If I can cook it, you can cook it And I'll travel the world to bring it back home to you.

American Chili Con Carne and Cast Iron Skillet Corn Bread

When our grandson was coming to visit, I decided to make “a big pot of Chili”.  I am waiting for someone to ever say they’re making “a small pot of chili” but never mind.  Now there are a couple of chili recipes on Chewing the Fat that are awfully good.  There’s Monte’s Bourbon Chili… https://www.chewingthefat.us.com/2012/12/montes-bourbon-chili.htmlIt has a lot of fans. But Bourbon and little boys don’t strike me as a perfect match.  Then there’s Texas Beef Brisket Chili which actually comes with song lyrics begging you not to use beans when you attempt a real Texas chili… www.chewingthefat.us.com/2011/12/texas-beef-brisket-chili-with-butternut.html  But here again, the last time Mason and I had a conversation about food, I remembered his saying “Me no like spicy”.  He is now 8 and no longer speaks like that but the memory lingered on.  So I thought I’d dig deeper and see what I could dig up.  Almost immediately, I came upon a recipe for “American” Chili Con Carne.  It was from the UK which led me to believe it had likely nowhere near the heat content thought desirable in this country.   And I was certainly right about that.  I was hard-pressed to see how they called it “Chili”.  The Con Carne part tasted as bland as unseasoned chopped meat. I did quite a bit of doctoring to the original recipe.  In my chili, for some variety in texture and deeper beef flavor, I added flank steak cut into strips. I also like big chunks of sweet red pepper in my chili.  It adds another dimension in texture.  I was judicious in using any heat-inducing additions and ended up with a terrific bowl of chili. Mason pronounced it “Not spicy at all, just really good tasting”.  Need I say I was so pleased I thought I’d send it out to you.

You would think that “Chili Con Carne”, consisting entirely of Spanish words would have come to Texas from Mexico but oh no…. in Mexico, Chili Con Carne is found in only a very few restaurants that cater to American tourists.  In fact in a book called Diccionario de Mejicanismos, Chili Con Carne was defined as “detestable food passing itself off as Mexican, sold in the US from Texas to New York”.  So there!
Chili Stands in front of the Alamo

The earliest versions of Chili Con Carne were made by very poor people in the state of Texas.  A writer named J.C. Clopper wrote the first description of the chili he encountered in San Antonio, TX : “When they have to pay for their meat in the market, a very little is made to suffice for a family; this is generally cut into a kind of hash with nearly as many peppers as there are pieces of meat—this is all stewed together”. Note Mr. Clopper never even used the word “Chili”.  San Antonio was the capital of chili.  In the 1880s chili stands were set up in the city market from which chili or “bowls o ‘red” were sold by women called “Chili Queens”   A ‘bowl o red’ set you back ten cents which included a glass of water and a piece of bread.  Its fame spread and featured at the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893, the dish was a major attraction.

By 1900, there were chili joints all over Texas and by the 1920s there was hardly a town that didn’t have a Chili Parlour, most of which were very simple affairs often just a shed or room with a counter and some stools. Credit is often given to chili joints for meaning the difference between starving to death and living through the Great Depression: Chili was cheap and the crackers it came with were free.


We’ll get to our chili recipe but first, nothing goes better with Chili than a wedge of the best cornbread I have ever eaten.  Andrew found Alex Guarnaschelli’s recipe for Cast Iron Skillet Cornbread and put it together in under an hour’s time.  The sweetness of the bread is a great contrast to the flavor of the chili. And because it’s cooked in a skillet a nice crust develops which separates this recipe from any pan-baked corn bread. The recipe follows the one for the Chili.

Chili is one of those dishes that benefit from very long cooking times. So it’s one of the very infrequent times I call in the Slow Cooker.  My objection to Slow Cookers is simply this: I have never seen a slow cooker recipe that involved meat that did not require sautéing the meat first. So cooking in the Slow Cooker always calls for some early morning preparation that, quite honestly, I don’t know how people find time to do.  However, once that’s been accomplished, there’s no question that Slow Cooking the chili is the way to go.  In making my ‘big bowl of chili’, I started the day before, cooked the chili all day, then removed it to the fridge bringing out and turning it on again an hour or two before lunch.  At that time I add the final ingredient, big 1 ½ inch squares of red and yellow peppers.  Here is the recipe:

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