Chili is one of those dishes that I’ve learned incites some Texans to dust off their pitch forks if someone has a different opinion about how to make it.
Especially when deciding whether or not beans belong.
Making chili for the first time also seems like a rite of passage, so after 26 years on this earth, I finally decided it was time. Just keep in mind, I’m always the first to admit that I am more of a baker than a cooker.
A quick search on the internet would have given me plenty of chili recipes claiming to be the best, but I figured if I was going to make chili, I might as well make a recipe loved by people I actually know.
When family friend Julia Johnson shared her recipe with me, I decided to have a go at it when I read that one of her instructions is to toast the chili powder in a dry skillet before using it. And, of course, because other people mentioned how much they loved her chili.
I first browned the meat along with onion and garlic. I used half chili meat, half ground beef, both bought from B & W Meat Company, 4801 N. Shepherd Dr. The recipe I was using actually called for ground beef and pork sausage, so that is a change I made.
Before I get to the rest of the ingredients, I also quickly learned that chili is all about taste preference and eye-balling how much spice you throw in the pot. Julia gave me some loose guidelines on what to add in the chili, but it was really up to me how much of each ingredient to add. At first, I didn’t like this idea, but once I got cooking and tasting, I found my own little groove and enjoyed cooking much more than following a strict recipe.
After the meat was ready, I threw in one chopped-up poblano pepper (and later wished I’d added more) and tomatoes. The seasoning per pound is about 1/4 cup chili powder, 1 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp oregano, 1/4 tsp paprika. Then I added a small can of tomato sauce per pound of meat.
And yes, I also added beans. In my defense, I did not make “Texas chili,” and I like beans in my chili.
This is a pretty thick chili, which I prefer, but adding water will make it soupier.
Julia said the most important part is the chili powder, which has to be 100 percent chili peppers. I never knew how hard this was to find until I spent almost 20 minutes in the spice aisle at H-E-B looking for one. I eventually found an ancho chili powder.
In the process of toasting the chili powder, the seasoning will get dark and smoky.
“You will think you’ve ruined your chili powder, but I promise that’s the key,” Julia said. “When you set off your smoke alarm, that’s how you know it’s legit.”
Julia said she usually does this part outside on her grill, but keeping the fan above my stove on kept the smoke contained.
Because of the chili powder toasting, the chili also came out pretty dark and gave it a rich flavor.
After everything was combined and the taste to my preference, I let the chili simmer while I made skillet cornbread. The recipe I used can be found here: https://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/skillet-cornbread/.
The recipe utilizes cornmeal, flour, shortening, salt, baking soda, baking powder, buttermilk and milk. I cooked it on the stove for one minute before popping it in the oven, which I think gave the edges a really nice crispiness.
I enjoyed both the making and the eating of the chili and cornbread. If I could change one thing it would be the use of the chili meat, which is more of a tougher meat than ground beef.