Chili Season! Texas Chile Con Carne

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Pennie F. wrote in search of an old recipe for “beanless” chili that was her family’s Superbowl staple 20 years ago. Pennie didn’t specify which one, so, being a Texas girl, I went straight for this Texas Chili con Carne. It starts out looking like a mistake, but be patient! You’ll add a potent mix of ancho and red chili paste, cumin and herbs AFTER you’ve simmered the meat to tenderness. In the last half hour, the flavor and color really bloom. The second recipe, Pecos River Bowl of Red, is another slow developer. This is not a recipe to rush—the meat’s most tender and the soup’s most flavorful if you allow the chili pot to simmer for more than 2 hours.

Makes 1 1/2 quarts


  • 6 dried ancho chilies plus 8 dried hot red chilies, each about 2 inches long
  • 1/2 pound beef suet, cut into 1/2-inch bits
  • 3 pounds lean boneless venison or beef chuck, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3 bay leaves, finely crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 3 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons each: sugar, salt
  • 3 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne, optional
  •  hot, cooked pinto beans, and hot cooked rice on the side


  1. Wearing gloves, use a kitchen scissors to snip stems off ancho and red chilies. Tear chilies in half; brush out seeds. Cut out any large ribs. Crumble chilies coarsely; drop in bowl and pour 3 cups boiling water over. Let soak at least 30 minutes. Strain liquid through sieve and save. Save chilies.
  2. Cook suet in heavy 5 to 6-quart casserole over medium heat, stirring frequently, until all fat is rendered. Remove and discard suet bits with slotted spoon. Pour off all but 1/4 cup fat. Add meat; cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until meat is firm but not brown.
  3. Add 2 1/2 cups soaking liquid; heat to boiling over high heat. Add bay leaves; reduce heat to low. Simmer, covered, 1 hour or until tender, stirring occasionally.
  4. Put cumin in small ungreased skillet and toast over low heat 10 minutes, sliding pan back and forth frequently. Drop seeds into blender; blend at high speed 30 seconds. Add chilies, remaining soaking liquid, paprika, garlic, oregano, sugar, and salt; blend to smooth puree.
  5.  Stir puree into meat. Simmer, partly covered, 30 minutes.
  6. Add cornmeal in slow stream, stirring constantly, and cook over high until the chili heats to boiling and thickens lightly. Taste; add cayenne, if desired.
  7.  Mound beans and rice in separate bowls. Serve with chili.

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