The purest chili I know is the Chili con Carne (chili with meat) of northern New Mexico. Dried whole chiles are toasted, soaked, pureed with only a few seasonings, and then cooked with chunks of browned beef. Never are there beans or tomatoes.
Well, over the years I've embellished the dish. My apologies to the purists, but I think even they might enjoy this. Of course, it's much better done a day or more ahead.
1. Make chile puree: Toast chiles on a cookie sheet in a 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes, or until they start to be fragrant. Cover with hot water and let stand 30 minutes. Drain.
2. Have a blender handy. Remove stems and cores from chiles. If you want a less-hot chili, discard all seeds. (I always keep some on the side in case I need them later). Place chiles in blender with water to cover. Puree.
3. Heat oil in a big sauté pan (not non-stick) over medium-high heat. Slowly brown beef in several batches, removing it to a 6- to 8-quart pot when browned. Sprinkle it with salt and pepper as it cooks. Take care not to burn the brown glaze on the bottom of the pan. Better to take your time than to rush this step.
4. Pour off most of the fat. Add the onions and cook over medium heat, stirring up the brown glaze, until onions are softened and starting to color. Stir in the garlic and all the spices and cook about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, stirring and boiling for about 5 minutes. Turn everything into the pot. Add enough water to barely cover the meat.
5. Simmer gently, partially covered, about an hour (stir often), or until the meat is tender, but not falling apart. Skim off most of the fat. Taste for seasoning, adding more spice or salt as needed. Cool and refrigerate up to 4 days, or freeze up to six months.
6. Serve hot in bowls, with beans on the side (if at all), and corn or flour tortillas.
Adam Rapoport, editor in chief of Bon Appetit magazine and the website www.bonappetit.com, knows his way around a grill. He has edited an entire book on the subject: The Grilling Book: The Definitive Guide from Bon Appetit.