Real Texas Chili
I love a nice bowl of Red. Real Texas Chili is one of the singular and recognizable stews and in it’s purest form it is a dish that may have come directly from a chuck wagon somewhere on the Chisholm Trail. I will not disparage some of the dishes that pass for chili in other places, such as the spaghetti sauce version from Cincinnati, because they are just the indiginous fare of the natives and I originally come from New Jersey, which doesn’t have their own chili anyway so no bragging rights there. After 30 some odd years I do consider myself a naturalized Texan and Texas people tend to get all bent out of shape about things like BBQ, Chili and the right to secede from the union but I try to keep an open mind and not trample on other people’s traditions as evil or wrong. The main characteristic of Texas Chili is that you use cubed beef instead of ground beef and a paste of whole dried chili’s instead of Chili powder and NO BEANS! These are ingredients that were surely on any chuck wagon and would have been part of regular cattle drive fare. The most traditional of Texas Chili is simply beef, cumin and chili pods and competition Texas Chili can contain no discernable vegetable matter. The competition people also get very weird with it, staging their flavorings in drops or dumps which does make a lot of sense. You will need to adjust your seasoning throughout the cooking process as you should anyway.
4 lbs chuck, trimmed and cut into 1″ cubes
24 dried chili’s using a mix of ancho, pasilla, new mexico or cascabel.
1 large onion diced small
1 green pepper diced small
6 cloves garlic chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped
1 quart beef broth
6 tbs ground cumin
1 tbs oregano
2 tsp thyme
salt and pepper to taste.
Begin by roasting the chili’s either in the oven at 400 degrees for 5 minutes or in a cast iron skillet being careful not to burn them. Remove the stems and seeds from the chili’s and soak in 1 1/2 cups hot water until they are soft, about a half an hour. when they are soft put the whole thing in the blender with 3 cloves of garlic and blend until fairly smooth. Run this mixture through a strainer to remove the skins and any seeds that snuck in.
In a large heavy bottomed pot saute the onions, green peppers and remaining garlic in some olive oil. Add 3 tbs of the cumin as well as the oregano and thyme to the vegetables and saute until the onions are translucent. While you are doing this salt and pepper the meat and sprinkle with some olive oil. Brown the meat in small batches over very high heat and as the batches are well browned add to the vegetable saute. If the crusty bits on the bottom of the skillet start to get too thick deglaze with a little beer or beef broth and add to the chili pot. This fond is the basis for the flavor and the difference between just another pot of chili and a Killer Delicious batch of Red. When all the meat is browned and in the pot add 1/2 of the chili puree to the pot, the beef broth and enough water to cover by about an inch if necessary. Simmer over low heat for 45 minutes to an hour and then add the rest of the pepper puree and cumin and check the seasoning, it may need a little more oregano or thyme. cook for about another hour or until the meat is very tender. For a thicker chili use a few tablespoons of masa (corn flour) mixed with water to thicken at the end, cooking for about 20 minutes before serving.
Condiments for chili are wide and varied. I like to serve rice as a base but saltine crackers are a common add on. Colby Jack cheese is also a common addition as are onions, cilantro and in some of the more effete circles sour cream. My perfect bowl of chili is served over rice with a little bit of cheese and onions.