Skip to comments.So, you think you know how to make good chili
Posted on 10/03/2009 1:53:18 PM PDT by JoeProBono
You've read in my five previous columns history is all a matter of perspective. Well, today I'm going to challenge your perspective with the most serious topic you'll ever see in this space.
That's right. With the season just changing from the vernal to the autumnal equinox, a steaming pot of chili looms on my horizon, and on many others.
There's nothing better on a cool day than a bowl of chili. Its more American than apple pie and the hot dog. And, in that same context, I'm going to break one of the cardinal rules of journalism. You never talk about peoples politics or their religion. It just invites an argument and trouble.
Well, there is an unwritten cardinal rule ... you never disparage someone elses chili recipe.
Until today, that is.
While America debates health care, the war in Afghanistan and nuclear threats from Iran and North Korea, its safe to say a persons chili recipe should rank right up there among the worlds most pressing debates.
Im not here to cast aspersions on anyones chili recipe that blend of meat and spices and aroma that lures us into overindulgence during the cool months but Im afraid this area of our state is chili challenged.
I come to this conclusion, for want of any other proof other than my own observations, because people in this area of Oklahoma tend to make casseroles and call it chili.
If there was an 11th commandment, it would be: thou shalt not throw together a bunch of stray ingredients that sear the palate, meld it with barbecue sauce, hot sauce or beans and then call it chili.
For my expertise and pedigree, I offer the following.
My chili recipe actually comes from the Civil War the four years this country couldnt agree on just about anything and killed each other to prove it. So why should the topic of chili prove any different?
My great-great-grandfather was a Texas sorghum farmer, living just south of Greenville.
From family stories handed down generation to generation, he was an exceptional cook for his unit, the Confederacys 22nd Texas Cavalry, to the point he apparently concocted the Christy chili recipe for his company between battles.
Anyway, he handed down his chili recipe to his son, Jim Christy, who served four years in the Texas Rangers back in the 1890s, and who moved to southwest Oklahoma and opened Jims Lunch in Granite. And, of course, chili was the mainstay of pre- and post-Depression lunch counters the nation over.
No less an authority than renowned Daily Oklahoman & Times columnist Ray Parr wrote in his Parr for the Course, on Aug. 17, 1975, about my great-grandpas chili:
For deluxe dining, Jim Christy served chili for 10 cents per bowl and it was a man-sized bowl, with plenty of crackers. Old-timers around Oklahoma City still talk about Baxters (restaurant) chili. But thats because they never had a sniff of the real stuff, Jim Christy style. When old Jim got his chili simmering on the stove you could smell it the entire length of Granites booming business district. I was 12 years old before I knew restaurants ever served anything but hamburgers and chili. During my expense account years, I have tried out gourmet eating from New Orleans to San Francisco. But none of it has ever approached that Jim Christy chili.
That recipe was handed down to one of his two sons, my great-uncle Barney, who operated Christys Lunch on Weatherfords Main Street for many years. Im sure anyone who went to college at Southwestern would attest to his legacy of fine chili.
And, about a year before he died in 1987, we made a trip to Weatherford for our last visit with him. As was his habit, it was one big genealogy lesson and bull session. Plus, he handed down the family chili recipe to me.
It came written on brown kraft paper, penciled on an old, worn paper bag. But, it was like the Shroud of Turin to me entrusted with the family recipe for Texas Red.
And, I was sworn to its secrecy, on penalty of my everlasting soul, with the caveat I never make my chili too spicy, use exotic meats or other assorted road kill, put beans in it or divulge the ingredients.
Colleagues here at the paper have asked for the recipe, but its still safely tucked away. Not even my wife knows its secrets. And, someday, Ill have to decide which of my three sons to pass it along to for posterity.
So the next time someone tells me they make a good bowl of chili, Ill just have to shake my head and chuckle.
Thats right, Ive thrown down the gauntlet, drawn a line in the dirt, questioned your heritage and your veracity ... and your chili.
One thing that makes a difference is beans from scratch...
I’ve tried everything but I still can’t form them beans by hand!
Does chili have beans ?
Just made a HUGE kettle of the stuff. It freezes well. Did six containers.
LOL Twas intentional. Finally we’ll have the answer.
Dear David Christy:
You are from Oklahoma. Your opinions about chili are therefore meaningless.
Beans in chili = NOT CHILI
That is just damn clever!!
OK, what about the ‘shredded beef only’ rule? Is it chili if it uses ground beef?
Chili has beans — jalapeno beans. And mix a heaping spoonful of corn muffin mix with a little water to form a smooth pourable paste. Add that to the bubbling chili and stir. It’ll thicken, flavor, and mellow your chili. You won’t want chili any other way.
Zuzu says "NO!"
Chili is not a soup. Neither is it a garnish, a topping, or a sauce. It is a BEEF dish, made from chunks of BEEF, to which powdered chilies, masa, and various spices are added.
Chili is Texas food. It is our national dish. People from other states ALWAYS get it wrong. No one in Oklahoma knows crap about chili. That goes double for Califreakingfornia. And as for those liquid diaper contents they pass off as “chili” in Cincinnati — may God forgive them.
PROTIP: Chili is like sourdough bread or Philly cheesesteaks or New York pizza: impossible to duplicate elsewhere. There's some magic ingredient here — bacteria, radiation, pollution, whatever — that makes real chili unique and unreproducible. Do not eat “chili” made north of the Red River. Whatever you may be served up there, it will not be chili.
Sure it does... IN COMMUNIST RUSSIA.
Ugh! The infamous “Cleveland Steamer”!
Carroll Shelby’s Chili Fixings (you get it at the grocery store). I let it simmer for a lot longer than it says to so the flavors really blend. Have used it for years and love the stuff.
Serve over fried rice and top with shredded cheese and crumbled taco shells. YUMMY!!
I have been making good chili from scratch for 35 years. Mine has no beans.
Chili is not to be served “over” anything. That is what a SAUCE is for. Real chili stands on its own.
The true romance of chili is in the sharing. Yes, I feel I know how to make exceptionally fine chili as do several tens of thousands of other chili enthusiasts.
The beauty of chili is that there are several best chilis. A chili rated best at any given chili cook-off may not be rated best at the next chili cook off.
I like to make many different kinds of chili because each has its own time and place. For example on Christmas Eve all my grandchildren look forward to a chili I make that is actually an Italian gravy meant to be served over spaghetti. I omit the spaghetti but sometimes serve it over macaroni. When I was young, the truck stops in the Midwest served "Chili Mac". It was a regularly spiced chili served over macaroni and was fun. The closest description for mine would be "Cincinnati Chili" because of some of the unusual spices I use.
I sometimes like a hearty Texas Chili with pinto beans and served with corn bread. At times, I use ground beef and at other times, I use beef cubes. I make my own chile powder and often that is the only spicy ingredient but at other times, I add jalapeno, or cayenne, or on occasion dried habernos peppers.
Glad you brought it up, now I'm hungry for chili.
Pretty boastful and arrogant to claim you have the best chili without showing the recipe.
Pretty boastful and arrogant to claim you have the best chili without showing the recipe.
Ain't chili then.
I REALLY hope you’re not sitting in a silo in the midwest.
"...and chili doesn't have beans."
That looks like something you’d get at a junior high school JV football game concession stand.
Chili may be served with pinto beans and corn bread ON THE SIDE. If the “chili” contains beans, onions, tomatoes, rutabagas, kumquats, or any fruit or vegetable other than chiles, it is not chili.
None of the other foods you mention are chili.
No, I man the Orbiting Death Laser®...
What a great idea! Thanks!
I lived in Texas for a year and had to listen to people spew that nonsense about ‘no beans in chili’. Whatever. It tastes better with beans in it and my chili does not resemble soup at all. It’s extremely thick and incredibly flavorful. I like to add a tablespoon or so of cocoa and a dash of nutmeg to mine sometimes. Gives it a different flavor. Every once in awhile we’ll put a little red wine or beer in it but I think that is too over powering. I do like to use dried beans that I’ve prepared myself but usually just buy the canned stuff. I’m afraid with a house full of little kids it just makes it easier. I haven’t had a chance to prepare beans and freeze them in awhile. It is that time of year though! Will have a pot of chili brewing here tomorrow.
Of course, you can make your own "chili" whatever way you wish, and you can even call it "chili", but calling something with beans in it "chili" doesn't make it chili. You can call a turkey vulture a bald eagle all day long, but in reality a turkey vulture is still a turkey vulture.
Chili with beans is "chili" in the same way that gay marriage is "marriage".
Somewhere in Massachusetts there’s a nice, liberal lady with a recipe for healthy tofu-and-kidney-bean chili.
Secret...mention? You screamed them at the top of your lungs!
Share your recipe with us. I thought there was only one type of chili and thats the chili that wins this.
The fella is the worlds only undefeated Chili Champ.
Never been beat.
Is there any pre-made chili available off the shelf that is good?