Chili

Al’s Chili

My chili recipe is based on President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s original Pedernales River Chili. The “official” published White House version of this chili was revised at the recommendation of the president’s cardiologist to eliminate fat. My version puts it back in. Rene Verdon, the first French White House Executive Chef, made this chili famous by refusing to make it. He was hired by the Kennedys to lend an air of Gallic flare, elegance and sophistication to state dining. President Johnson admired none of these qualities. Monsieur Verdon resigned his position in 1965 after President Johnson demanded that his Executive Chef prepare this chili.

The Ingredients
3 POUNDS MEAT
2 LARGE ONIONS CHOPPED
4 CLOVES GARLIC CHOPPED
1/2 POUND SALT PORK OR FRESH PORK BELLY (ADD SUET, LARD OR COOKING OIL IF GREESE RUNS LOW)
4-6 TEASPOONS DRIED RED CHILI PEPPER FLAKES OR POWDER, OR USE FRESH CHILIES
1 TEASPOON CUMIN
1 TEASPOON OREGANO
1 TEASPOON MARJORAM
1 TEASPOON SUGAR
4 LARGE TOMATOES CHOPPED
ONE QUART WATER OR STOCK
SALT TO TASTE
PAPRIKA FOR COLOR
RED PEPPER POWDER OR TABASCO SAUCE TO TASTE
MASA HARINA TO THICKEN (NO SUBSTITUTIONS!)

The Method
On stovetop render 1/4 inch grease from fat back in a large skillet. You may add lard, suet, or a neutral tasting vegetable oil if you run out of fat during the browning process.
Cube (DO NOT GRIND!) an inferior grade of lean beef, moose, horse, or elk. Those on a budget may substitute opossum, nutria, or fresh road kill.
Cubes should be one inch on the sides, or about the same size as playing dice. Brown cubes on all sides in small batches in skillet, transferring as browned to large pan (Dutch oven, large saucepan, or soup kettle).
Sauté garlic, and then onions in remaining skillet fat until translucent and slightly brown; add chopped tomatoes and bring to boil. Transfer contents to pan.
Add chili powder, cayenne, cumin, oregano, marjoram, salt, and paprika and mix.
Add one quart water or stock (If using stock use less salt) and bring to boil.
Reduce heat and simmer for two hours, stirring infrequently.
Thicken by gradually sifting in Masa Harina to desired consistency. Salt to taste. Adjust color with paprika and “heat” with cayenne or Tabasco.