How to make a pot of Texas red: Part two

Pot of Texas red DSC 2713

“The aroma of good chili should generate rapture akin to a lover’s kiss.” – Motto of the Chili Appreciation Society International

The Texas Red overture has finished, so now it’s time to get on with the main event: cooking your pot of chili. Are you ready? Let’s go!

Before you begin cooking, you need to chop. I start with the veggies. I dice my onion, mince my garlic, slice my peppers and then chop the meat into bite-sized squares. Hopefully, you’re playing some good rhythmic music so you can shake your hips and tap your feet as you dance your knife along the cutting board.

After chopping, take your dried anchos, slice them open and remove the seeds and stems. Lay them flat on a hot, ungreased iron skillet and cook them for a few minutes until they start to bubble. (Warning: make sure you have an open window because there will be smoke and it can burn your eyes!) Throw the cooked anchos into a blender and just add enough water to cover them. Let it rest for a few minutes and then pulse until you have an ancho-chile slurry.

Now it’s time to brown your meat. Don’t cook it all the way through, just sear it one pound at a time in an iron skillet laced with bacon grease. Don’t have or want to use bacon grease? I reckon peanut oil is a good substitute or maybe butter. I wouldn’t use olive or canola oil, though—I just can’t see Chuck Wagon Cookie pouring a glug of EVOO into his skillet. Can you?

After the meat is lightly browned, throw the onions into the Dutch oven and cook in bacon grease until translucent. Throw in the garlic, cook for a minute or so, and then add your beef. Pour two cups of coffee over the meat and add a bit more water. You don’t want to add too much or you’ll end up with soup, not thick, rich chili.

Pot of Texas red | Homesick Texan
Pour into the pot your ancho chile slurry, add 1/3 cup of chile powder, 2 tablespoons of Mexican oregano, two cayenne peppers or a tablespoon of cayenne pepper powder, some salt, stir it up and cook on high until it boils. Reduce heat, cover and cook for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, remove the lid, stir and taste. This is where the improvisational part of the show begins. Add spices as you see fit until it has a kick of which you approve. I like to add at this point some grated unsweetened Mexican chocolate (about 2 tsps), and more chile and cayenne powder.

Cook, stirring occasionally for an hour. The meat should be getting very tender and your liquid should be getting thicker. Taste it. Add spices as needed. Keep stirring and cooking for another half hour. Now, open your bottle of beer (you deserve it after all this chili-pot babysitting) and pour about 1/3 cup into a glass and mix in a tablespoon of the masa harina. Stir this slowly into your chili pot. Taste it. Add more spices as needed. Cook for about 15 more minutes and then turn off the heat and let it rest.

Now, at this point, you should have a slightly stringy, meaty mass that tastes deep, peppery and rich. Here’s the test when it’s ready: can your wooden spoon stand up in the pot unassisted? If yes, superb—it’s good to go. If not, you may want to cook it a bit longer and add another round of the beer/masa mix.

I let it rest for a while, and then I like to stir in the juice of one or two limes. Pour into bowls, add a dollop of sour cream and/or cheese and serve.

Now, if you’ve never had a true bowl of Texas Red, let me warn you—this is a fiery, thick concoction. It doesn’t take much to fill you up and stick to your bones. But oh boy, is it a mean and meaty mouthful. If people complain because there’s no beans or tomatoes (or—I shudder to think—pasta, if they’re from Cincinnati), just tell them you’ll be making a pot of beans with tomatoes next weekend. And they’re all invited.

Pot of Texas red | Homesick Texan
It can only truly be Texas red if it walks the thin line just this side of indigestibility: Damning the mouth that eats it and defying the stomach to digest it, the ingredients are hardly willing to lie in the same pot together.” – John Thorne, Simple Cooking

And you might want to provide your guests with some Tums. Just in case.

  1. christine (myplateoryours)

    What a delightful couple of posts. My feet are tapping just listening to the rhythm of your words.

  2. I agree with the above comment. Plus I can almost feel the passion you have for the Texan dish.

    Question, though: I don’t have windows near the kitchen nor can I open what windows I do have. Any suggestions to remedy the smoke problem (if I do decide to try to make this and force picky boyfriend to eat it)? Also, I don’t have a blender- think I could get away with just a mortar and pestle or some such thing?

    Honestly, for really reals, I’m not a serial killer nor a real psycho. Pretty please can I have some? Hehe.

  3. Oops, I just saw your comment responding to mine in Part 1. YES!!! 🙂

  4. Anonymous

    here’s the thing: would a serial killer ADMIT to being a serial killer?

  5. I want to watch my friends make chili your way; music a goin’ and booty a shakin’. Now that’s the way you should make chili. Food should always be fun and have good memories attached to it. I will chuckle the next time we make chili thinking about you making yours! My husband will think I have gone around the bend one too many times. LOL!

  6. Danielle

    So, uh… you’re bringing us some of this on Saturday, yes? (Please?)

  7. Lisa Fain

    Christine–Thanks! It was a blast writing the posts.

    Yvo–If you can’t open your windows just be careful–maybe put on glasses. And I suppose you could use a mortar and pestl– they certainly didn’t have blenders or food processors out on the range.

    Anon–While her blog is called Feisty Foodie, I don’t think she’s dangerous!

    Vlb5757–Food and cooking should indeed always be fun.

    Danielle–You betcha!

  8. Style Scout

    Nice Blog beautiful images, I’ll be back Robert viewing from London

  9. Chicken Fried Gourmet

    very nice post….you can never have enough anchos

  10. If you can cook Tex Mex this well, why are you always looking for good Mexican food in NY? Yours is probably way better.

  11. This sounds pretty fabulous, and completely different from any chili I’ve ever made before. I’m looking forward to making it.

  12. Wow! Your writing is incredible and your photos are even better! My mouth is watering and it hasn’t tasted beef in 5 years! Wonderful to meet you yesterday: I’m going to email you for photo tips!

  13. I love your blog! and i love you! (ok, that last part sound a little creepy but i do!). Your writing is excellent. Very engaging.

    One day, i’m going to set aside 4 hours for a Texan Chilli cooking marathon.

  14. Lisa Fain

    Style Scout–Thanks! I look forward to seeing you again.

    Chicken Fried Gourmet–I agree. Anchos are my favorite chile.

    Harry–I cook OK, but I’d love to find that perfect restaurant.

    Julie–if you make it, let me know how it turns out.

    Vanessa–I can’t imagine a life without beef. I admire your convictions.

    Mae–Thank you for stopping by! Your blog is a joy to read as well.

  15. photocharmkit

    that sounds delicious 🙂

  16. Photo Jewelry Making

    that looks delicious 🙂

  17. Anonymous

    Hi, I came across your blog while surfing around and was tempted to try this recipe even though I’ve no idea what Texan chili should taste like. Being a Southeast Asian, I’m completely used to spicy food, but wow, did my mouth and stomach burn! My parents enjoyed it as much as I did too.

    However, I ran into a problem – we don’t sell ancho chiles here, so I subbed in dried chilli. Does it affect the taste, I wonder? And I’d also like to ask what kind of spices you use in the improvisatory bit – I used cumin, rosemary, cardamom, paprika and bay leaves so I’m wondering if the taste did end up rather unlike what Texan chili should taste like.

    In all, thanks for this recipe! I had a lot of fun cooking and worrying over my chili. I’m going to try your habenero peach salsa next. (:


  18. It’s very elusive, that perfect pitch in chili. Also drawing out the fire from the chili. I’m going to try mixing my own chili powder next.

    This is my third pot, attempted in 2 continents. The first two were stirred up in Houston, Texas. The current one is bubbling away on the stove in a teeny London apartment at the moment, where it is warm and balmy (thank God!).

    Thank you, Lisa, for the recipes. My fiance was (not anymore, cos he’s back!) a homesick Texan too, and you’ve been invaluable in helping me make him happy! Moving to Houston after our wedding in November, and looking forward to more delicious inspirations from you.

  19. Jim Gomes

    Another homesick Texan here – writing from the left coast – the weather never really has the chill in the air that says”it’s a Texas chili night tonight” here in SoCal but I found your blog while searching for a migas recipe. I’ll be testing this version of Texas chili real soon. Thanks! Jim

  20. Meredith

    I have to say that I disagree with your discounting of olive oil. It’s definitely non-traditional, but the peppery sheen of a good middle eastern extra virgin is a nice replacement for lard or suet.

    Otherwise, a fantastic basis for chili improvisation!

  21. Heya!

    I just moved to Texas from California a few months ago (though I'm a southerner by blood and manner) and your chili looks absolutely delicious! It's definitely going on the list of things to make for my hungry Texan boyfriend soon.

    I have a rather newbie question though. What's the best cut of meat to use for chili? Will top round work? Or brisket?

  22. Lisa Fain

    Hi Georgia, I usually use chuck, but top round would work as would brisket. You can even do a combination of meats!

  23. You mention chopping peppers in the recipe instructions, but there are no peppers in the ingredient post. Did you mean sweet peppers? If so, red or green?

  24. Lisa Fain

    DJC–Sometimes I put red jalapenos in my chili.

  25. mole1066

    Sorry, being dumb here. Where is the ingredients post?

  26. Lisa Fain

    Mole1066–There really isn't one spelled out in this series of posts, but here’s a full Texas chili recipe.

  27. Jonathan

    Love the blog – and can't wait to try your Texas red. But have you tried Cincinnati style chili? Skyline isn't really comparable to what-we-call-chili in Texas, but it's just as delicious!

  28. Where do you get unsweetened mexican chocolate? I've only been able to find it sweetened, even when I search online. If I can't find it, is there a good substitute/home recipe?

  29. Lisa Fain

    Sara–You can use the regular sweetened discs, about a teaspoon or so. This is an old post and there used to be a store that sold it by me, but the store closed and I haven't seen it since. There's also this post with a more specific Texas chili recipe.

  30. David Cunningham

    Just made my first batch of Texas Red! As a fellow homesick Texan it was very enjoyable, I put on the Lyle Lovett myself. . . I will say that if you're in a dry climate it seems to need a LOT more liquid to keep it cooking long enough for the meat to get tender. Turned out really great though! Thanks!!

  31. I've been Cookie, in fact I'm on my way to go be Cookie again in a couple of days. Well, maybe not exactly, but I cook for an outfitter here in Colorado for hunting seasons. Canvas tents, no running water, no electricity and cell phone coverage on rare occasions. Love the post – it's a version of my opening dish. One way to set the stage as to who is in charge of the food!
    Actually I do mellow it out a bit for the clients. I go heavy on the pasilla and quajillo chilis and lighter on the Cayenne. Then just enough chipotles to evoke some real respect and that lovely smokey flavor. I use lard, it's easiest to keep and have on hand in a non-refrigerated world. Also, the distinctive quality in Mexican chocolate is a touch of cinnamon, so if you can't find the real stuff substitute unsweetened chocolate and a dash of cinnamon.

  32. Just put on a pot of Texas red. It has the whole house smelling great. Just moved to Tulsa and I was feeling homesick for TX. I had to go to two stores for my ingedients. Lucky to find a Supermercado in the neighborhood.

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