East Meets West

Winter (aka fall anywhere else) has arrived in San Antonio. Though it will likely not last. Since Sunday, we have had unusually cold, wet and windy weather for December. Generally, weather like this doesn't occur until January or February. Monday's high was in the mid 40's which called for the season's first fire in the fireplace.

With the forecast equally grim for the next few days, chili is on our minds. Last year, I made a vegetarian chili that I loved, so this time I have asked David to make chili. Chili with meat for you carnivores. And he has agreed. He had some venison back strap in the freezer and thought that would make a nice change. Naturally, he consulted Lou Lambert's Big Ranch, Big City cookbook and there it was. A recipe for West Texas Venison Chili. Go figure. So this dish was meant to be.

But let me tell you a funny little story about chili. I grew up eating my father's chili which was nothing more than chili ground meat with 2-Alarm chili seasoning mix. Straight from the package. This shows you my true Texas roots.

I remember spending the first winter together with David when he mentioned he wanted to make chili. I assumed he also used the 2-Alarm chili mix, but no. I was wrong. This Yankee went all out and made chili from scratch. Not that it's hard but it was a shocker to me. And another reason why I fell in love with this dude.

Nearly 20 years later and he's still making chili from scratch. This recipe doesn't much differ from what he would do on his own, but David quickly realized that Lou has made sense of the proper order to add the ingredients and uses less tomatoes than David would normally use. And a beer to boot. Another great reason to make this chili recipe.

However, David still being part Yankee did add beans to his chili and when I asked why, he said, "Because I like beans." When you make your chili, beans are optional because true Texans would never add beans to their chili.

Buen provecho!

West Texas Chili
The Cowgirl Gourmet's cowboy adapted this using Lou Lambert's recipe from the Big Ranch, Big City cookbook

Print recipe

Chili is a Texas staple and everyone needs to have their own chili recipe. This is a great go-to guide for newbies and experts. You can choose to use venison or beef. Beans or no beans. The balance of flavors is great and will warm you up on a cold day. And make your house smell unbelievable.

Serves 6-8

1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 lbs. coarsely ground or cubed venison or beef
2 large yellow onions, medium dice
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1/3 cup chili powder of your choice
2 Tablespoons paprika
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 Tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar (optional--we did not add this)
4 plum tomatoes, cored and diced medium
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 12-oz. bottle or can of beer
1 cup water
1 can of beans of your choice, using minimal liquid (optional)
2 Tablespoons cornmeal
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, for garnish
1 cup coarsely chopped yellow onion, for garnish
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced, for garnish (optional)

Heat a large heavy soup pot over medium heat and add the oil. Add the meat and cook until it begins to brown, about 8 minutes.

Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion becomes soft. Stir in the chili powder, paprika, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper and sugar (optional) and cook until all of the meat is coated with the spices, about 2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, beer and water and bring the chili to a simmer.

Cook the chili at a low simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the flavors come together and the texture thickens.

During the cooking, add water to keep the chili moist as the liquid evaporates. At the end of the cooking time, add the beans now if you are using them. Then sprinkle the cornmeal over the chili and stir in to combine well. Cook until the cornmeal is cooked through and has slightly thickened the chili, about 10-15 minutes.

Ladle the hot chili into hot bowls and top with cheddar cheese, diced onion and diced jalapeno. Serve with Fritos or corn bread and a cold beer.


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