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Your Best Texas Chili Recipe, please?

Hi all, I've been absent from the site these past 5 months because I'm full-time in nursing school. I've really missed this place and I've really-really missed leisurely cooking days whenever I want.

At any rate, I have a request: I'm hosing our study group tomorrow, and I'm trying to use these opportunities to cook something yummy for the group. Last week, I made Grace Parisi's spice-roasted ribs with apricot glaze from Food and Wine: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/sp...

WOW. That recipe is a keeper, although I wanted to note that although the recipe calls for 7 lb or 3 racks of baby back ribs, I used just over 5 lb of ribs (2 racks) and there was just enough spice rub and glaze for them. But it's a wonderful recipe. The people I fed fell all over them, so you KNOW it's good.

Tomorrow, it's chili, but since one of my study partners can't stand beans, I thought I'd try Texas chili (sans beans). I have only ever made chili with beans and a tomato base, so I'd love some suggestions for those of you out there who are well-adept with the beanless kind.

I've read that a base made from dried, soaked chilies instead of tomato is pretty standard. Any suggestions? Thanks in advance!

Edit: I'm wondering if this recipe rings true to those of you who are knowledgeable:


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  1. I guess no one has strong feelings about Texas chili.

    1. A few concepts:

      o Chili puree, not powder (most important)

      o Small cubes of beef, not ground (tri-tip is the choice of the chili cook-off crowd as it is not too greasy)

      o Beef suet for browning, not oil

      o Garlic, no onions (serve chopped or pickled onions along side)

      o Mexican oregano, not Greek

      o Toasted and freshly ground cumin seed, not prepackaged powder

      o Beef stock or beef stock + beer for the liquid, not tomato juice ( I do like to add some tomato paste)

      o pinto beans on the side

      1. Here's my favorite recipe. Long before there were the brown bags of his mix in the grocery store, there was Carroll Shelby's scratch-made competition chili...


        The only thing I've changed is to sub 1 lb. of beef round steak, cut in 1/2” chunks, for the ground round. The ground meat is fine if you don't have the time or inclination to chop your own, but I like my chili a little more chunky.

        1. I cut a brisket into cubes of about 1", brown in bacon fat with minced onions, add a little Mexican oregano, several ounces of fresh high quality chili powder, a few glugs of bourbon, and a very small amount of tomato sauce. I add hotter peppers to taste.

          1. Here's the motherlode, recipes from CASI world championships held Terlingua, Texas every fall. No beans allowed.


            4 Replies
            1. re: James Cristinian

              That's actually extremely interesting. I'm going through the winning recipes and almost all of them are using ingredients that would make many Chowhounds (me included!) blanch. Commercial pre-made chili powders instead of custom grinds, bullion cubes instead of homemade stock, ground meat instead of cubes, etc.

              1. re: nokitchen

                I've read the contestants follow the leader when it comes the cut/grind of meat. What do the judges prefer, or at least appear to prefer. At one time it was the small dice.

                Many contestants prefer a powders because of their consistency. Puree from freshly hydrated whole chiles can vary quite a bit in heat.

                Rules may prevent contestants from using some things:
                "4. No ingredient may be pre-cooked in any way prior to the commencement of the official cookoff. The only excep-
                tions are canned or bottled tomatoes, tomato sauce, peppers, pepper sauce, beverages, broth and grinding
                and/or mixing of spices. "
                Though your homemade stock should fit the 'broth' category. But with all the other spices, I wonder whether the flavor of a homemade stock would be noticeable. A beef stock would be more apparent in a lightly seasoned French style stew.

              2. re: James Cristinian

                I made one of those recipes once and it was overpowering with flavor. Those recipes, all great, are designed to impress a judge with a small amount of chili, hence the flavor overload. So now when I make a competition chili recipe I leave out the last stage, mabye the last two stages and it is then edible if you want a bowl full.

                1. re: Enigma3

                  Yes, picture a group of people sitting around a table tasting a half dozen stews, taking plastic spoonfuls from anonymous Styrofoam cups. The meat, if cubed, must be small enough to fit those spoons. A full bodied stock isn't going to stand out.

              3. I think if you need a recipe to follow, the Homesick Texan's is a good starting point. Not sure I would fuss with the variety of chiles, and might not use all her spices, but the concept is sound.
                Of course, you could always simply leave the beans out of your own recipe.

                1 Reply
                1. re: tacosandbeer

                  I've played with this recipe a couple of times and will be doing it again tomorrow. It's pretty good. The one caveat I'd add is don't over toast the chiles. Just a couple of seconds separates deep, rich flavors from an overly bitter preparation that will make you wish you had used the worst chile powder you can buy at the grocery store. If you see more than the barest wisp of smoke or smell anything acrid toss everything on the skillet and start over.

                  1. re: josephlapusata

                    I love the recipe from serious eats. I do use small-diced tri-tip, make the chili "slurry" from a mix of dried chilis which I boil and put through the blender (new mexico, arbol, red, sometimes others) and add a chipotle pepper in adobo, 1/2 cup of strong coffee, and 1/2 an ounce of grated unsweetened chocolate to the "slurry.".

                  2. Might be too late but my "go to" is this clone of The Real McCoy from Manhattan Chili Company.