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Chili, a Texas Tradition

Chili, a Texas Tradition

There are a few foods and food groups in Texas that stir up strong passion and opinion among the locals. Chili is one of them. Events have been centered around chili and a major Texas based restaurant is named for it. One of my favorite food memories growing up was a chili pie from the “Cat’s Paw”, a wonderful hamburger joint located across the street from our high school. It was a simple concoction created by pouring hot chili directly into a bag of corn chips. It was divine!

Most everyone has a favorite recipe for chili, the type of meat they swear by and whether to add beans or not. I have two favorite recipes but this one tops the list for my Engineer. One thing should always play into making chili, creating layers upon layers of flavor. Chili shouldn’t be “greasy” but rather hearty and satisfying. I use a blend of meats including ground sirloin along with ground buffalo or lamb, both add great flavor.


Since ground sirloin and buffalo are very lean, this recipe starts with a bit of bacon that is lightly rendered and a touch of olive oil. The heat from the spices should provide just a kick but not be so hot that your palate is numbed to the taste of the other spices. Finish the chili with some bittersweet chocolate, creating a smoky, earthy quality.

The hardest part of making chili, waiting for it to finish cooking!

Chili, a Texas Tradition

4 slices bacon, cut into pieces

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, chopped, about 3 cups

2 pounds ground sirloin

1 pound ground buffalo

5-6 garlic cloves, about 3 teaspoons

1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste

½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, or to taste

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon ground cumin

2 tablespoon ground coriander

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon paprika

1 tablespoon Creole seasoning

1 teaspoon brown sugar

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

1 can tomato sauce, 15 ounces

1 can tomato paste, 12 ounces

1 can crushed tomatoes, 28 ounces

2 teaspoons concentrated beef bouillon

1 carton beef stock, 32 ounces

2 tablespoons bittersweet chocolate, chopped

¼ cup cornmeal

In a large Dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium heat until it begins to brown and starts to render its fat.

Add the olive oil, the chopped onion, kosher salt and black pepper. Cook for 3-5 minutes until the onions start to soften.

Add the ground sirloin and ground buffalo, breaking up the meat as it cooks. Stir occasionally until most of the pink has disappeared. Mix in the chopped garlic and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Skim off any renderings.

Add the chili powder, cumin, coriander, oregano, paprika, Creole seasoning, brown sugar and cinnamon along with the tomato sauce, tomato paste and crushed tomatoes. Stir in the beef stock and beef bouillon.

Bring the chili just to a boil then reduce the heat to medium low and simmer partially covered for 1-1/2 hours. Stir periodically. Add the bittersweet chocolate and the cornmeal, stirring to mix into the chili.

Add additional kosher salt and pepper if needed. Cook uncovered for 30 minutes to allow the cornmeal to thicken up and bind the chili.

Serve with your favorite things… Rice, cheddar cheese and yes, corn chips can also be a great topping!


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