what is chili?

Discussion in 'Dutch Oven Recipes' started by tasunkawitko, Jun 4, 2012.

  1. tasunkawitko

    tasunkawitko Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Last edited: Aug 12, 2013
  2. tasunkawitko

    tasunkawitko Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    come on, guys - i know that write-up was good, but it wasn't THAT good ~ lol

    my answer to "the martian" is just one angle of the whole picture that is chili in america ~ surely there's some room for discussion?
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2012
  3. I really enjoy reading your threads as I usually never give much thought to the how's, where's or why's something was dreamed up!
  4. tasunkawitko

    tasunkawitko Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    lol - the how's, where's and why's are my whole point of view ~ i'm an historian, so i look at nearly any dish, or cuisine, or method (such as barbecue) from the perspective of its origins, in the geography, the people and the cultures that produced it.

    i'm interested in learning about the roots of food. the real old stuff, from way back when...what were the recipes like? what did they eat and how did they prepare it? lots of food history out there and lots of good recipes, and i like to try my hand at going back to the original, the basics. it's pretty interesting to see how across the world people developed similar methods with very different resources, or how they used similar resources to develop very different things. and then reasoing out WHY it's that way .

    it's all good, as they say ~
  5. bruno994

    bruno994 Master of the Pit

    Some of the best chili I have ever had was at Casa Rio on the Riverwalk in San Antonio.  The restaurant opened in 1946 and has been a staple there ever since.  If and or when the martians do show themselves to us regular folk, I would take them to San Antonio to Casa Rio. 
  6. rabbithutch

    rabbithutch Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    There used to be a chili cook-off held in the parking lot of Rice University football stadium in West University Place (almost Houston). You could get a different answer to the question from every participant - and almost universally the opinion was that it did not , could not, MUST NOT contain beans.

    I wonder if the natives tribes grew or harvested chilis. Or maybe, like the tomato and the potato, they came from further South. In any case, that hypothetical Mexican in your musings probably had more Indian blood in him than any other. Remember that the Aztecs were into all kinds of hydraulics management and lived on a island in what had been a swamp. They grew all kinds of crops unknown to and not understood by the Spaniards. IIRC, tomatoes were considered to be poisonous by the first Europeans who encountered them.

    Lastly, I think chili might have involved cabrito at some point, too. Just sayin' . . .
  7. rabbithutch

    rabbithutch Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    We get that sound here in central Texas, too, from Fort Hood. Used to hear it more than we do now which sounds strange given the number of deployments troops see today. We used to hear them at 2 distinct times: when the new funding became available from the Army, and in the weeks leading up to an expected combat deployment. Seems the troops are now experienced and don't need quite as much training - and the Army ain't spending as much as they used too.

    There's nothing like hearing that sound and knowing that it is there and will protect you and your country. It's like watching several squadrons of Apache Longbows flying maneuvers.
  8. tasunkawitko

    tasunkawitko Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    well, hopefully by now the martian will have some idea of what chili is - basically, it's like porn - you know it when you see it!

    my mother is from south-central and south-western colorado, a state with a good chili tradition. having said that, nearly every ingredient in her chili always came out of a can (tomatoes, beans etc.) and it was made from ground beef. good chili, but not probably not the real experience.

    to me, chili is a celebration of four flavours: beef onions and tomato - held together by the common denominator of the chile, which provides the base and, of course, heat, to the degree that you desire. great chili doesn't have to be hot, but it should definitely be a warm, satisfying experience that will leave no doubt as to the region of origin.

    i have two methods that i use for chili. one is closer to authentic, i think, and one is purely for "comfort food" or weeknight/schoolnight/worknight food.

    a) for the first:

    my favourite beef for chili is chuck roast, cut into cubes. if you are not familiar with this cut, any cubes cut from the neck, shoulder and upper front quarter will be fine. you want tough, hard-working, wonderfully-flavourful cuts that are going to turn perfectly tender with slow cooking.

    the chiles should be dried, smoked if you can get them. they can be hot or mild as you prefer, but i recomend going on the mild side, as you can add crushed red pepper flakes to the final dish, if you prefer. reconsititute them in enough hot water to cover them, then pulverise them into a paste (instructions below). diced onions and tomatoes should be prevalent almost to the point of dominating the dish, but not quite. for liquids, you want tomato sauce and beef broth or stock.

    here's a good recipe that i used as a base, then improvised for "chile colorado;" i'll post the recipe, then add my modifications:


    8 dried red chiles (such as Guajillo, California or New Mexico) rehydrated and ground into a paste (see below)
    3-pound beef roast
    1 can beef broth
    1 can tomato sauce
    4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely diced
    1 tablespoon dried oregano
    1 teaspoon salt
    2 tablespoons lard or oil for frying

    Rehydrating Dried Chiles-

    Pick dried chiles that have no tears or broken pieces. Use whole chiles that look fresh. Rinse off any excess dust or grime under cool water. Pat dry then cut the top off of each chile and then slit it down the middle. Shake out the seeds, using your fingers or a spoon to dislodge any seeds that want to stick. Peel off any excess dried veins that are lighter in color and run in a line down the inside.

    Heat a comal (or griddle) over medium/high heat and roast the dried chiles for 2-3 minutes. Turn them often to avoid burning them. Then you're going to cover the chiles in hot water and let them soak for about 30 minutes. Remove the chiles from the water and place the chiles in a blender with about 1/4 cup of water or the soaking liquid (if it is not too bitter) and puree until smooth. You can also add the garlic and oregano to the chiles while blending them. The finished puree is what you will add to the Chile Colorado.


    i added to the recipe above a large diced onion, which i carmelised first in a dutch oven (with the minced garlic near the end); then i set the onions aside and seared the cubes of beef, similar to making carbonade flamande. i then prepared the peppers as described above, brought the onions, beef and chile puree together with the tomato sauce and also a can of crushed tomatoes. added the spices (including a scant tablespoon each of cumin and paprika) and broth (stock would be better, of course). into the oven at 275-300 for two hours or so, and it was really good.

    the simple flavors made an almost-perfect combination. i omitted the salt, since the tomatoes and beef broth seemed to have plenty. the chiles provided the right amount of spice without being overpowering or oppressive - overall, i was impressed.

    if this dish needs any thickening, masa harina or crushed tortilla chips would be best, if available - having said that, it can probably be thickened through simple reduction. beans can be added if you like, or can be served on the side in their own right. tortillas are a good way to scoop everything up.

    b) the second is really just a variation on the chili my mother made when i was young. this recipe might be frowned upon by the hardcore chili-ologists, but it works and feeds two adults and four children with some leftovers for the next day. it is not meant to be a historic, authentic, definitive or "gourmet" recipe, just some very good work-night food. due to what is in the pantry or to the mood at the time, we do not use all listed herbs and spices all the time, but it seems, to me, to be much more interesting when we do. for a smaller number of people, cut recipe in half:

    2 large + 1 small cans of diced tomatoes
    2 large + 1 small cans of chili beans
    2-3 pounds of ground meat or meat cubes (hamburger, deer, elk, chorizo, anything. i tried 1/2 ground pork and 1/2 hamburger once and it was great!)
    2 small cans of tomato sauce
    2 small cans of tomato paste
    1 large yellow onion, diced
    4 garlic cloves, chopped fine
    *optional - a dash or two of liquid smoke

    also, combine all these spices in a container and set aside:

    3 Tbsp. chili powder (or to taste)
    1 Tbsp paprika (smoked, if you have it) (or to taste)
    1 Tbsp. dry oregano (or to taste)
    1 Tbsp. cumin (or to taste)
    2 tsp. coriander (or to taste)
    2 tsp. freshly-ground black pepper
    4 beef bullion cubes, crushed (or equivalent amount in granules)

    brown the hamburger with the onion and garlic on high until the "juice" is gone and you've got nothing but meat and fat left. some people like to drain the fat, some like to leave it in; i prefer to drain it. if you use meat cubes rather than burger, brown them in 2 Tbsp. of hot oil. remove from the heat, add the spices and stir well, then add tomatoes and beans, return to heat and cook, stirring constantly, until juices reduce down. add tomato sauce, tomato paste and liquid smoke (optional). bring to boiling, stirring often, then reduce heat down to low and simmer until you can't wait any longer.

    this recipe relies on store-bought chili beans, which might be a no-no to the die-hards, but is essential to working parents with 4 kids. keep in mind that these store-bought beans usually already have a bit of seasoning and chili powder, so the amounts i suggest reflect that fact. this recipe also does not have jalapenos, green peppers, cayenne peppers or habaneros, although you may certainly add them if you want to.

    i really like cumin, but the beautiful mrs. tas doesn't, so i often leave it out. i did add a bit of liquid smoke once [​IMG] (OBVIOUSLY, smoked chunks or shreds of brisket or chuck roast would be better), and got a great outdoors flavor that i really liked and my wife really hated. give it a try at your discretion.
  9. bruno994

    bruno994 Master of the Pit

    Thanks for the recipes, my kids and I love chili, my wife not so much.  I have been thinking about skipping the burnt ends with this weekends brisket smoke in favor of using the cubes for some chili next week.  Not sure the wife will let me skip making the ends, but it's got to be worth the try.  As far as using the chunks from a roast, that's how Casa Rio, I spoke of earlier does it.  Tender, meaty cubes in a great chili sauce.  Mouth is watering right now.    
  10. tasunkawitko

    tasunkawitko Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    maybe kill two birds with one stone - use the burnt ends to make chili? mrs bruno might like that!
  11. Thank you, Tasunko.
    That was elegant.

    For years I've had a running argument with a friend from Texas about beans in chili.

    He says "Chili can't have beans."

    I say "Only Texas competition chili can't have beans IN THE CHILI but the cattle trail cooks served beans on the side."
    I call it Michigan True North style.[​IMG]
  12. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Tas, morning.... Great article.. even better narrative.....  I also enjoy reading your threads.....  Dave
  13. tasunkawitko

    tasunkawitko Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    tom and dave - thanks! i enjoyed writing it, but i certainly don't claim it to be an authoritative, perhaps an "interpretation" would be the best term.

    that chili looks pretty good to me, tom ~
  14. As brothes we must share.
    Just don't ask me where my secret fishing hole is.

    Chilly River Chili
    A Chef Tom creation from his adventures with BSA Troop 529
    Half-Hour recipe serves four normal people or two teens.

    The Stuff;
    1 or 2 strips of hickory smoked bacon (Smoke your own bacon)
    Half a white onion, chopped chunky
    1 & 1/3 lbs ground beef, not too lean
    1 red bell pepper
    2 cans Dark red kidney beans
    2 or 3 cans tomato pieces
    3 Tbls chili powder (Badia brand is preferred)

    The Method: always use cast iron.
    Make sure to mark the time you start.
    Cut bacon into squares and fry up crisp. Set aside and allow to cool for later.
    Sauté chopped onion in the bacon fat at medium heat until translucent.
    Add ground beef to onions to brown at medium heat.
    While meat is browning; open all the cans and dump into large Dutch Oven or cast iron pot, add chili powder.
    When beef is brown, strain from fat and add to the pot and bring the whole mess to a simmer at medium heat.
    What are you waiting for? Slice up the bell pepper into large Julienne slivers, crumble the bacon and add all that to the pot, too.
    Keep it simmering, stirring occasionally until one half hour has elapsed since you started. You did mark what time you started, didn’t you?
    (Just make sure the kidney beans are done.)

    Serve with your favorite beverage and a slab of hot, buttered, crusty bread.

    Bon Appetite!

    Credit me when you make it.

  15. The Mexican Flea Market from HELL

    Presents another Chef Tom Creation


    20       lb. ground beef - coarse & lean

    10       lb. stew meat – ¾” cubed

    12       large yellow onions

    4ea     green, red & yellow bell peppers – slivered

    6         jalapeno peppers – sliced

    A few chopped mushrooms (to taste)

    8-10   16oz. cans tomato sauce

    12       16oz. cans diced tomatoes

    30-40 beef bouillon cubes

    1         small jar chopped garlic

    6-8      tblsp. Cayenne powder

    6-8      tblsp. Chili powder

    1          5oz. bottle liquid smoke

    Lots     burgundy wine

    We are all cooks here, right?

    I won't insult anyone by telling them what to do with all this stuff but I do recommend grilling the beef to brown it.

    Let the browned stew meat simmer for at least 90 minutes.

    The wine is for the pit crew.


    This was my recipe for the Florida State Finals. Competition was fearce and we only took 4th place.

    We saved half the veggies to add just before serving for that fresh crisp toothiness.
    I don't know how many people it feeds but we scraped the pot and people were still begging for more.

    I think we raised a couple thousand dollars for Special Olympics Florida (SOFL).
  16. boykjo

    boykjo Sausage maker Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    Chili is anything below 60 degrees.................[​IMG]
  17. Sorry for the bump, but I felt I had to. Thanks for the read. I really liked this thread.

    Never made chili, only chili beans. ;)
  18. Thanks Carlos...I've not seen this thread...Very enlightening.

    As far as the beans vs. no beans style. I'd say, like most foods originating of "what's available" the beans were most likely added as it's what the camp cooks had?...it's adds protein, fiber and carbohydrates. My preference is no beans, but then again, I have a made-up recipe that has 15 different beans in it?! I made some chili yesterday with my smoked serrano's, smoked anaheim's. a little chili powder, chipotle and paprika. Used pork and beef cut for stews (cooked just as described in the OT post). I added 2 cups of coffee in lieu of the usually Guinness Beer I normally add?!

    I also enjoy good pork green chili...being just north of Pueblo I can get fresh roasted chili's most anytime I want (by the bushel, no less), so they're a standard ingredient. I can go with or without tomatillos, with or without potatoes. Depends on how I feel?!

    I really don't know anything about proper cooking, I cook what I'll eat!

    Happy (Cookin') Smokin'

  19. smokinclt

    smokinclt Meat Mopper

    Nice write up. Personally I do like beans in my Chili but I also like it without. I always add a pound of bacon into my chili. An old ranch hand taught me that trick. It dissolves and adds to the taste. Chili for me is an all day long slow simmer cook and I soak my own beans the night before. I have been to a few cook offs in Texas and must say that it is very cool to see how many different ways chili can be made. 

    I will definitely be keeping the recipes above. 


  20. I tried to make smoked chili once but the beans fell through.[​IMG]

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