The Mavericks, All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down
If you want to start a spirited debate in Texas (remember, it’s a legal-carry state), ask for your chili with beans. You’ll likely be told, “Take that bean stew up north, Yankee.” Texans believe that beans are added to chili only to accommodate babies, the weak, and the elderly.
Humorist Will Rogers, who measured his fondness for a town by the quality of its chili, called Texas chili, “a bowl of blessedness.” Texan Lyndon B. Johnson swore by his state’s chili and said, “Chili concocted outside of Texas is usually a weak, apologetic imitation of the real thing.” According to legend, the James brothers spared the local bank in McKinley, Texas any shenanigans because Frank and Jessie’s favorite chili parlor was located next door.
The chili conversation can also be heated in Cincinnati, Ohio where chili is served in five layers: spaghetti, chili, chopped onions, beans, and grated cheese. Critical opinions range from “one of America’s quintessential meals” to “a Z-grade atrocity.” There is also Illinois chilli (note the two lls) made with ground beef, Oklahoma chili (like Texan but less militant), New Mexican chile verde, American white chili with chicken, and then there’s Mom’s chili, which involves a can opener. Strangely enough, the usually contentious New York City and Los Angeles, don’t get into the chili fray.
No one is sure where chili originated. One slightly gruesome theory involves hapless conquistadores, the Aztecs, and this recipe from humorist H. Allen Smith, “First catch yourself a lean Spaniard.” At the other end of that spectrum, a Spanish nun is said to have received the recipe from God while in a trance. Most give credit to Texas, specifically to early 1900s San Antonio, where the “Chili Queens” made chili at home in copper kettles, loaded the vats onto wagons, and sold the spicy stew in downtown Alamo Plaza.
While chili purists insist that there is no place in authentic chili for beans, tomatoes, corn, armadillo, chicken, pasta, chocolate, coffee, or quinoa—I say, let ‘er rip. We agree to become adults only if we can do what we please, so make chili to suit yourself. Anyways, here’s my version.
BTW, pay no attention to the extremists who find garnishes to be an abomination. The more the merrier: grated cheese, sour cream, black olives, diced avocado, lime wedges, chopped tomatoes, red onions, cilantro, etc.
Texas-style Beef and Pork Chili
- 2 ancho chilies
- You’ll find anchos in grocery stores in the Mexican food area. They’re usually in a clear plastic bag along with Mexican food spices. Split them, remove the stems and seeds, and roast them over a burner or in a hot skillet. When soft and dark, they’re done. Cover them with boiling water and let stand until they’re soft. Blend and strain.
- 2 # beef
- 2 # pork
- 2 diced onions
- 6 cloves minced garlic
- 3 T. flour, salt & pepper
- 1 T. cumin
- 1 t. coriander
- 1 t. oregano
- 1 t. marjoram
- 3 bay leaves
- 1⁄4 t. allspice
- 1⁄4 t. cloves
- 2 teaspoons salt or to taste
- 1 c. beer
- 1 large can crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 cup strained ancho chili puree
- 1/2 cup jarred tomatillo salsa
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder
- 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- Juice of one lime
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar or some agave
- 4 c. chicken stock
- 2 T. chopped canned chipotle peppers in sauce
Dry beef and pork cubes, season with salt and pepper, then dredge in flour. Brown in hot oil.
Add onions, brown. Add minced garlic, sauté. Add spices, sauté until spices are browned and stick to the pan.
Add beer, stir to loosen spices. Add tomatoes, strained anchos, and tomatillo salsa, simmer 5 minutes. Mix cocoa powder with a few spoons of chili liquid to blend, add. Add chocolate chips, minced chipotle peppers, orange juice, lime juice, sugar, and chicken stock.
Bring to a boil, lower to simmer and cook until meat is tender. Check for meat tenderness in one hour, you don’t want the beef and pork cubes to be over-cooked. If you want beans, add a can or two of pintos now. Cook for additional 1-2 hours, if necessary.
And here’s where anything goes. You are the master of your kitchen: add beans, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, macaroni, or corn. Whatever suits your fancy, even a squirt of ketchup—just don’t tell the Texans.