Old Buffalo Breath Chili

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  • 1 (5 pound) chuck roast, at least 3 inches thick
  • 10 to 11 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Salt, to taste
  • Chili powder
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • About 1 to 2 cups beef broth
  • Juice of 1 Mexican lime
  • 2 teaspoons ground dried mild red chile, such as ancho or New Mexican
  • 2 teaspoons ground dried hot red chile, such as cayenne or chile de arbol
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seed, toasted and ground
  • 2 teaspoons Mexican oregano
  • Chiles pequins, to taste
  • Masa Harina, as needed


  1. Two or three hours before you plan to begin making the chili, rub the chuck roast well with a mash made from two to three of the garlic cloves and salt. Sprinkle the meat with the chili powder to lightly coat it. Loosely cover it with plastic, and set it aside.
  2. Light enough hardwood charcoal to sear the meat on an outdoor grill, preferably one with a cover. At the same time, soak a few handfuls of mesquite chips in water. When the coals are covered with gray ash, spread them out evenly, and scatter the damp mesquite chips on top. Then immediately set the meat over the smoke, about an inch from the coals. Cover the grill, and adjust the dampers to maintain a slow, steady heat. Let the meat sear for about 12 minutes (this process is meant to flavor, not cook, the meat), and turn it over to sear the other side for the same amount of time. Remove the meat from the heat, saving any juices on its surface, and transfer it to the refrigerator. Let it cool thoroughly, about 1 hour.
  3. When the meat has cooled, trim away any surface fat or cartilage. With a sharp knife, cube the meat into the smallest pieces you have patience for, saving all the juices.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy Dutch oven over moderate heat. Mix in the remaining garlic, and sauté it until it turns translucent. Stir in the meat and all reserved meat juices, adding just enough beef broth to cover. Pour in the lime juice, and sprinkle in the remaining seasonings, stirring and tasting as you do. Crumble in a few whole chiles pequins to bring the heat up to taste. Turn the heat down as low as possible. Long cooking toughens, not tenderizes, if the chili is allowed to boil. Every half hour or so, stir the chili and taste for seasoning, adjusting as you wish. After the first hour, thicken the chili as you like by adding the Masa Harina a teaspoon at a time. The chili should be ready to eat in 3 hours, although it will benefit from a night's aging in the refrigerator.
  5. Serve the chili steaming hot in large, heavy bowls with an ample supply of soda crackers and a side of beans, but not much else except maybe hot black coffee, iced tea or beer.

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