About a year ago a friend in Texas, Ana, lost her copy of a recipe for Texas Chain Gang Chili. She wrote to me, because it seems that I gave it to her, and she claimed it was the single best chili recipe ever.
To this day, I have no knowledge of ever giving her a recipe for anything. But, she says I did, so I believe her. . . . must've had one too many Coronas . . .
I immediately went to my own cookbooks -- and my wife's -- and could not find the recipe. (I'm stupid, I guess, because I later found it in one of the books I originally looked through.) I searched on the Internet a few days later, but forgot what the recipe was called, so I had to write Ana back and ask again. By this time she had found her own copy -- but I was determined to find out exactly what I had given her years beforehand.
I found it on the Internet, and on many sites. It looks like all the sites that have it copied it from one man's site, because all the recipes mention the guy's Aunt Diane.
I have no idea who Aunt Diane is, because she didn't come up with the recipe. She copied it from a cookbook, changed it a little, her nephew copied hers, and now the whole recipe collection network on the Internet has copied it.
Don't thank Aunt Diane -- thank the Manhattan Chili Company for publishing it in their great Manhattan Chili Co. Southwest-American Cookbook back in the dim, dark year of 1986.
So, after not finding, then finding, then losing the recipe, I waited, and waited, and finally my yearning for homemade chili overtook me just a few, frigid weeks ago. Again, I couldn't find the damn cookbook (it was in the bedroom hiding in a stack -- I never would have looked there!) so I went online and got the recipe.
Made it. It was too thick. Added a cup of water, some more chili powder, a little garlic powder. Nice. But not hot enough.
Then I found the cookbook yesterday while tidying up, and my instincts were dead on: Aunt Diane had changed a couple of things to take out some of the original's heat and make it thicker.
Not good, Diane. You wussed it down.
So here is the authentic recipe, although I'm copying the version from the Internet, but restoring the intent and ingredients of the original. The Internet recipe is most easily found here, and this is where I believe all the copycat sites found it originally. My comments, and the differences between the original recipe and the 'net version, are in red. Personal comments are in parentheses.
By the way, I urge you to get the real cookbook. You can order it here. The restaurant can be found here -- and I'll let you guess in what city . . .
Texas Chain Gang Chili:(from Aunt Diane)This is spectacular.* * * * * * * *1/4 cup olive oil or rendered bacon fat2 large yellow onions8 medium cloves garlic minced (I like garlic, so I used large cloves)4 jalapenos stemmed and minced1.5 lbs ground beef1.5 lbs beef chuck, cut in 1/2" cubes2 tsp salt (I use 2.5)5 Tbsp chili powder
(or fresh/dried ancho chili pods)(Ancho chili pods are NOT in the original recipe. I used 6 tbsp of chili powder. I like chili powder.)2 Tbsp cumin2 Tbsp oregano
2 tsp Cayenne pepper to taste. (Aunt Diane left this out. CRAZY! By the way, after refrigeration, a lot of the heat disappears. PUT IN THE CAYENNE!)1 28oz can crushed tomatoes drained and well-crushed4 cups beef stock (Aunt Diane changed it to 3 cups.)2 16oz cans dark red kidney beans rinsed and drained. (I consider beans OPTIONAL, although they are included in the original recipe. Authentic chili doesn't have beans.)* * * * * * * ** Sauté onions, garlic, jalapenos.* Cook beef separately and drain.* Combine spices, garlic, meat. Cook 5 min.* Add tomatoes and stock and bring to boil.* Slow cook for a couple hours. (Stir occasionally.)* Add beans about five minutes before finished. (Naaaaah.)