No, really, I got a trophy and a gift card and bragging rights.

Every year, my department at work has a chili cook-off.  This year I entered a traditional Texas Bowl O’Red style chili.  There were 10 entries and mine won by popular vote.  It seems like the perfect pandemic cooking project because it takes most of a day.  I make it on the stove.  Don’t use a slow cooker for this as it won’t cook off the liquid properly and the texture will be off.

Like barbecue, chili styles vary by region.  I think they are all legitimate -even the Cincinatti style served over spaghetti.  The Texas Bowl O’Red style does not have beans or tomatoes[1].  The red color comes from the dried chilis.  Mine is not quite legit as I use a can of chipotles which does have a little tomato in it.

I can’t give you an exact recipe because it’s chili and I think it ought to be different each time.  But here’s the general ingredient list: variety of dried peppers (I used California, New Mexico, Mulatto, and Negro dried peppers.  OMWC helped me find them.)  Fresh peppers (I used poblanos and jalapenos both times.  I’d like to add a habanero (but they didn’t have any), onions (1 large), and garlic (6 cloves).  I also add a can of chipotles.

I used about four pounds of chuck roast cut into 1 ½ inch cubes and 4 strips of bacon. I also use tequila and beer as well as onion powder (1 tsp), garlic powder (1/2 tsp), cumin (1 tsp), Mexican oregano (not regular oregano) (2 tsp), cayenne pepper (1 tsp) and bay leaf as well as salt and black pepper to taste.  Why am I adding onion and garlic powder when I have fresh?  I don’t consider onion or garlic powder substitutes for fresh – they taste different.  However, precisely because they taste different from fresh onion and garlic, combining them can add a depth of flavor.


Directions:  I used 12-14 dried peppers (6 California and 2 each of the others).  I stemmed and seeded them, then toasted them lightly in my dry cast iron skillet – just until you can smell them and see a hint of moisture on them.  Then I put them in a bowl and poured boiling water over them to soak for about 30 minutes.


A little more or less time doesn’t matter. While they’re soaking, I cooked the bacon in my cast iron dutch oven.  When the strips were crisp, I removed them and set aside, then started browning the chuck roast.  I had to do that in batches.  Once that was done, I set the meat aside and put the onions in the pan and sautéed until translucent.


About this time, the dried peppers were done soaking.  So I drained them (discard the soaking water) and put them in the food processor with the can of chipotles and about ½ can of water.  Process until you have a smooth paste.


Now, add the fresh peppers and garlic to the onions in the dutch oven and saute for a minute or two.  Then deglaze the pan with some tequila (about a shot’s worth).  Return the meat to the pan and crumble in the bacon.  Now add two cups water, the pepper paste and 1 -2 beers.  I used Dale’s Pale Ale, because that’s what I have, but Modelo would be good.


Bring it to a simmer and let it cook for 4-5 hours.  Give it a stir every hour or so.  If it needs more liquid (if it’s cooking down too fast), add more beer or water. Here at hour two you can see that it is cooking down nicely.


I remove the bay leaves around hour 3.  At about hour 4, I mix ¼ c of masa or so with a small amount of water and stir it in. Then let it cook for another ½ hour.


Enjoy topped with cheese, with a beer or margarita.



[1] Texans say “If you know beans about chili, you know chili got no beans!” The rules for the Chili Appreciation Society International states “2. NO FILLERS IN CHILI – Beans, macaroni, rice, hominy, or other similar ingredients are not permitted. “, page 6, accessed on March 21, 2020.