In Spanish, the word chili from the Nahuatl (Uto-Aztecan language) “chīli” refers to a “chili pepper” and carne is Spanish for “meat”. A recipe dating back to the 1850s describes dried beef, suet, dried chili peppers and salt, which were pounded together and called Chile con Carne. The San Antonio Chili Stand, in operation at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago, helped popularize chili by exposing Americans to its unique taste. Chili con Carne is the official dish of the state of Texas as designated by the House Concurrent Resolution Number 18 of the 65th Texas Legislature during its regular session in 1977.

Before World War II, hundreds of small, family run chili parlors (also known as “chili joints”) could be found throughout Texas. Each establishment usually had a claim to some kind of secret recipe. As early as 1904, chili parlors were opening outside of Texas, in part, due to the availability of commercial versions of chili powder, first manufactured in Texas in the late 19th century. After working at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, Charles Taylor opened a chili parlor in Carlinville, Illinois, serving “Mexican Chili”. In the 1920s and 1930s chains of diner-style “chili parlors” grew up in the Midwest.

“Texas-style chili” may or may not contain beans or tomatoes and is usually made without other vegetables. Most native Texans will state that any chili with beans in it is considered “Yankee” Chili”. This was referenced in Texas Monthly Magazine. So what’s the difference between a real Texas chili recipe and the other chili recipes? What makes it authentic? Common knowledge in Texas says real chili recipes use cubed chunks of meat instead of ground beef and cutting the meat into cubes gives Texas chili a more stew-like texture than the more common ground beef recipes.

Real Texas Chili

I used all beef broth for cooking this chili instead of half chili pepper soaking liquid and half beef broth. Using the chili pepper soaking liquid made the chili too spicy for me. Texas chili is served with cornbread not tortilla chips.

Ingredients

2 ounces whole dried chilies (guajillo, ancho, chipotle or chile de arbol or a combination)
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon coarse black pepper
Coarse sea salt
2 tablespoons bacon fat or vegetable oil
2-3 pound boneless beef chuck roast, fat trimmed
1 large onion finely chopped
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cups beef stock plus 2 cups chili pepper soaking liquid or 4 cups beef broth
2 tablespoons masa harina (corn tortilla flour)
1 tablespoon firmly packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Sour Cream and Cornbread, optional

Directions

Place the chilies in a Dutch Oven over medium-low heat and gently toast the chilies, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Don’t let them burn or they’ll turn bitter.

Be sure to wear latex gloves and using a pair of kitchen scissors cut the stem tops off the toasted chilies.

Position each chili over a bowl and cut the chilies into “rings”. With your glove covered hands, sift out the rings. The seeds will fall to the bottom.

Place the chili rings in a bowl and cover them with 4 cups of very hot water and soak until soft, 30 to 45 minutes, turning once or twice.

Toast the cumin seed in the Dutch Oven and set aside.

Drain the chilies and save the soaking water.

Place the soaked chilies in the bowl of a processor and add the toasted cumin, black pepper, 1 tablespoon coarse salt and 1/4 cup of the soaking liquid.

Purée the mixture, adding more soaking liquid if needed (and occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl), until a smooth, paste forms.

Cut the chuck roast into 1/2-inch sized cubes and use paper towels to pat the meat very dry.

In the Dutch Oven melt 2 tablespoons of bacon fat over medium heat and add half of the beef.

Lightly brown on all sides, about 3 minutes per side, reducing the heat if the meat is browning too quickly.

Transfer the meat with a slotted spoon to a bowl and repeat with the remaining beef. Reserve.

Add the onion and garlic to the pan and cook gently for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add 4 cups beef stock (or 2 cups beef stock and 2 cups chili pepper soaking water) and gradually and slowly whisk in the masa harina to avoid lumps.

Stir in the reserved chili paste, oregano and the browned beef (and any juices in the bowl) and bring to a simmer over medium heat.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and place the pot in the oven, uncovered, for 3 hours.

After three hours remove the pot from the oven and stir in the brown sugar and vinegar.

Return the pot to the oven and cook 15 minutes more.

Remove the pot from the oven and let the chili stand for at least 30 minutes, during which time the meat will absorb about half of the remaining sauce.

Reheat gently and serve in individual bowls with a spoonful of sour cream on top.

Cheddar Cornbread

Serves 6

Directions

1 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (4 ounces)
2 tablespoons butter

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking soda, salt, and pepper; make a well in the center of the flour mixture.

Add buttermilk and eggs and whisk to loosen eggs. Gently incorporate dry ingredients, then mix in cheese.

Place butter in a 9-inch heavy metal cake pan or cast iron skillet and bake until the butter is melted. Remove the pan from the oven, and tilt to coat the bottom and sides.

Pour batter into the pan and bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes.

Let cornbread cool at least 15 minutes before cutting. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wrap completely cooled bread in plastic, and store at room temperature up to 1 day.

 

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