Strolling the aisles of Central Market last week, I happened upon a display of Native Texan Chili Fixin's, a chili con carne mix in a bottle. Either this is a new product, or I have not been paying attention. The bottle credits the recipe to Texas preservationist, Terry Boothe, of Austin.
Most of the time you find Texas chili mix sold in an envelope or in a couple of envelopes packaged together in a box. (The additional envelopes allow you to use whatever amount of thickener or pepper you desire.) The most popular are Wick Fowler's 2 Alarm Chili Kit and Carroll Shelby's Original Texas Brand Chili. (That's Carroll Shelby of Shelby Cobra fame.) The problem with the powdered mixes is that the chili sometimes tastes a little gritty.
Putting chili mix in a bottle is a good idea because it makes it possible to include ancho chile puree for a smoother texture. I picked up a bottle and decided to give it a try. The jar said to "just add meat," and since I was in Central Market anyway, I went over to the meat department and asked them to "chili grind" four pounds of beef chuck. (If your butcher doesn't know what chili grind means, tell him to use the half inch plate on the grinder--then get a new butcher.)
You can use a little vegetable oil or bacon drippings to sear the beef in a Dutch oven. The old chili recipes call for the meat to be seared in tallow--rendered beef fat. (More about tallow later this week.) I followed the recipe on the jar, which called for the four pounds of beef, contents of the jar and 2 cups of water. I ended up adding more water as the chili cooked.
It was Friday afternoon at the Houstonia office and a good excuse to take a break and have a bowl and a beer. In our casual taste test, my office mates agreed that the Native Texan Chili Fixin's mix made a very authentic bowl of red. The chili disappeared so fast, I wished I had bought two bottles and eight pounds of beef.