For chili con carne:
- Toast cumin seeds in a large skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes. Using a smaller frying pan or a metal or wooden tool with a flat surface, crush the seeds coarsely. Set aside.
- Cook bacon in skillet over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove bacon and reserve. Over high heat, brown beef in bacon drippings left in skillet (in batches if necessary) and set meat aside. Reduce heat to medium and sauté onions in remaining drippings until lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes.
- Add toasted cumin, chili powder, paprika, oregano, black pepper, thyme, salt, and garlic to cooked onions and sauté for 1 minute. Crumble in bacon and add beef broth, 1 cup of water, tomatoes, ancho chiles, and reserved beef. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover partially, and simmer until the meat is very tender, about 2 hours, adding water as needed to maintain desired consistency. Alternatively, transfer to a slow-cooker set on low and cook for at least 6 hours and up to 8, until the meat is very tender.
- Remove anchos, puree in a blender, and return to pot. Serve in a bowl with chopped onions and shredded cheese; with saltines; over tamales, rice, or potatoes; in Frito pie; or combined with beans.
For homemade chili powder:
Makes 1/4 cup
Toasting chiles and cumin seeds in your own kitchen and grinding them in a spice grinder makes the best chili powder of all. This recipe calls for ancho chiles, but you can use any combination of dried chiles.
- Remove stems and seeds from anchos and spread the peppers out flat. Reserve seeds. Place chiles flat on a comal or cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Being careful not to burn them, lightly toast until they’re brittle, then remove and cool. Toast the cumin in hot comal, stirring and shaking until fragrant. Add some of the chile seeds, if desired. (They will make the chili powder hotter.)
- Cut chiles into small strips with scissors. In a clean coffee grinder, grind strips in several batches until powdered. Grind cumin and chile seeds. Combine powdered chile, ground seeds, cumin, oregano, and garlic powder in a mixing bowl. Grind coarse powder in batches in coffee grinder until fine, about 2 minutes. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.