Well we are just past Father’s Day, and one of my brothers sent me a request for my father’s chili recipe. Dad was born in 1928, and in his era “Mexican” food was not so ubiquitous a part of the food landscape. He had been raised on the Eastern European diet plan: sausages when you can afford them, and potatoes and cabbage the rest of the time. So chili, even in it’s Midwestern form was somewhat exotic. And this is how he made it for us:
A pound or so of ground beef, some chopped onion to suit, one or more cans of kidney beans, a bit of salt, a teaspoon of garlic powder, a teaspoon of onion powder, a tablespoon of chili powder and tomato juice or V-8 juice.
Brown the ground beef with the onion and drain off the fat. Throw in the rest of the ingredients, simmer for a bit and eat with saltine crackers. Easy peasy! If you need to serve more people, just use more beans and tomato juice.
This chili bears a slight resemblance to the original from Mexico. I remember the bottle of chili powder that we used for this, specially purchased for this recipe. I think it possibly contained cumin, garlic, oregano, salt and some form of mild chili powder. It couldn’t be too spicy, we just weren’t used to that.
When I moved to New Mexico I learned to make New Mexico red chili, which is a more complicated recipe.
12 pods of dried chile, 2 cups of water, 1 teaspoon of salt, 2 tablespoons of lard, 1 tablespoon of flour, tomato juice or water.
Wash the chile pods, removing stems and seeds. Bring chile pods and water to boil, reduce heat and allow to steam for 10 minutes or longer. Pour into a blender and liquify. Strain the sauce through a sieve and add salt to taste. Heat the lard, then add the flour to make a roux. Pour in the chile sauce and stir until thickened. Add tomato juice or more water if needed. Cook cubes of beef in this until tender, red chili is served with the pinto beans on the side, if you care to add them.
Both recipes are good in their own ways, I would make New Mexico red for M, and Midwestern chili for myself whenever I got a hankering for it. I think I’ll make some tonight (but with more chili powder, I like it hot).