October is Chili Month
Texas Chefs Association. Cooking in the Heart of Texas. [Texas?]: The Association, [1984?]. [TX715 .C77 1984]
Chili has become a ubiquitously American food, served across the country in a multitude of variations from the Texas “bowl of red,” to the Cincinnati five-way over macaroni, to the many vegetarian bean-based chilies.
Chili as we know it most likely originated in the region that later became Texas, perhaps as an outgrowth of dishes of stewed meat with wild chiles prepared by Native Americans in the area, or through immigrants’ efforts to reproduce meat stews of their homelands using local ingredients. Even today, Texas-style chili–often called “bowl of red” or “chili con carne”– most often consists solely of meat, chiles, and other herbs or spices. In fact, raising the question of whether something containing beans can even be called chili will quickly start a spirited debate among any group of Texans.
Although Texan, rather than Mexican, in its development, chili has close associations with San Antonio’s Mexican-American population. The San Antonio “chili queens” who served chili con carne, along with tortillas and tamales in San Antonio’s plazas during the late 19th and early 20th century achieved a degree of national fame and contributed to San Antonio’s developing image as a picturesque destination. Images of 19th century chili stands can be found in our digital collections, along with a few photographs of chili queens from the 1930s.
To celebrate National Chili Month, I decided to try a couple of chili recipes from cookbooks in Special Collections. This week’s experiment comes from Cooking in the Heart of Texas, a 1984 cookbook published by the Texas Chefs Association. It was contributed to the volume by Chef James L. Flewelling, Executive Chef of the Dallas Petroleum Club.
Chili (adopted by the Petroleum Club of Dallas).
- 5 lbs. Chuck, no fat or gristle, coarsely ground
- 2 oz. Paprika
- 2 oz. Chili Powder
- 1 oz. Cominos
- 1 tsp. fresh chopped Garlic
- 1 lg. tsp. Black Pepper
- 2 Tbsp. Salt
- 2 oz. Accent
- 1 cup browned Bread Crumbs
Cover meat with water, and boil. Skim. Add seasonings and simmer 30 minutes. Thicken with browned bread crumbs.
In the Kitchen
Since I planned to serve just two people, rather than the entire dining room of the Petroleum Club, I decided to quarter the recipe. I also chose to exclude the Accent, which primarily consists of MSG.
- 1 1/4 pound ground chuck
- 1 tbsp. paprika
- 1 tbsp. chili powder
- 1/2 tbsp. cumin
- 1/4 tsp. chopped garlic
- 1/4 tsp. black pepper
- 1/2 tbsp. salt
- 1/4 cup browned bread crumbs
This recipe really couldn’t be easier. I made fresh bread crumbs from some slightly stale home-made bread I had in the fridge, but if you used panko, the entire assembly would amount to less than 10 minutes. I was a bit hesitant about an all-meat chili, but the combination of spices really gave depth to the flavor and made it a hit at the dinner table.
 Sharon Hudgins, “Chili,” Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, ed. Andrew F. Smith, accessed October 10, 2012.