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This is essentially an ad-hoc recipe that I came up with just to try it out, but it came out really well in my opinion. There's quite a lot of room for variation, but the key elements in this are the peppers and beans, and of course the beef. The peppers should be fresh, except for the chipotles, which by definition can't be. I used canned beans and a mix of canned and fresh tomatoes, but dried beans, soaked overnight, would work fine too. I just didn't want to go to that kind of trouble. Dried peppers are OK in a pinch, but for chaos' sake, don't use pickled ones, the vinegar adds a nasty sour bite that just doesn't belong.

The quantities are approximate, but in general, you want there to be a lot of peppers in this. If you pick your peppers well, the end result is smoky, savory and fairly hot, though not too nuclear.

Ingredients

  • 5 lb beef (I used 2 medium roasts, the weight is approximate)
  • 4 large poblano chiles, seeds removed (these are around 1000 SHU)
  • 3 large Anaheim chiles, seeds removed (750-2500 SHU)
  • 4-8 serrano chiles (to taste) (10000 - 40000 SHU)
  • 3-7 chipotle chiles, canned, in adobo sauce (5500 - 10000 SHU)
  • 1-2 large orange, yellow, purple or red bell peppers
  • 1 large white onion
  • 4-10 cloves garlic
  • 2 medium Roma tomatoes
  • 4 16-oz cans diced tomatoes, either with onions and peppers or chili-seasoned.
  • 2 16-oz cans red beans
  • 2 16-oz cans black beans
  • 2 16-oz cans pinto beans
  • chili powder, quite a lot of it. I eyeballed the amount, but it was at least 1/2 cup.
  • Chipotle chili powder, 2 tbsp. (good stuff rates around 10000 SHU)
  • garlic powder, to taste
  • salt, to taste
  • oregano, to taste
  • white or black pepper, to taste
  • ground cumin. I eyeballed this one too.
  • oil, about 1/3 cup.

Chop onion, dice the beef into 20-30mm cubes (largish bite-size), peel then chop garlic and combine in a large stock pot with oil, about half the chili powder and some cumin, and fry over medium-high heat until the beef is browned and the onions are translucent. Next add the poblano and Anaheim peppers, coarsely chopped, with more cumin and a bit of salt. When the peppers have begun to soften a little, add a bit more oil plus the serranos and chipotles, also chopped.

If you don't want as much heat, take the seeds out of the serranos first. Since they're small, this is a little more work than de-seeding the poblanos and Anaheims, and there's a risk of getting pepper juice in your eye, which hurts. If you want more heat, add more serranos rather than leaving the seeds in the poblanos and Anaheims, otherwise there will be an irritating number of pepper seeds in the dish, which detracts from the texture and flavor.

Once the serranos are added, add tomatoes and beans and the remaining chili powder. Add the chipotle chili powder, white pepper, some more cumin and oregano now, too. If your tomatoes were Italian-seasoned, add a bit more cumin and white pepper. If they were strictly fresh, add more garlic and an extra poblano pepper for some added ZAM. Let it cook down over medium heat for a while, 1-2 hours, stirring occasionally. Chop and add the bell peppers. They're mostly for color rather than flavor anyway. Then, reduce to low heat and let the chili simmer for another few hours. If it gets too thick, add some water.

Finally, add extra salt, pepper, garlic, oregano or chili powder to taste. If it's too mild, stir in some cayenne pepper, (or some chopped fresh cayennes, if you have them) but I suspect that won't be a problem for most.

Variations

Milder: Omit the serrano peppers or replace them with 1-2 more poblanos. If you want it only a little milder, you can use jalapenos instead of serranos, but I don't like the taste as well.
Hotter: Add a single Habanero, or 1-3 pequin peppers. For a more mild heat boost, just use a few more serranos. Depending on how hot your pequins are, you could just use these instead of the serranos. (But be careful of unwittingly replacing some 10k-Scoville serranos with some 70k-Scoville pequins - that'll wake you up in a hurry!)
Smokier: Replace the serranos with chipotles. This will almost certainly tone down the heat a little too, but the end result will be very smoky. You could also substitute smoked serranos for fresh ones, but I haven't had much luck getting smoked serranos.

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