It's Chili Time in Tennessee
I love chili. That’s an understatement. Actually, I worship at the hallowed halls of chili.
There are multitudinous fresh chilis for adventurous eaters- with different combinations of chili powders, dried chilis, meats, gravy mixtures, legumes (that’s beans to us Southerners), cheeses, sour cream, slaws and guacamoles… There’s chili con carne, turkey chili, chicken chili, chili mac, chili and spuds, shredded beef chili, pork shoulder chili, beer chili, vegetarian chili… I could go on and on… The choices are legion! You can put it in a bowl, on a hot dog, on chips, in a casserole. You can funnel it right down the old chute, or you can let it sit a while, which intensifies the flavors. Then there is the ability to freeze it and bring it out for quick chili satisfaction, keeping it’s wonderful properties even though iced down for months.
There are chili festivals, chili cook-offs, chili competitions, chili dinners, chili fundraisers, church chili nights, school chili dinners. In fact I have inside information that the Nashville Fire Department shovels the really hot stuff directly into the gas tank of their hook and ladder trucks for added ump and to stretch gas mileage (just a little teasing there).
Some think that the acai berry was the first wonder food. But that’s not true. It was actually chili. There’s even the International Chili Society. Everyone I’ve ever met has their own chili recipe that they swear is the best they’ve ever eaten. Basically what I’m saying, is that it’s the immaculate meal.
From what historians have found, chili (the chili we all know and love) was invented in San Antonio, TX by a group of Chili “Queens” over 200 years ago. They made their highly seasoned mixture at their homes and loaded it onto food carts to sell to soldiers stationed there. You could most rightly say they started the first food truck culture in the Southwest! The phenomena worked its way all the way to the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. It was a sensational smash!
From there chili parlors sprang up all the country and this nation’s collective love of Chili began. Restaurants invented and served up their own signature concoctions with such interesting menu titles as “Soup of the Devil” at the famous Chasen’s in Hollywood. Poets have waxed rhapsodic over chili. Writers have mooned over the hearty, fragrant stuff. And of course the most important factoid… more football games have been played in front of a cadre of chili gourmands than perhaps any other food yet served (except that late comer pizza, but we'll do that post later). In fact many a woman who planned an array of finger foods for those special weekend gladiatorial events could have saved a lot of time by just offering loads of chili.
In my quest I found tens of thousands of chili recipes. Below is one of the earliest printed…
Original San Antonio Chili
2 pounds beef shoulder, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 pound pork shoulder, cut into ½-inch cubes
¼ cup suet
¼ cup pork fat
3 medium-sized onions, chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 quart water
4 ancho chiles
1 serrano chile
6 dried red chiles
1 tablespoon comino seeds, freshly ground
2 tablespoons Mexican oregano
Salt to taste
Place lightly floured beef and pork cubes in with suet and pork fat in heavy chili pot and cook quickly, stirring often. Add onions and garlic and cook until they are tender and limp. Add water to mixture and simmer slowly while preparing chiles. Remove stems and seeds from chiles and chop very finely. Grind chiles in molcajete and add oregano with salt to mixture. Simmer another 2 hours. Remove suet casing and skim off some fat. Never cook frijoles with chiles and meat. Serve as separate dish.
Of course, in my quest to bring a healthier way of cooking my favorite one is this…
Miss Dot's Chili - click HERE for recipe!