Today, I want to share an old family favorite: my Dad’s (Pop to his grandkids and many other kids!) recipe for Texas chili. It is something we always enjoy in the fall and winter months, and there are two days that we traditionally have it in our family: the first day of school, and Christmas Eve. I serve it through the fall and winter months, but we don’t eat it after spring, waiting until school starts in September. It’s truly a gut-filling, warm-you-to-the-bones meal, perfect for cold weather. It may have something to do with all that spice. And for me, a Texas girl, chili is also comfort food.
Most everyone in the U.S. enjoys a good bowl of chili, but not everyone realizes that there is something different about Texas chili – it has no beans! That’s right, Texas chili contains meat, meat, and more meat. I don’t know the history of how Texas chili came about, and why it doesn’t have beans, but I just know that real Texas chili should not have beans in it, and should always have beef. I like chili with beans, and maybe even some celery, and zucchini….I even like turkey chili….but that’s not Texas chili, and it’s not what I grew up on. I will always have a special affinity for beef chili with no beans.
As long as I lived near home, I relied on my Dad to make chili a few times a year. But I got older and moved away, and one day as a young mom, living over 1,000 miles away from home, I got a strong craving for the Texas chili that I knew and loved. I called my Dad. (I still remember when I called, my mom answered and of course, thought I had called to chat with her – which was usually the case. I remember saying, “Mom! I need to talk to Dad! I need to know how to make chili!”)
Below are the instructions I scribbled down on scratch paper in Florida, as I talked to my Dad in Texas. (This was years before texting, or Facebook! We actually talked on the phone back then!) Eventually, I neatly transcribed them, step by step, into a word document on my computer. I printed the page, slipped it into a sheet protector, and added it to my notebook of favorite recipes. It has been there ever since, and I am happy to say I have made his chili many times now. I still sometimes make chili with beans, or even (God forbid) vegetarian chili! But whenever I have chili on the menu, the kids or my husband will ask, “Is it Pop’s chili?” Because, at least in our house, that is real chili!
POP’S TEXAS CHILI
- 2 lbs. ground beef, chili meat, or a mix
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 3/8 cup chili powder (Gebhardt is my dad's recommended brand; unfortunately I'm unable to find it here in Washington State!)
- 3/4 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
- 1 & 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
- 1 teaspoon ground comino (cumin)
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 6 chili petines
- 1 or 2 jalapeno peppers, diced (optional - not in my dad's original recipe)
- 1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes (I like fire-roasted, although my dad didn't specify that)
- 1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce
- 4 cups water
- 1/2 cup masa harina
- More water, to mix with masa harina
- Brown ground beef or chili meat, onion, and garlic in a large pan or Dutch oven over medium heat, until onion is translucent and meat is no longer red.
- Add salt, black pepper, chili powder, oregano, basil, comino, cayenne pepper, and chili petines; mix well until meat is thoroughly coated.
- Stir in tomato sauce, tomatoes, and water; mix well. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 30 minutes.
- In a small bowl or cup, whisk masa harina with a little water to make a thin, smooth paste. (It should be about the consistency of coffee creamer.) Stir paste very slowly into chili. Cover and simmer on low heat for 1-2 hours, stirring occasionally.
- Yield: about 4 big bowls. To serve, top each bowl with crushed tortilla chips or Fritos, sliced green onion, grated cheddar cheese, and a dollop of sour cream (all optional!). Or, you can make cheese enchiladas with chili con carne.
- NOTE FROM POP: This chili has a nice kick to it, which we like. To tone down the heat, use less black pepper, cayenne pepper, and chili petines. Whatever you do, don't skimp on the chili powder!
- NOTE FROM ME: This chili recipe is pretty hot, and chili petines are wicked hot! Most of the time I don't even add them, or just use 1 or 2, because it is too hot for some of my kids to handle. I have also discovered I like some diced jalapeno peppers added to this chili, although my dad never uses jalapenos. Like soup, the longer you cook this chili, the better the flavor. It's a great meal to get started in the morning, and then let simmer all day (or transfer to the crockpot). It is also really good made a day ahead, chilled, and then slowly reheated on the stovetop.