Tuesday, September 17, 2013

What's Your Food Story #3: Making Texas Chili by Rob Jones

Welcome to the What's Your Food Story contest! For the rest of this month, you'll see stories with a food theme AND a yummy recipe to go along with it.

 If you'd like to submit your own food story/recipe, see all the details here: http://mystiparker.blogspot.com/2013/08/new-contest-for-september-whats-your.html DEADLINE: September 30

Making Texas Chili


Rob Jones

Before we get started I’d like to dispel a vicious rumor. On more than one occasion when I was discussing chili, someone had the undaunted temerity to point out that Texas chili cannot contain beans, therefore my chili was not REALLY “Texas chili”.

Now bear in mind, about half the time I’m getting corrected on this topic the speaker turns out to be from Boston or some other part of Arctic North America. I on the other hand was raised here, my family was raised here, and their families were raised here, and about the only thing they had in common besides their Texas heritage was the fact that they put beans in their chili. So I’ll be darned if I’m going let somebody who doesn’t even speak the language tell me what I can put in my chili. Just doesn’t work that way. If Texans hate anything, it’s rules.

I realize there is a lot of written material that originated in Texas which perpetuates this particular rumor, but it’s important to remember that nine times out of ten the guy that wrote it was from Austin.

For those unfamiliar with Austin, it is the home of the Texas legislature, the Texas Longhorns football team, and the University of Texas. It’s a great place to watch a football game, a lousy place to watch law being made, and it’s chock full of liars. That’s not entirely attributable to the fact that our legislature is there. You can’t discount the mendacity of guys that enter chili contests, most of which originate in Central Texas.

Let’s face it, Austin is just about the only communist city in Texas, and it’s just a weird place. When they make me governor I plan to fence it in and make it a zoo. It’d make one helluva tourist attraction. But nobody in Texas is dumb enough to believe anything they hear coming out of Austin. I mean, that’s the reason we elected our legislators to go there in the first place… So we could get those sunsabeetches out of our cities.

So let’s dispense once and for all with the idea Texas chili doesn’t contain beans. The only true defining characteristic of Texas chili is that it contains meat (ground or otherwise) and could be used in a pinch to strip tar from your driveway.

One other myth about chili that probably should be addressed is that it is only to be eaten in cold weather. I have no idea where that came from, because in order to experience cold weather in most of Texas you pretty much have to drive to Colorado. Texas has two seasons, football season and summer. Both of them are hot. That’s because Texas was assembled out of parts that were left over when God made Hell. Mostly parts he didn’t use because there were just too darned hot. If we waited for cold weather we’d die of starvation. Just isn’t impractical. Texas was once part of Mexico, and we retained their love of peppers. Chili is a year-round meal.

Anyway, there are two basic parts to a good chili recipe. The first is the chili seasoning, and the second is the actual set of chili ingredients. You mix the ingredients, and add seasoning in small doses while cooking.

 There are a zillion possible recipes for chile seasoning with overlapping but not identical components, so you can be creative. Here’s my starter set.
Chile Seasoning:
·         1/4 cup red New Mexico chile powder
·         2 tablespoons ground cumin (smells like heaven)
·         2 tablespoons Mexican oregano
·         1 !@#!!! randomass bunch of ground chipotle
·         1 tablespoon garlic powder
·         1 teaspoon ground allspice
·         1/4 teaspoon cayenne
Word of caution:
When getting creative, you will occasionally make mistakes. Local tradition requires that when this happens, and it will, it doesn’t really matter … as long as you pretend that whatever happened, you did it on purpose. It may require considerable practice to get your gag reflex under control, but it’s necessary. It’s all about the presentation.

Other stuff that might have been added but didn’t go into this round... Ground celery seed, ground oregano, onion powder, ground tellicherry peppercorns, any number of different types of ground chiles (Pasillo chiles, ancho chiles, cascabel, arbol, etc), or just about anything else that is ground up and laying within reach up to but almost never including gunpowder. [I’ll never try that again.]

Once you have your seasoning ready, time to gather your ingredients and go to work. Once again you may vary this, but here are basics you’ll want to put into your chili.

·         2 lbs burger (brown & drain)
·         1 Onion (diced) ... salt & Saute' (not caramelize) in Canola oil
·         1 can Rotelle (with juice)
·         2 cans red kidney beans (drained & rinsed)
·         1 can diced tomatoes (drained)
·         1 can tomato paste
·         1 can Hunts Zesty & Spicy Tomato Sauce
·         1 TSP Garlic Powder
·         1 TBSP Sorghum
Add meat, onions, chile powder mix to the big pot mix. [A few TSP, add some more slowly as you cook.] Grind tellicherry pepper (course grind) over the whole thing, folding the ingredients.
TIME: Cook all day... covered... LOW heat. Go stir it and add additional chile mix to it every so often until seasoning tastes right.​

You don’t start making chili when you get hungry, you start it when you have hours between you and the next time you will be hungry. As such, this may not be an activity that can be mastered by the microwave generation, but for those with the patience, they shall be rewarded with a culinary experience unparalleled since Moses found manna from heaven.

Give it a shot. You’ll find Texas chili making is more of an art than a science.

Good luck, and God bless Texas.

 Author Bio:

Rob Jones is a native Texan who, though armed with a Finance degree, clings to his redneck roots out of sheer spite. He’s considering a run for president because he needs a job and heard it pays ok.
Prior to becoming managing editor for a web company he spent 3 decades in real estate, becoming an accomplished story-teller and fine amateur liar. He lives with his wife in Haslet TX, where he feeds horses and pays for hay.

You’ll find him on Twitter, Facebook or his blog at these links:


  1. I think the author is warm, insightful, and has good hair and impeccable personal hygiene.

    Granted, I may be somewhat biased.

  2. I KNEW IT!!! Chili has beans, dangit! Otherwise it's just rather runny meat sauce! I do have to admit surprise at the added pasta... what kinda Austin commie are you!?

  3. Your recipe sounds like something I'll be trying this year, Rob. I've got my own, sans beans, of course. I even took mine to Terlingua one year. I didn't win anything, but winning is not the goal when one goes to Terlingua. Surviving is.

    Nobody outside of Texas knows anything about chili. It's like trying to find good Mexican food north of the Red. It's as rare as a chupacabre. But I'm an adventurous type. I've been served what some called chili in California, Colorado, and even had a bowl in D.C., where the waiter added some grated cheese at the table. With a flourish, no less. Most of it ends up being a thick, tomato soup with chili powder and some kind of meat, and it's just...yuck.

    The beans/no beans debate is older than you & me put together, I'd bet. My dad could make a pretty good batch, and he made it both ways. He said one was chili, and one was chili beans, and I didn't argue with him much. I like mine with cornbread, and jalapenos on the side.

    Thanks for the recipe.

  4. Love your writing, Rob. And now I'm hungry for chili. Maybe not your kinda chili. I live in the frozen north. In Michigan, in fact, which, being shaped like a hand, would send a more accurate message if it appeared to have an extended middle finger, rather than bearing the friendly shape of a mitten. Which probably means that there is some actual physical benefit to making chili hot enough to dissolve the bottom of the pan I'm cooking it in. But as much as I like chili, if I'm going to eat knowing it will be the last I will ever taste (on account of the taste buds being burned from my tongue), it will probably be some kind of flambe' dessert. (What can I say? Sugar is my weakness.)
    Still, your suggested chili seasoning combo sounds deelish, and next time I cook up a pot, I will try it out. I may only use 2/3 of a !@#!!! randomass bunch of ground chipotle to preserve my Yankee tastebuds, but other than that... :)


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