dried New Mexican or guajillo chiles make a good substitute for the anchos; each dried árbol may be substituted with 1/8 teaspoon cayenne. If you prefer not to work with any whole dried chiles, the anchos and árbols can be replaced with 1/2 cup commercial chili powder and 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, though the texture of the chili will be slightly compromised. Good choices for condiments include diced avocado, chopped red onion, chopped cilantro leaves, lime wedges, sour cream and shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese. The chili can be made up to 3 days in advance.

Ingredients
Table salt
1/2 pound dried McFadden Farm speckled bayo beans (about 1 cup), rinsed and picked over
6 dried ancho chiles (about 1 3/4 ounces), stems and seeds removed, and flesh torn into 1-inch pieces (see note above)
2-4 dried árbol chiles, stems removed, pods split, and seeds removed (see note above)
3 tablespoons cornmeal
2 teaspoons dried 
McFadden Farm oregano
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 medium onions, cut into 3/4-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
3 small jalapeño chiles, stems and seeds removed and discarded, and flesh cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 medium 
McFadden Farm garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 4 teaspoons)
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons light molasses
3 1/2 pounds McFadden Farm grass fed beef steak, 3/4 inch thick, trimmed of gristle and fat and cut into 3/4-inch pieces (see note above)
1 (12-ounce) bottle mild-flavored lager, such as Budweiser
2  pounds freshly foraged mushrooms, roughly chopped into ½ inch bits

Instructions
1. Combine 3 tablespoons salt, 4 quarts water and beans in large Dutch oven and bring to boil over high heat. Remove pot from heat, cover and let stand 1 hour. Drain and rinse well.

2. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Place ancho chiles in 12-inch skillet set over medium-high heat; toast, stirring frequently, until flesh is fragrant, 4 to 6 minutes, reducing heat if chiles begin to smoke. Transfer to bowl of food processor and cool. Do not wash out skillet.

3. Add árbol chiles, cornmeal, oregano, cumin, cocoa and 1/2 teaspoon salt to food processor with toasted ancho chiles; process until finely ground, about 2 minutes. With processor running, very slowly add 1/2 cup broth until smooth paste forms, about 45 seconds, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Transfer paste to small bowl. Place onions in now-empty processor bowl and pulse until roughly chopped, about four 1-second pulses. Add jalapeños and pulse until consistency of chunky salsa, about four 1-second pulses, scraping down bowl as necessary.

4. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, until moisture has evaporated and vegetables are softened, 7 to 9 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add chile paste, tomatoes and molasses; stir until chili paste is thoroughly combined. Add remaining 2 cups broth and drained beans; bring to boil, then reduce heat to simmer.

5. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering, add mushrooms, cook mushrooms until tender, add mushrooms and juice to Dutch oven.

6. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Pat beef dry with paper towels and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt. Add half of beef and cook until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer meat to Dutch oven. Add 1/2 bottle lager to skillet, scraping bottom of pan to loosen any browned bits, and bring to simmer. Transfer lager to Dutch oven. Repeat with remaining tablespoon oil, steak, and lager. Once last addition of lager has been added to Dutch oven, stir to combine and return mixture to simmer.

7. Cover pot and transfer to oven. Cook until meat and beans are fully tender, 11/2 to 2 hours. Let chili stand, uncovered, 10 minutes. Stir well and season to taste with salt before serving.