If you know anything about Texas chili, then you know for certain the one thing that is NOT in this recipe.
If you have just yelled “BEANS!” loudly then you are correct (and also you knew you were correct, and you did not need me to tell you that you were correct, because you knew this perfectly, thank you very much.
If you did not know that the chili in Texas never, ever contains beans, then you have not discussed chili with a Texan. Or conversely, someone with strong opinions on the other side, who think beans are an integral part of chili, and that Texas chili is well….more like a stew.
Wait, stop, put down those pitchforks! I didn’t say it was a stew, I just mentioned that I have read that other folks from other parts of the country have said such things. I think it’s chili! Really, I do! (I also think other types of chili with beans are chili, so I don’t think I’m winning any big fan base in Texas).
Look, I’m not here to solve the great chili debate. I do know, however, that the guys in my family love all kinds of chili, but are happiest when it is at its meatiest. And Texas beef no-bean chili, or as it’s also know a “Bowl of Red,” well, that’s meaty all right.
Cook this chili low and slow so the meat can become very soft and the liquid thickens into a sauce, and doesn’t just evaporate. The sauce that binds together this chili is thick—if it gets too thick, stir in ½ to 1 cup water towards the end, especially if it starts to stick to the bottom of the pot.
I also like to shred some of the big cubes of super tender beef at the end, to give the sauce some more texture.
True Texas chili also starts with a homemade chili paste, usually made from dried chilis. This recipe takes a shortcut with a generous amount of chili powder.
The annual Terlingua Chili Contest, held in Terlingua, TX says in its densely written three page rules document that “No beans, pasta, rice or other similar items are allowed.” That’s not a suggestion, friends, that’s a bona fide rule. (And P.S. storebought chili powder is allowed).
Texan author Markham Shaw Pyle wrote, “Lean closer and I will whisper to you a horrific, soul-shattering secret: there are actually people so lost to any sense of decency that they put beans in chili. (I hope you sent the children of tender years out of the room before we discussed that horror, lest they be warped for life).”
But then there’s this, from writer Calvin Trillan: “I like chili, but not enough to discuss it with someone from Texas.”
Texas Red Chili
- 1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
- 3 pounds cubed 1 to 1 1/2-inch stew meat such as beef chuck
- Coarse or kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 2 red or yellow onions chopped
- 5 garlic cloves minced
- ¼ cup chili powder
- 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes or tomato puree
- 2 cups less-sodium beef broth
- Hot cooked rice to serve
To Serve (As Desired)
- Guacamole or diced avocado
- Lime wedges
- Minced onions
- Diced tomatoes
- Sour cream
- Cilantro leaves
- Season the beef with salt and pepper. In a large soup pot, or a Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the beef in batches, and brown a few sides, about 8 minutes per batch (not every side has to be browned, better to caramelize a few sides well and let the rest just be). Transfer the meat with a slotted spoon to a plate as it finishes browning.
- Drain off all but a couple of teaspoons of the fat from the pot, and add the onions and sauté over medium heat for 5 minutes, until the onions are tender. Add the garlic and sauté for one more minute, until you can smell the garlic. . Add the chili powder then stir in the tomato puree and the beef broth, return the browned beef cubes to the pot, and bring to a simmer over medium high heat.
- Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered for about 3 hours, until the beef is very tender. Add 1/2 to 1 cup of water towards the end of the sauce is too thick or the mixture looks too dry. When it is all tender, you can remove a cup of two of the beef cubes and shred them with two forks and then stir that back into the pot to add thicken up the sauce a bit, if desired.
- Serve hot in bowls, with the accompaniments of your choice.
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