Place the chiles in a large skillet over medium-low heat and gently toast the chiles until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Don’t let them burn or they’ll turn bitter. Place the chiles in a bowl and cover them with very hot water and soak until soft, 15 to 45 minutes, turning 2 or 3 times.
Drain the chiles; split them and remove stems and seeds. Place the chiles in a blender and add the cumin, black pepper, 1 tablespoon salt and ¼ cup water. Purée the mixture, adding more water if needed, scraping down the sides if necessary, until a smooth, slightly fluid paste forms. Set the chile paste aside.
Return skillet to medium-high heat and melt 2 tablespoons of the oil or lard. When it begins to smoke, swirl skillet to coat and add half of the beef. Lightly brown on at least two sides, about 3 minutes per side, reducing the heat if needed. Careful not to overcrowd the skillet. Transfer to a bowl and repeat with the remaining beef, adding more oil as needed. Place batches in bowl.
Let the skillet cool slightly, and place it over medium-low heat. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of lard (or oil) in the skillet; add the onion and garlic and cook gently for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the stock, the remaining 2 cups water and gradually whisk in the masa harina to avoid lumps. Stir in the reserved chile paste, scraping the bottom of the skillet with a spatula to loosen any browned bits. Add the reserved beef and juices in the bowl, and bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce heat to maintain a low simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender but still somewhat firm and sauce is thickened but still liquid sauce surrounds the cubes of meat, about 2 hours.
Stir in the brown sugar and vinegar thoroughly and add more salt to taste; gently simmer 10 minutes more. Turn off the heat and let the chili stand for at least 30 minutes, during which time the meat will absorb about half of the remaining sauce in the skillet. Stir in additional broth or water if the mixture seems too dry. If the mixture seems a bit too saucy, allow it to simmer a bit more. If needed, add a bit of additional salt, sugar, or vinegar, to taste.
If desired, serve with sour cream, lime wedge, cilantro, shredded mexican cheese or tortilla chips
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