How about a bowl of hearty Texas Chili (the dish is spelled this way) this week for lunch to wrap up our American foods celebration. Doesn’t get more American in wintertime than a good bowl of hearty chili! Many will tell you this is not American food, but I beg to differ. You see chile sauce is actually Mexican in origin. But traditionally they do not put anything but cumin, chiles and garlic in chile sauce….no meat. It is merely a sauce for topping meat-filled burritos and enchiladas in Mexico. Food historians think the addition of meat and evolution of Texas chili came about when Mexican vaqueros (horsemen and cattle drivers) way back in Texas’ history, were hired to herd cattle and also to cook on those long cattle drives up to Kansas, Nebraska and the Dakotas.
I’ve read recipes that call for stale coffee, Mexican oregano, and even chocolate! In my elementary school in Alabama, they put a scoop of white rice on top of the chili they served. THAT is most DEFINITELY sacrilege. I always scooped it off mine the year we lived there. 😉 Although those other items I mentioned are often included at chili cookoff recipes, I am inclined to think only the stale coffee is accurate for what was eaten on cattle drives.
One tends to cook as you ate as a child, so these Mexican cooks surely knew how to make a simple chile sauce, having watched their mothers and grandmothers preparing it. There was certainly plenty of beef and stale coffee available on cattle drives, so the transition to the American ‘variation on a theme’, adding meat, was only natural over time. Truth be told, we may never solve the ongoing argument in Texas as to whether chili should or should not have beans, but what I DO know is one of my readers several years back took the time to chime in with a comment (see below). His grandfather was a part of those cattle drives and came back telling stories of eating chili with beans, and tomatoes, too, if they had any. I’m sticking with his story. 🙂
I suspect they used canned small red beans, but don’t really know what kind of beans were canned in the 19th century when most of the cattle drives took place. Right or wrong, I personally include beans to “tame” the heat of the chile peppers in it. Many of my readers know well I don’t like food that is too spicy, nor does my body. My entire family, 3 generations now, always included a small amount of beans into the chili pot. But it’s clear to say, people are dead set on their chili preferences. I guess it’s another example of “You do you; I’ll do me”. For certain, I’ve never had a Texan back away from a bowl of my chili, so there you have it, as the Brits say. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised if you try my chili recipe. 🙂
Chili has to simmer quite awhile for the flavors to blend, so I make big batches and freeze the leftovers for future quick meals. This recipe makes 8 large adult-size bowls or 16 small one cup servings for children. The nutritional info is calculated with the can of Eden black soy beans, making the recipe as written unacceptable for Induction. If you omit the beans, this chili recipe is perfectly suitable to enjoy during Atkins Phase 1 Induction! 🙂
I use several different chile peppers in this recipe, but each has a distinctive flavor they bring to the final bowl of flavor. Anchos and guajillos are extremely mild as a general rule of thumb; the serrano and Chimayo are hotter. Of course, you can change up the peppers called for (maybe hatch or ghost peppers?), if you can’t get some called for, but in doing so, you will definitely change the final flavor and most assuredly the ‘heat’ factor of your chili over mine as written. Below left dried ancho chilis are shown if you’re not familiar. Guajillos shown below right. Most grocery stores have them dried in the produce aisle of your store or on a special rack in the Mexican food aisle.
3 lb. ground beef
4 oz. onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 4 oz. cans chopped green chiles (mild)
1 10 oz. can Rotel tomatoes with green chiles (mild, or original)
1 14.5 oz. can diced or crushed tomatoes, preferably no-salt
3 c. water
1 T. ordinary chili powder (I use 50:50 Bolners Fiesta & Chimayo blends)
½ tsp. ancho chili powder (or ¼ dried ancho pepper, seeded, chopped)
2 tsp. ground cumin (more if you’re a fan)
1 dried Guajillo chile pepper, seeded and chopped
1 tiny Serrano pepper, seeded and chopped (or Jalapeno)
2 tomatillos, skin removed and chopped
1 c. cilantro, chopped (optional)
14.5 oz. can black soy beans (I use Eden brand)
2 T. tomato paste
DIRECTIONS: Over medium-high heat, brown meat and onion in large stew pot. When done, add all remaining ingredients but the tomato paste and beans. After the chili comes to a low boil, scrape bottom of pot, reduce fire to lowest heat possible, cover tightly and simmer for 1-2 hours (the longer the better, so the tomatoes literally cook apart into the liquid). Stir often during the 2-hours of cooking to avoid scorching on the bottom of the pan. Waiting to add beans the last 30 minutes of cooking will reduce this scorching tendency from the starch breaking down in the liquid if overcooked. Add a little water throughout cooking, if needed, but only if mixture gets too thick to stir or is scorching too fast on the bottom of the pot. When done, dip up and garnish with a sprinkle of Cheddar cheese (optional) and cilantro (if you’re a fan) on top for garnish.
NUTRITIONAL INFO: Makes 8 large 2-cup adult servings (or 16 one-cup servings). Each adult-size 2-cup bowl contains: (numbers calculated using the Eden soy black beans beans). A 1-cup child portion has half this amount.
540 calories, 32 g fat, 10.6 g carbs, 4.73 g fiber, 5.87 g NET CARBS (less without the beans), 49.5 g protein, 935 mg sodium