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Time to Chili It Up!

By Jane Butel  September 30, 2020

With the first really chilley morning of the season today--I thought it a great time to feature the fun and yummy benefits of chili.  Admittedly, I do not need anything to inspire me for a great "Bowl o Red".  I think chili tastes great no matter when, but is especially  delicious and warming when the weather turns cool.

There are just so many ways to make chili, however no matter which recipe you choose, using pure chiles such as our Pecos Valley  Spice Co. ones sure make a huge difference.  Did you know that the original chili powder, created by Gebhart for the Confederate Army marching out of Texas is still pretty much the formula used today for the prepared chili powders on the super market shelves.  His formula was 40% chile, 40% salt and 20% flavorings, additives and preservatives--some of which are not good for you--such as Diethylene Oxides, etc.  Until next Saturday at midnight, we are placing our pure mild and hot red chile powders on sale at 25% OFF.

Chili as we know it today used to be called chili con carne and was the food the cookies who cooked the trail for the cattle drives to the rail head  to ship their beef off to market.   There is huge history about this dish.  First, it became very popular in Texas  after the Alamo.   The people in Texas decided they did not want to go "through that again" and advertised free land in Texas in newspapers in Germany and other parts of Europe.  Many German families came over with their fine heads of cattle and settled around San Antonio, only to find that there was no market for their cattle. 

That is why so many  Tex Mex dishes are so "long on beef".  That is what they had and so they created lots of dishes with it, specifically lots of chilis.  And it was fed to everyone.  Story has it that the School Board of San Antonio  banned chili from being served school children for decades in the 1800's because it was thought to be the "soup of the devil" due to its being served in the jails and prisons.  

When word came about that the rail head in Dodge City, Kansas was accepting beef to go back East, that started the huge cattle drives.  And, the one food that most were very familiar with was chili.  In addition to having the beef available, chili is one of the few dishes that has a very long shelf life.  Beef is the one meat that is slow to oxidize or go bad and red chiles are the world's best anti-oxident, plus it was convenient.  Just one dish could be served three times a day.

And one of the reasons chili became so diverse was as when they were driving cattle through Oklahoma on the way to Kansas--frequently the pot became "a little thin" requiring something to stretch it out.  That brought the beans to chili--next they needed something to keep it red--tomatoes filled that bill and then came other veggies and such.

I am sharing my favorite "Bowl o Red" chili recipe and a very different style of chili with you today--My Blue Heaven white chili.  And for lots more chili recipes--many of them contest winners,  I am placing both the 2nd and 3rd editions of my "Chili Madness" cookbook on sale at a discount, the 2nd edition is only $10.00 plus tax and the 3rd edition is $13.00 plus tax. 

I would love for you to start coming back to our classes to cook with friends and myself.  We still have a few openings next week for our Tamale Roll class which starts at 11 AM.  The next class on Red Chile is November 19 at 5 PM and features lots of the popular red chile dishes.

Our next weekend class is October 23-25.  And we are postponing our week long class until early spring, date to soon be finalized.  And  our Oaxaca culinary tour is still on for next June 15-12, 2021.   


The influence behind this chili recipe came from my maternal grandfather, who when working with the Santa Fe Railroad learned how to prepare it from the “cookies,” or trail cooks.  It has won numerous chili cook-offs and is one of the really true original chilis.

2 Tablespoons shortening, preferably solid shortening such as lard or butter
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
3 pounds beef chuck, cut into ½-inch cubes
3 medium-size garlic cloves, finely chopped
¼ cup ground pure hot chile or to taste
¼ cup ground pure mild chile
1 Tablespoon ground cumin, divided
About 3 cups water
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1. Heat lard in a large heavy pot over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until softened.  Remove from heat.

2. Add meat, garlic, ground chiles and  one half the cumin to pot.  Break up any lumps.  Stir in the water and salt.  Return to heat.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 2-1/2 to 3 hours, stirring occasionally, until the meat is very tender and the flavors are well blended.  Add more water if necessary.  Taste and adjust seasonings.

3.    Serve with fixin’s ‘n mixins’ of coarsely grated cheeses, pickled jalapenos, chopped onion and sour cream with lime wedges garnished with a “ruffle” of red chile.


Blue cheese is an unlikely ingredient in conventional chili, although other types of cheese have long been chili “tamer downers” and a favorite fixin’ and mixin’. Since I have always really liked blue cheese in any form, I decided to see if it’s wonderful flavor would give a great-tasting “edge” to chili—and it sure does. Try it!

Yield: Serves 2 to 4

2 Tablespoons bacon drippings or butter

1 cup chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 large whole boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into ½ inch dice (2 to 2 ½ cups)

3 cups rich chicken broth

4 to 6 fresh green chiles parched, peeled, and coarsely chopped, or 1 cup canned or frozen chopped green chiles

1 medium russet potato, unpeeled, diced

½ teaspoon salt, or to taste

½ cup crumbled blue cheese (blue cheese, Gorgonzola, Roquefort, or stilton will work well)

  1. Melt the bacon drippings in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until it is translucent, about 5 minutes.
  1. Add the garlic and chicken and cook, stirring, until the chicken begins to brown, about 4 minutes.
  1. Add the broth, green chiles, and potato to the pot. Simmer until the chicken is cooked through and the potatoes can be pierced with a fork, 30 to 40 minutes.
  1. Taste the chili and adjust the seasonings as needed, adding salt to taste (many chicken broths and bouillons are so loaded with salt that none is needed). Spoon the chili into individual bowls, and scatter the blue cheese over the top of each serving.

Note: To make “rich” chicken broth, simply simmer regular chicken broth (canned or homemade) over medium heat until it is reduced by half, 15 to 20 minutes (in this case you would begin with 6 cups broth and cook it down to 3.)





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