“It can only truly be Texas red if it walks the thin line just this side of indigestibility: Damning the mouth that eats it and defying the stomach to digest it, the ingredients are hardly willing to lie in the same pot together.”
John Thorne, Simple Cooking
There are several legends and myths involving chili. Stewed meat with hot peppers, tomatoes and spices. They can be traced back all the way to 17th century. In fact several people claimed to have originated the dish.
According to one myth, a nun in Spain put herself in trances for days. One day when she awoke up from her trances, she wrote down a chili recipe calling for deer meat, hot chili peppers and tomatoes. She was known as the ghost “lady in blue” to the native Americans.
Inmates of Texas penitentiaries also claimed to have invented chili in the mid 1800s. The chili was so loved by the prisoners that after they have served their time and released from prison, they write back to ask for the recipe.
In the same century, chili was staple for the Texas cowboys and adventurers, traveling around Texas and on the trail to California and back. They carried with them chilis (meat, peppers and spices) in dried and brick form, which could easily be rehydrated in boiling water, simmered in the pot and enjoyed on the trail.
With all the legends and myths about this dish, one thing is for sure: chili originated in San Antonio, Texas, by the first Spanish settlers. Historians claim that the Spanish women cooked a spicy stew similar to what we know as chili today.
The first known attempt to can chili was in 1881 by William Gerard Tobin. Unfortunately, he died only days after his canning operation started.
Finally in 1921, a businessman, Lyman T. Davis of Corsicana, Texas, started canning chili, which he named after his pet wolf, thus the Wolf chili brand was born. One of the most popular brands of canned chilis. In fact, in our home, this is the only brand that my husband and son will eat. Other than the home made chilis that I make.
The original chili did not contain beans. For Texas chili purists, this is the only way they eat their chilis. Only beef and dried red chilis. No beans. But for some, and especially us, having kidney beans in chili is so much better.
And to maximize flavors, it is best to use dried chili pods, cooked and blended into a paste. Which then added during the last 30 minutes of cooking.
Back in the day, priests were said to deliver sermons to their congregation warning them about eating chili. Because chili is considered a passion food that can ignite people’s desires in the bedroom. It is therefore considered soup by the devil. So people. Be warned. Or should i say be prepared.
Here’s what you need for this very flavorful chili.
heat a large pot and add 1 tbsp. bacon drippings and 2 tbsps. olive oil. brown the meat or should i say “saute” it until meat turns grayish in color. (see that liquid? you need to discard that later.)
add these: crushed tomatoes, spices and beef stock to the sauteed onions and meat.
Serve with either one of these : plain cornbread, Naan (Indian bread), French baguette, or artisan breads. Oh, don’t forget to top your bowl of chili with grated cheddar cheese and freshly chopped red onions, or sour cream, or all three.
Devil’s Stew aka Texas Chili:
12 large dried Santa Fe New Mexico chilis – medium to extra hot
4 cups boiling beef stock or 4 cups boiling water + 4 beef bouillon cubes
2 pounds beef (tender roast, round or shoulder) – chopped into ¼ inch cubes
1 pound top loin pork chop, boneless – chopped into ¼ inch cubes
4 large garlic cloves – peeled and minced
1 large red onion – finely diced
1 1/3 cup crushed tomatoes (canned)
1 TBSP. dried oregano
1 TBSP. ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tsp. cayenne pepper for additional heat – optional
½ tsp. ground hot pepper for even hotter chili
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
½ tsp. coarse sea salt (if needed)
3 cans (16 ounces each) dark kidney beans – drained
2 TBSPs. bacon drippings – divided
4 TBSPs. olive oil – divided
Cut the stems and remove the seeds of dried chilis. Cut chilis into 3 or 4 pieces. Add chilis into the boiling beef stock and simmer, covered, over low heat for 20 minutes.
Spoon chilis into a blender plus 1 cup beef stock. Reserve the remaining beef stock. Blend chilis until pureed into a wet paste. Set aside.
Trim tough tendons off the steaks and chop into ½ inch cubes. Do the same with the pork.
Heat an 8 quart pot and add 1 tablespoons bacon drippings and 2 tablespoons olive oil.
Add cubed beef and pork to the heated oil. Stir constantly until meat turns grayish in color. This process will take about 10 – 15 minutes. Remove the meat from the pot using a slotted spoon. Discard any liquid from the pot.
There’s usually too much liquid accumulating in the pot because meats are usually injected with water solution, by meat producers to make them weigh heavy. Therefore, this liquid needs to be discarded.
Add the remaining olive oil and bacon drippings. Sauté garlic and onions for about 3 minutes or until onions are translucent. Add the meat back into the pot. Stir and saute for about five minutes.
Add the crushed tomatoes, oregano, cumin, coriander, cayenne, hot pepper, and bayleaves. Stir to combine. Add the remaining beef stock.
Stir the mixture and simmer over low medium heat for about 45 minutes or until the meat is tender.
Add the chili paste. Stir. Add the drained kidney beans. Stir and simmer for additional 30 minutes. Just before turning off the heat… add freshly ground black pepper. Taste to see if coarse sea salt is needed.
Serve chili hot with either one of these: cornbread, Naan (Indian bread), French baguette, or any Artisan breads.
Note: Grated extra sharp cheddar cheese and finely diced red onions are excellent toppings on individual servings. Grated cheddar cheese and onions highly compliment the chili.
Tess’ Kitchen Secrets:
#1 – Dried chili pods gives chili a very aromatic and slightly sweet flavors. Cannot be substituted with powdered chili.
#2 – Using a combination of beef and pork gives chili great flavors and texture. Meat cooks faster by chopping them finely.
#3 – Kidney beans make this chili hearty. Do not use if you are a purist.
#4 – Eating chili with Naan bread makes it even more adventurous makes you want to go the heaven.
Enjoy and Happy Cooking!