Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Bowl of Green

Long ago I came to the conclusion that chili is more divisive than politics or barbeque.  When I developed my East Texas Chili (see Chili for One) in the mid-seventies, I managed to alienate virtually all of my Texas friends, but over time, I made a lot of new friends because of my chili.
After writing “Chili for One”, my email was rather busy for a long while.  Finally I wrote “Chili Controversy” to make my point of view quite clear, but all I managed to do was receive more emails on the subject.  I began to categorize the emails and quickly discovered the split was in two major areas with each area again divided into two groups.
The first division was those who agreed with me and those who did not agree with me.  The split was about 72% in agreement and 26% not in agreement.  The remaining 2% just complained because I didn’t use things such as tofu or shrimp.  The next split was in each category and was centered around whether or not they had made my chili.  In the non-agreement group, 14% had made a batch of East Texas Chili and liked it, and no one had disliked it.  The remaining 86% had not made it and would never make it.  Okay.
The group that had agreed with me had about 20% who had made the recipe, but only about 11% completely followed the recipe.  The other 9% had no problems with altering the ingredients to fit their individual tastes.  Hey, isn’t that what a recipe is about anyway?  The 80% who had not made the recipe were generally planning to make it in the near future.  Only a small number said they probably would not make it, but that they wanted to support my point of view.
Now the beans are about to fly again.  While in El Paso one fall, I was treated to a “bring what you got” chili party.  This was quite interesting.  Every one of the 40 or 50 people who attended brought a few ingredients to add to the pot, and the end result was enough chili to feed about 200.  But it wasn’t a red chili.  It was a green chili.  Not one person thought to bring beef, tomatoes, chili powder, or anything else red.  And I think this again proves my point that a “true Texas chili” is different in every part of the state.
After returning to my home in Fort Worth, I began a two-year trial and error green chili recipe development.  I tried to recreate the uniqueness of the El Paso “bring what you got” chili, and I think I came close. 

West Texas Chili

Serves about 30.

    1 pound thick-sliced center-cut smoked bacon, sliced crosswise into 1/2-inch strips    
    3 racks meaty pork loin back ribs, membrane removed, individually sliced
    2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
    2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1/2-inch slices
    2 pounds smoked pork sausages, cut into 1/3-inch slices              
    2 pounds ground veal or pork                                         
    Olive oil as needed                                            
    2 large yellow onions, chopped                                 
    1 head garlic, peeled and finely chopped                       
    2 ancho chiles, seeded and cut into long very thin strips (no wider than 1/16-inch)      
    1 tablespoon Mexican dried oregano                                       
    1 tablespoon Kosher salt                                        
    Freshly ground black pepper, to taste                          
    2 tablespoons toasted cumin seeds, coarsely ground               
    2 quarts vegetable broth, not low-sodium                                      
    3 quarts chicken broth, not low-sodium                                        
    10 fresh poblano chiles, seeded and chopped                    
    6 fresh Anaheim chiles, seeded and chopped                     
    5 fresh jalapeno chiles, seeded and chopped                     
    3 yellow or green bell peppers, seeded and chopped            
    4 pounds fresh tomatillos, husked and coarsely chopped         
    1 bunch cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped (reserve stems for another use)                      
    2 (15-ounce) cans garbanzo beans, drained                       
    1 (1-pound) bag frozen roasted corn kernels
    1 tablespoon dried basil leaves, crumbled
    1/3 cup toasted corn flour (not masa harina)
    Zest and juice of 2 large limes
In a large skillet, cook the bacon over medium-high heat until almost crisp.  Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon into a large stockpot.  Place 1/2 of the ribs into the skillet and sear on all sides, about 6 to 7 minutes total.  Remove to the stockpot with the bacon and repeat with the remaining ribs.  When the ribs are completed, add the pork shoulder cubes to the skillet and sear on all sides.  Remove to the stockpot.  Repeat with the chicken and sausage.  Adjust the oil in the skillet to about 1 tablespoon then add the veal and brown, crumbling with the back of a spoon.  When brown add to the stockpot.
Adjust the oil again to 1 tablespoon and add the chopped onion.  Saute for 2 minutes and add the garlic.  Saute 2 minutes more, stirring often.  Remove to the stockpot.  Add the ancho chile strips, oregano, salt, pepper, cumin, vegetable broth, and 2 quarts of the chicken broth to the stockpot.  Bring to a simmer, uncovered for 45 minutes.  Add the remaining chicken broth, fresh chiles, and bell pepper, and simmer, covered, 30 minutes more.
Toast the corn flour by spreading on a baking sheet and placing in a 350F oven for about 5 minutes or until fragrant.  Remove from the oven and allow it to cool to room temperature.
In a blender puree the tomatillos and cilantro leaves.  Add to the stockpot, along with the garbanzo beans, frozen corn kernels, and toasted corn flour; loosely cover and simmer 45 minutes more.  Add the lime juice and zest, stir and serve with plenty of napkins.
Serve with your choices of cornbread, flour tortillas, grated Mexican Manchego cheese, lime wedges, cilantro, fresh sliced chiles, chopped red onion, green salsa, fresh corn tamales, etc.
Note:  A large can of drained and rinsed hominy can be added at the same time as the blended tomatillos, cilantro leaves, and garbanzo beans.  Also, 1/2 to 1 cup finely grated dry-aged jack cheese or Parmesan cheese can be added during the last 15 minutes.
The chili should be a little thin, but not watery.  To thicken, leave off the stockpot cover during cooking and increase cooking time to concentrate the stock.  To thin, add a bit more chicken and/or vegetable stock.
Made in Texas by Texans.

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