Eating Tucson (condiments): Santa Cruz Chili Paste and Red chili beef

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When I lived in Tucson, I used to buy Santa Cruz brand red chili paste concentrate from the 17th Street Farmers Market, which was just a short bike ride down the street from my house in the barrio.

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It’s a mild and very versatile paste made from red chilies grown in Southern Arizona, just north of the (Sonoran) Mexican border. When I was last in Tucson, I made sure to swing by the market to procure a jar to smuggle back up here to Portland for later use.

Red chili beef

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 1/2 pound beef chuck roast, but into very large chunks
  • Flour
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 can cheap lager
  • 1 large white onion
  • 6-7 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 red fresh jalapeno chilis, seeded
  • 5-6 dried guajillo chilies, cut lengthwise, seeded and stemmed
  • 1 tablespoon pasilla chile powder
  • 1 tablespoon chile de arbol powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground Mexican oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
  • 6 tablespoons Santa Cruz red chili paste concentrate*
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/4 bunch cilantro for garnish

*Of course, you’re most likely not going to find Santa Cruz brand red chili concentrate in your neck of the woods (you can order it online). I suppose a decent substitute is a a small can (14 ounces or so) of a Mexican brand red chili sauce, like Las Palmas.

Soak guajillo chilies in warm water for 30 minutes or until reconstituted.

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As shown above, use a knife to scrape the flesh from the chili, discarding skin. Set aside.

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Chop onions and fresh red jalapenos.

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Season beef with salt and pepper and dust with flour.

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Heat oil in large skillet and brown beef.

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Remove from heat, and add onions and jalapenos, and sweat over medium heat for 3-4 minutes.

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Turn up heat to high, and deglaze pan briefly with beer and chicken stock. As you can see, I use some pretty shitty, cheap-ass lawnmower beer.

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Add chili paste concentrate, guajillo chili flesh, all dried herbs and spices, and stir to mix well.

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In this case I was using my trusted Cuisinart pressure cooker, which I find works excellently with slow-braised dishes, so I transferred everything (inluding the beef, of course) to the chamber and set to low pressure simmer for half an hour. If you’re doing stovetop, return beef to pan and cover and reduce to heat to low, and cook for 2 1/2 hours, stirring every half hour or so. You can alternately transfer the pot to a 250 degree oven and cook it for 2 1/2 hours, as well.

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Top with cilantro.

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I enjoy eating my red chili with a simple, medium-grain white rice pilaf.

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