Recipe: Chile Colorado

Published on: January 2nd, 2024

Recipe: Chile Colorado 

Or, more completely, "Carne con Chile Colorado," but we're refraining from anything that smacks of "Chile con carne", a name which over the years has been appropriated by the manufacturers of canned chili. 

This version has a murky Tex-Mex history, deriving from the legendary chili queens of San Antonio, who sold it by the bowl at El Mercado starting in the 1880s. 

It's really all about the chiles, and their prep is kind of complicated and messy. But totally worth it!  Such reconstituted and pureed dry chiles are common in much Mexican cookery, from basic enchilada sauce to the moles of Oaxaca.
Unless you add a bunch of cayenne, the "heat" will be soft and warm and perfect for the parade route on a chilly day.

10-12 large dried chiles. A mix of anchos and New Mexicans works well.
2 tablespoons olive oil plus more as needed
2 pounds beef stew meat, or shoulder cuts like chuck roast, in about 1" chunks
Salt and pepper for seasoning
1/4 cup or so of flour for dusting the meat
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, fine chopped
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
Ground Cayenne pepper, as needed to adjust heat
1-2 cups beef stock or reconstituted bouillon or water

Start by prepping the chiles. Remove the stems and seeds, and break the chiles into pieces. Place them into a pan with 2 cups of hot water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then remove from heat and allow chiles to soak and soften in the steaming water for 15-20 minutes. Transfer the chiles to the jar of a blender, and add some of the cooking liquid (reserve the rest), enough to allow you to puree to a smooth, loose paste.  Using the back of a spoon, force the chile paste through a stainer to remove tough bits of skin, stray seeds, etc., and set aside.

In a large heavy pan, heat the oil over medium heat.  Place the beef in as bowl, lightly salt and pepper to season, then add flower and toss the beef chunks to coat. Add the meat to the pan in small batches and brown it all over all over, setting aside the browned pieces. 

Once the beef is all browned and the pan empty, add the onion and garlic and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the chile puree.  Add the cumin, oregano, and salt, then stir in the liquid (beef stock/water). Add the browned beef to the pan, and taste for seasoning/heat and adjust as necessary.

Reduce heat and simmer for about 2.5-3 hours, until the meat is very tender. Add a little of the reserved chile-water as needed.

Skim fat off any fat that comes to the surface, then taste and add more salt and/or cayenne as needed.

Eat now or later; it reheats beautifully. Serve with flour tortillas, white rice, yellow grits, etc.

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