I had an idea a month ago that forever changed the way I make chili. Instead of using that dried chili powder from the grocery store, I decided to buy a bunch of dried chiles and use them to flavor the chili. The results were spectacular.
No matter your chili recipe, with beans or Texas-style, substituting dried chiles for chili powder will give you a huge improvement for just a little more effort.
I first tried removing the stem and soaking the chiles for an hour before pureeing them, but they were still to dry. A few nights ago I tried again, this time removing the stems and pureeing the chiles with the tomatoes I needed in the chili anyway. Then I let this puree sit on the counter for 30 minutes while I prepped everything else. Bingo.
I used my food processor, but you can use any sort of blender. Add the puree in to your favorite chili recipe whenever you’d add the tomatoes.
The flavor came out much fuller and nuanced than traditional chili powder: Earthy, fruity, spicy, sweet, smokey, and bitter.
For a large 10qt pot I used 2-3 peppers from each of these varieties:
You can find these close to the Goya section of most well-stocked grocery stores. If there is a hispanic grocery store near you, try there instead. Or, you can always order dried chiles online.
Here is a good guide to figure out the flavor and heat of common chile varieties: http://www.foodsubs.com/Chiledry.html