The Master Recipe: Rancho Gordo Chili con Carne

Rancho Gordo Chili con Carne

Roughly based on Tolbert’s A Bowl of Red, our adaption includes heirloom beans. I would like to serve this to Mr. Tolbert and hope for the best. I wouldn’t dare speak for him but I do believe you’ll like this chili con carne.

Rancho Gordo Chili con Carne

3 pounds stewing beef, lean
¼ cup rendered beef suet (tallow) or a neutral cooking oil like canola or grapeseed
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 yellow onion, diced medium fine
½ cup Rancho Gordo 100% Pure New Mexican Chile Powder
1 tablespoon Rancho Gordo Oregano Indio, crushed in your hands
1 tablespoon Rancho Gordo Mexican Oregano, crushed in your hands
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon powdered cayenne pepper (optional)
1 tablespoon Rancho Gordo Sal de Mar (sea salt)
2 tablespoons masa harina
2 cups cooked Rancho Gordo heirloom beans and their broth

In a Dutch oven that can hold at least four quarts, cast iron being best, heat the suet or oil and then sear the beef in batches until the outsides are brown. Remove and reserve the meat.

To the fat left in the pot, add the garlic and onions and saute until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the chile powder and allow it to toast, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes. Add the oreganos, cumin and optional cayenne, stirring so the ingredients are toasted but not scorching. Put the reserved meat in the pot and add enough water to cover all the ingredients by about 2 inches. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and then let simmer for 30 minutes.

Add salt and test for seasoning. Reduce heat so that the chili is at a gentle simmer for 45 minutes. Occasionally stir gently to mix the ingredients but be gentle with the beef pieces.

In a small bowl or Pyrex measuring cup, make a slurry with the masa harina and warm water. Mix well and then add it to the chili. Bring back to a simmer and continue cooking for another 30 minutes.

When there are no Texans present, add the cooked beans and broth to the pot and stir gently and simmer on low for about 10 minutes. (Steve’s note: You won’t be sorry.)

You can take the pot off the stove and chill the contents. Once chilled, you can degrease it. If you used the suet, it’s probably a good idea. If you didn’t, it’s not necessary, especially if you used lean meat.

Serve with cornbread.

14 Comments on The Master Recipe: Rancho Gordo Chili con Carne

  1. L. Richardson // May 4, 2017 at 3:47 pm // Reply

    I grew up reading “Tolbert’s Texas,” Frank X. Tolbert’s history column in The Dallas Morning News, which he wrote from 1946 until his death in 1984. As you could only serve this nice chili to him in heaven, I hope you wait at least a bit longer. Laura

  2. Hey guys chili should be good. I’m sure it wouldn’t even be served in hell, never mind heaven !!Never-never use beef or pork fats. Did you know nobody uses animal fats in this age. We are not living in the 17 or 1800s. W O W ! you have much to learn about CHILI. Making chili for 50 years, never this bad ?

    • ‘Nobody uses animal fats in this age’??? You are SO wrong! People everywhere are cooking with lard, bacon fat, salt pork fat, chicken fat. Potatoes roasted in duck fat are fabulously delicious.
      Don’t make blanket statements – they are usually false.

    • I think you’re trying to suggest a vegetarian version? Is it just the fat that you object to or the meat in the chili as well?
      In fairness, this is a recipe for Chili con carne, which by definition means meat.
      I have a favorite recipe for a vegetarian chili coming up. Maybe you’ll like that better!

  3. Barbara Morgan // May 5, 2017 at 7:11 am // Reply

    I have to weigh in on this. One day, I was listening to NPR Splendid Table and the interview was with Roberto Santibanez re: his book Truly Mexican. I was so impressed I bought the book thinking “It probably has a great chili recipe”. It did not.BUT the book contains REAL Mexican cooking techniques including ways to prepare Adobos. This meant toasting dried chilis and blending together the spices and other ingredients as the basic ‘sauce’ for the chili. I could not believe how good my chili was. My family was like, why is this chili so good? Mom what did you do to make this chili? I will never go back to chili powder that has been sitting in my cupboard for over a year (or two). I have ventured into experimenting with the basic recipe and using different types of dried chilis. When I go to cities I search out Mexican food stores and buy different types of chili peppers. This is now the the ONLY way I make chili now – taking the time to toast the different types of chili peppers on a hot pan, adding a variety of other ingredients (ranging from apple cider vinegar, beer, herbs, spices, pureeing everything in the blender and I use this as the basis for the meat, beans and other add ins to give the chili substance. The book is remarkable, the recipes are indeed, truly Mexican and I will probably never use chili powder again.

    • it’s funny. I “came of age” never having used powder and only used pods. I’ve only recently started loving the powder! It does need to cook a little longer or it can be grainy. And all powders are not created equal. Ours is pure, with no herbs or salt even, and is last year’s crop. Many are older and loaded with other things. But yes, toasting, rehydrating, blending and then frying the pods is a little more work (not much, especially when you get the habit) but gives you an incredible flavor.
      Roberto’s book is a classic. I think he gives beans a bit of a snub but otherwise, excellent!

  4. The animal fat is where a lot of the flavor is. How often does a person eat chili? Are fussy folks really living longer, or does it just seem longer.

  5. “Fussy folks” as you call them are living longer and with less disability. Premature death and disability are linked to animal protein and animal fat. A predominantly whole food plant-based diet is more healthy and just as flavorful.

    • Thanks for this. I think the previous comment was meant more to stir things up than showcase the benefits of a vegan diet. The comment “I’m sure it wouldn’t even be served in hell” was not intended to win hearts and minds!

      As I’ve always said, there’s room for everyone at my table. I think the way to win people over is with great recipes, ideas and a positive attitude. Making people defensive probably isn’t going to help anyone.

  6. P.S.
    Steve, I am enjoying your beans and look forward to your vegetarian chili recipe.

  7. Steve, love your beans! Your blog and news letter always have something new to try. I bought your peppers and powder, might need a little more guidance on using the dried peppers. Can’t wait for all the chili recipes! If you ever retire from the bean game (I hope not!) you would make a great diplomat!!

  8. For me, I want beans in my chili. A good hunk of beef and a pile of heirloom beans are meant for each other. I would not eat chili any other way.

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