Texans in general are a laid back bunch of folks. We’re generally not in a big hurry to get from place to place, and rather than seeing people power walk through a parking lot to get back to their car, you are far more likely to see a person “mosey” while yapping happily with the grocery store bagger. We take our time at registers, we smile a lot and we tend to be soft spoken and to the point. There are however, two sure fire ways to start a discussion that will become loud, heated and passionate, no matter where you happen to be.
The first of these subjects is football. football really is a religion in Texas. Disagreements on favorite teams or favorite players almost instantly become boisterous, and have been known to end up in brawls. Mention that you’re a Cowboys fan and I guarantee that a Texans fan will pipe up from somewhere in the room. You’re an Aggies fan? That’s going to get you yelled at by a Longhorns fan in a hurry. The discussions on who has the better team, better players, better stadium… The list goes on. (Do not mention football at all if your favorite team is from outside the Lone Star State, this may cause a riot! You are taking your safety into your own hands at this point.)
The second sure fire method to start an argument in Texas is to talk about chili. The official food of The Great State of Texas is chili. This particular variety of chili is probably different from what you are used to finding if you live anywhere else in the country. This chili is known quite simply as Texas Red. It is unanimous that Texas Red shall be composed of only meat and sauce. There are no beans, no rice, no noodles, nor any other fillers in this dish. This meat will be beef! Not pork, chicken, rabbit or any other non bovine ingredient shall now, or ever be used in Texas Red. It is also unanimously held that this chili must be hot. Very hot. Hot enough to make a seasoned cowhand sweat in February, or make small children cry at the very mention of the dish. Wimpy chili’s need not apply here.
Knowing all this, you may wonder where any discussion comes in. If everyone agrees on those points, why would anyone argue at all? Well, I’ll tell you. It’s because nobody can agree on the actual recipe for Texas Red Chili!
Chili is such a passion in Texas that we hold annual competitions. These competitions have hundreds if not thousands of entrants, and each and every one of those entrants has a different recipe for the perfect pot of Texas Red. These recipe differences are not limited to competitions. Every home chili cook has their own twist on the amounts and types of ingredients used. Some like Lisa, the Homesick Texan, will tell you that you should never, ever use ground beef. others will say that her additions of Mexican chocolate and lime juice are complete blasphemy, deserving of exile from Texas itself. There are disagreements on fresh vs. powdered ingredients, whether or not tomatoes or tomato sauce is allowed, cheese or no cheese in the chili itself, the amount of spices to use, how hot is too hot… The list goes on and on.
These differences are compounded by the sheer size of the state. Texas is huge. With a land mass of 267,338 square miles , Texas is large enough that even the most basic of regional dishes changes within her borders. In Southern Texas, which is closer to Mexico, things are going to be spicier than they will be in Northern Texas, which borders Oklahoma. In East Texas, the flavors of Louisiana and Arkansas creep in to the daily diet, while in West Texas the influences of New Mexico are frequently present. Central Texas is a huge mish-mash of all of these flavors, so it’s pretty easy to see where we might disagree on some things, isn’t it?
In the end, I present to you my version of Texas Red. I’m sure that others out there will say that it isn’t the correct recipe, or that I’ve done something wrong. But then that is generally said of anyone who makes Texas Red, so if it is the case, I’ll take the heat!
- 2 lbs ground beef or chili grind chuck
- 1 14.5 oz. can tomatoes, pureed
- 2 tbsp. tomato paste
- 12 oz of your favorite dark beer, I recommend Shiner Bock or Ziegen Bock (Any good German beer will do)
- 4-6 oz. chicken stock or water.
- 1/4 cup red chili powder
- 2 tbsp garlic powder
- 1 onion, chopped fine
- 1 1/2 tsp dried Mexican oregano
- 1/2 tsp. paprika
- 1 1/2 tsp cumin, ground
- 4 medium chipotle peppers, ground dry, seeds and all. (Chipotle is a smoked dried jalapeño pepper.)
- 2 tbsp corn masa flour (Masa Ferina)
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil or bacon grease.
- Heat oil or bacon grease in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Crumble in ground beef, break up any lumps with a wooden spoon and cook, stirring occasionally until meat is browned. Drain off all fat and return meat to pot.
- Add remaining ingredients and simmer uncovered for 1 hour, stirring often to prevent burning. Add chicken stock or water as needed to achieve desired consistency.
- Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.
- Simmer uncovered for an additional hour, adding liquid if necessary. Allow to rest 15 minutes before serving
- Serve with cheddar or jack cheese, sour cream and a slice of good cornbread.
What I would have done differently had I thought of it at the time:
Given other circumstances, I would have chopped my own beef for this dish. I prefer chili with more tooth than this had to offer. Unfortunately, I had two pounds of ground beef that needed to be used up, so that’s what I used. Most recipes also call for cayenne pepper. I used the chipotle’s instead, mostly because I absolutely love the smokiness they bring to the party. Trust me, it was still plenty hot enough!
Please note, this is not my normal chili. My family is from Oklahoma, and in Oklahoma, chili has beans. My normal chili is more of an intensely flavored beef and bean stew, and also includes the primary ingredients used by my Native American ancestors, squash and corn. (Squash, corn and beans were grown together and are traditionally served together.) I’ll be making my chili in a few weeks, and the difference is massive.
So which do you prefer? Beans or no beans? Aggies or Longhorns? Tomatoes or not? Anyone put their chili over noodles? (that one has always seemed strange to me, but hey, I put beans in mine.)
Links to other recipes like this:
- How to make Texas Red, part One and part Two, from the Homesick Texan
- North Texas Red Chili, from The Rat Bar
- East Texas Red Chili, from Cooks Recipes