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Cold Weather Comfort - Chili con carne

Chili, also known as chili con carne,  like many dishes can be great, made with quality ingredients, using the right techniques; or, it can be a disaster- a shadow of its intended self, most often canned and ridiculously cheap.   In fact, what many of us know as chili, is a far cry from what is what it was at its inception.

I am somewhat of a chili purist.  Chili, quite simply does not have beans.  Any beans.  And vegetarian chili is an oxymoron.  But that is not to say that I can’t appreciate a can of chili.  Nope, I can get down and trashy with the best of them, figuratively “waking up the next morning” after a randy night of opening a can of Nalley’s. In fact, there is really no better chili for chili dogs with squirt cheese than canned chili with beans, but that is another article.

Chili con carne, is the Americanized term for chiles con carne- quite literally chile peppers with meat.  The modern day king or father of chili, Frank Tolbert, writes in his book A Bowl of Red,  that the early recipe for chili was simply chunks of beef stewed together with reconstituted dried chili pods and spices.

In his great book, The Tex Mex cookbook, Robb Walsh traces the explosion of the popularity of chili to the Colombian Exhibition of 1893 in Chicago.  There, the Texas exhibit re-created the chili stands of San Antonio where you could buy a bowl of red and crackers for a nickel.  A few years later, chili stands and canned chili began popping up across the U.S.

Whether you are a bean person, or not, love intense heat, or not, chili is a great one-pot meal, especially during our long winters.  Below, I am giving the recipe for Earl’s Chili from Duke’s Cowboy Grill. (R.I.P) I swore I would never give out this recipe, but I am on deadline.  And, to help myself sleep at night, I am giving you the amounts for approximately 18 gallons of chili- so it is up to you to break it down to the batch size you’d like. One tip: do not pass on the masa harina flour.  This is a key ingredient for giving the chili earthiness and mouth feel.  

Chili is best served with diced white onions, cheddar cheese and a very cold beer or glass of iced tea.  And, if you really want the authentic feel, make a Frito Pie:  dump a bag of Fritos in a bowl, ladle over eight ounces of chili, and top with onions, cheese and mustard.  No joke.

Earls Chili:

30# Beef stew meat

20# Burger Meat

10c masa harina

6# Bacon Ends and Pieces

 2 c oil

24 Onions Chopped

1 ½ c chopped garlic

8 c. chili Powder

6 - #10 cans tomatoes chopped

2 can chipotle pureed in Cuisinart

3 gal beef stock

18 oz brown sugar or piloncillo

Salt to taste

Chop bacon in Cuisinart. Put bacon and one cup oil in a very large skillet.  Add onions and garlic.  Brown – do not burn!  Add buffalo meat and burger meat.  Brown and cook until chunks separate.  Add hot water to dried chiles until soft.  Put chiles and enough water (including chipotles) in blender and blend until smooth paste. Add the rest of the ingredients except masa and salt and cook for 1.5 hours at about 200 degrees.  Mix masa with water until a runny paste forms.  Add masa to chile and salt to taste.  Cook for another hour until meat is tender.  Be sure to stir and scrape occasionally and add water if necessary.


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Duke Diercks Duke Diercks is the owner of Duke’s Cowboy Grill in Ponderay. Visit his blog at www.bbq-recipes-for-foodies.com

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