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Jan 28, 2014 07:30 PM

Chile powder or chile sauce for Texas style chili?

I picked up some dried chiles and plan to make chili con carne for the super bowl. I've toasted and ground chiles in the past to make a powder, but this time I was thinking of soaking them and then blending into a sauce. Does anyone have experience doing this? Any preference for powder vs. sauce when making chili?

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  1. Competition people seem to prefer working with the powder because it gives them consistent results from competition to competition. But rehydrating and blending is what I've seen in most Mexican recipes (for cooked salsas and marinades).

    1. I used to always use chili powder, but the last several years I've used dried chiles. I slit them open, take out the seeds and toast the chiles in a hot pan. Then I submerge in hot water for about 20 minutes. The chiles then go into a blender and then through a sieve to get rid of any skin a d/or seeds.

      1 Reply
      1. re: John E.

        A food mill is also good for separating chile pulp from skin and seeds.

      2. I always use dried chiles and chili powder

        1. Nothing wrong with some Gebhardt's Chili powder or a blend from Pendery's such as Fort Worth light. They do nice things to chili.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Enigma3

            I find Gebhardt's chili powder is so weak that all it does is add color. I used it only once to discover that the legendary ingredient did not add the heat that good chili requires.

            I agree that Pendery's is an excellent source for chile powders. The chile powders do not contain salt, cumin or Mediterranean oregano, they are pure ground chiles.

            Pendery's has a website catalog, and a hard copy catalog is available upon request.

          2. Here I am! Yes I have had lots of experience making a chile puree using ancho, pasilla, guajillo, chipotle and dried de arbol chiles. My purees may not necessarily contain all of those dried chiles in the same batch, but they can be.

            First remove the seeds and stems. Soak in boiled water for about half an hour. I am a saver of wide-mouth glass jars in which I puree the rehydrated chiles using an immersible blender. By this method less of the puree is lost than with a food processor. A little puree is lost in cleaning the blender.

            If one makes more of the puree than will be immediately used in making chili, some vinegar and salt should be added to the puree to prevent the puree from becoming moldy. I did not add those ingredients the 1st time I made a large amount of puree and mold formed even though the puree was refrigerated.

            Final notes about my making chili are that I cube meat as opposed to using ground meat, every batch of chili is an experiment, and I do not commit chili heresy in that BEANS DO NOT GO IN CHILI.

            12 Replies
            1. re: ChiliDude

              Thanks for all the replies!

              ChiliDude - I actually have all of the chiles you mentioned, except the chipotle is in adobo and I ran out of arbol. Since I typically think of the arbols as adding heat, I plan to add 1-2 dried Thai chiles that I had left over from the summer garden.

              I do have an immersion blender, so I'll try that. Just a question about blending, when you reconstitute the dried chiles, do you add the soaking liquid to the jar or remove it? I wasn't sure if it was needed or if it might take on some bitter flavor from the soaking.

              I am planning to leave beans out of this chili. I don't mind beans, but I'll leave those to my wife's turkey chili. I want all beef for the game. Any preference on the beef? I see tri-tip is used in a lot of competition recipes. If I can't find any, I was planning on using chuck.

              1. re: Ali G

                Many sources recommend tasting the soaking liquid to check for bitterness.

                I don't recall ever using an immersion blender on rehydrated chiles. My guess is that you will need to use some, if not all, of the liquid, just to get the blender to work. Even the jar blender needs some liquid.

                With a food mill I can get by without any of the soaking liquid, producing a pulp with the consistency of ketchup.

                Many Mexican salsa recipes that use rehydrated chiles also use roasted tomatillos and onions, which give the blender plenty of liquid.

                Leaving pulp behind shouldn't be much of an issue with a regular blender. You can rinse the jar out with a bit of water (or stock) and use that as part of the liquid you add to the chili.

                Regarding the choice of meat, the usual 'stew' meat issues apply. A leaner cut (from rump end) will cook faster, but can be dry. Chuck has more connective tissue and fat, and may require more butchering time. The differences are more significant when the meat is cut in 1" cubes or large, and minor when using a small dice.

                1. re: Ali G

                  Sorry for the late reply to your question about the soaking liquid. I include some of it while blending until the viscosity is to my liking. I haven't noticed any bitter flavor from it.

                  Chuck is a good choice of meat. Some of the fat lends to the flavor and is good as long as it is not too much.

                  I too am a chile gardener. Last summer I had an accidental hybrid in the garden which produced smooth skinned pods because the crosspollinated plant seed came from a bhut jolokia plant. The other parent plant must've been from a Capisicum annuum plant.

                  The plant was being chewed up by a tomato hornworm which I removed after seeing the damage. That stressed the plant and it started growing an producing pods. There were a few ripe pods before the damage, but after the growth for survival 127 green pods were harvested at the end of the growing season. Most of which ripened to red after being kept in the dark of our basement.

                  The tomato hornworm was 'buried at sea' with a quick flush of the ceramic throne.

                2. re: ChiliDude

                  I keep all those chilies on hand as well. Several have been, cleaned toasted and ground for use as powders. The whole dried chilies can be rehydrated and used in chili purees. I also have pickled or prepared chilies like jalapenos and serranos as well as chipotles or moritas in adobo.

                  It's great to have all these at my disposal. They add so much flavor

                  1. re: ChiliDude

                    So my chili was pretty successful. There were a couple of things I'd do different next time though. After blending the rehydrated chiles, I attempted to strain the mixture to remove any skins and seeds. The problem is that my strainer was so fine, nothing was passing through. I don't own a food mill, so I decided to just dump in all in since it was pretty well blended. This was mostly fine, but there were some tough skins that just got chopped up and would stick in my teeth. Not pleasant. I'll make a powder next time.

                    I didn't think the chili was spicy (hot), but it had a great chile pepper flavor that left a little tingle on the tongue. My wife said the next pot of chili needed to be a little sweeter and have more stuff in it. She doesn't tolerate heat very well. This pot was basic Texas style (all beef, no tomato, no beans).

                    Any tips on adding some sweetness to the next batch that doesn't involve adding a lot of sugar? I thought cooking in some tomato paste when I sweat out the onion and garlic would give it some more depth and give a little sweetness. Perhaps a chopped up red pepper or something. I'm not opposed to beans in the chili either, it's just not what I was going for this time around. I'd love to hear what some of you do for your chili. Thanks.

                    1. re: Ali G

                      OK, I'm gonna go a little heretical here by suggesting to add some chocolate chips to the chili. Altho chili originated in San Antonio, Texas, one can add a small amount of the 'mole' ingredient as in Mexican cooking.

                      1. re: ChiliDude

                        Given that braising meat with chiles long predates Columbus's geographical mistakes, it's quite a stretch to assert that chili originated in San Antonio. Akin to the myth that Marco Polo brought pasta back to Italy. I'd be more willing to accept the notion that putting other native vegetation, like cacao/cocao, into the braise was traditional - from an historical/anthropological point of view.

                        1. re: MGZ

                          Is there evidence that cacao was added to meat braises? Most sources talk about the use of cacao in beverages, either brewed by itself in water, or with chile, or maize.

                          sample source

                          1. re: paulj

                            I have no idea, nor was it the point being asserted. Nevertheless, the article you cite notes a soup or stew type dish flavored with chiles, having cacao beans added. If anyone did add meat to the brew, it pretty well establishes the notion that chili with such an ingredient long predates Spanish invasions and, needless to say, San Antonio.

                            1. re: MGZ

                              'notes a soup or stew type dish flavored with chiles, having cacao beans added' - I can't find that note.

                          2. re: MGZ

                            It may be folklore, but my reference source is a book entitled "A Bowl Of Red" by Frank X. Tolbert, published in 1953, and referring to Texas style chili. I assume that natives of Central America and northern South America were using capsicums in their culinary practices long before being discovered by accident by Columbus. Chili is not claimed by Mexicans as a Mexican dish. Texas style chili unadulterated with beans was sold in the streets of San Antonio by women known as chili queens during the 1880s.

                            Frank X. Tolbert was a journalist for the for the Dallas Morning News. He wrote a local history column called Tolbert's Texas that ran from 1946 until his death in 1984.

                        2. re: Ali G

                          Hi Ali, I usually add one of the sweet onions, like Vadalia or whatever is local to your area. For a good size pot, at least 2 chopped. After they cook a good time, very sweet.