This is a little more labor intensive than using commercial chili powder or (Heaven forbid) opening a can but it is well worth the time. The basic recipe and technique comes from Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen, but I've kind of done my own thing with it. As written, the recipe calls for ground beef (or a half-and-half beef/pork blend), but I've also used chunks of chuck to good effect. When we went to Yosemite I made some of this in advance and froze it. We warmed it up in the cabin and, voila, instant dinner.
You'll notice that I've used canned tomatoes, beef broth, and beans; I'm sure you could use fresh tomatoes and prepare the broth and beans from scratch and the finished product would taste that much better, but it is pretty dang good as it is.
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 dried ancho chilies and 2-3 dried California chilies (2 oz. total)
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 can beef broth
1 pound ground beef
1 small yellow onion, diced
1/2 can petite diced tomatoes
1 can pinto beans (optional)
Remove the stems and seeds from the chilies and open them up as well as you can.
In a large, heavy skillet (I use cast iron) over medium heat, roast the garlic, turning occasionally until soft. Let cool slightly, then remove skins.
While the garlic is roasting, in the same pan you can toast the chilies (on both sides), pressing down on them with a spatula, until they blister and crackle slightly. Place them in a bowl of hot water to soak for about 30 minutes. Then drain.
Place the drained chilies together with the garlic, and the next seven ingredients in a blender. Add half of the can of broth and blend to a smooth puree. If you wish you can strain the puree, but it's not necessary.
Meanwhile, fry the ground beef and the onion in a little oil in a small Dutch oven over medium high heat. Once the meat is cooked, drain out most of the fat. Add the chili puree all at once and fry, stirring frequently, for several minutes.
Add the rest of the beef broth, the tomatoes and enough water so that the mixture is floating freely. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer, uncovered, for a couple hours. Add the beans toward the end.