In The New York Times of November 5, 1980, food critic Craig Claiborne said he “…would travel—ha[s] traveled—several hundred miles by air, by rail, by Land Rover and by foot in search of the perfect bowl of chili con carne.” He added that he had made hundreds of batches of chili and eaten chilies “of all makes and persuasions.” Even 35 years later, I think he perfectly captured the quest of the “chilihead.”
Just as anything can be put in a tortilla to make a taco, anything can be put into a chili pot to make chili con carne. Chili cook-offs held around the country add new recipes to the chili canon on a regular basis. Many purists insist that true chili does not contain beans, but my belief is that the cook should do whatever individual taste and budget dictate. Start with one of the recipes below and make it your own.
2 lbs. ground beef or cubed stew meat
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 t. comino
1 t. oregano
2 c. tomato sauce
5 c. water
Salt to taste
3 t. powdered chile ancho
3 t. powdered chile pasilla
2 c. cooked pinto beans (optional)
Brown meat in pot. Add onion and garlic and fry until golden. Drain off half the grease, if desired. Grind comino in molcajete and add to meat. Add in oregano, tomato sauce, water and salt; add chile powders slowly, mixing well.
Bring to a boil, lower heat and cook for 1 hour. Add in the beans during the last 15 minutes of cooking time. For thicker chili, add 3 T. of flour during the last 5 minutes.
Chili con Carne de Puerco
1½ lb. pork, cubed
2 T. flour
2 T. chili powder
1½ t. salt
½ t. pepper
1 t. comino
2 cloves garlic
2 c. red chile salsa or tomato sauce
3 c. water
Heat meat in pot and drain off grease. Add in flower and chili powder, stirring well. Cook over medium heat until pork is well browned. Grind comino and garlic in molcajete and add to meat. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover and simmer 1½-2 hours.
Red Chile Salsa
5 T. powdered chile ancho (or chili powder)
3 c. water
2 t. salt
1 T. shortening
1½ t. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 T. flour
Combine chile powder and water and let sit for at least an hour.
In large saucepan, heat shortening and oil over low heat. Grind garlic in molcajete and add to saucepan. Add flour and brown lightly. Add in chile mixture, stirring constantly, until thickened.
Here are some published chili recipe examples. One well known recipe is called Amarillo Chili.
Here’s the recipe Craig Claiborne traveled to taste back in 1980, created by Milton Hernandez of Palmyra, Pa.: