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H. Allen Smith Chili

Chili H. Allen Smith

Recipe from the book " Chili Madness" by Jane Butel, published by Workman Publishing, 1980.


The first chili cook-off known to modern man took place in 1967 in uninhabited Terlingua, Texas (once a thriving mercury-mining town of 5,000 people). It was a two-man cook-off between Texas chili champ Wick Fowler (a Dallas and Denton newspaper reporter) and H. Allen Smith (humorist and author), which ended in a tie. The cook-off challenge started when H. Allen Smith wrote a story for the Holiday magazine titled "Nobody Knows More About Chili Than I Do," which raised the wrath of Texas chili graduate students. The cook-off competition ended in a tie vote when the tie-breaker judge allowed someone to ram a spoonful of chili into his mouth and promptly spit it all over the referee's foot and then he went into convulsions. He rammed a handkerchief down his throat and pronounced himself unable to go on and declared a one-year moratorium in the world championship chili cook-off.

2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
4 pounds beef sirloin or tenderloin, coarse chili grind
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
4 cups water
3 medium onions, coarsely chopped
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded and coarsely chopped
4 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons ground hot red chile
1 tablespoon dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 tablespoon cumin seed or ground cumin
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat the oil or butter (or a blend of the two) in a heavy 4-quart pot over medium heat. Add the meat to the pot. Break up any lumps with a fork and cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is evenly browned.

Stir in the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, uncovered, for 2 to 3 hours. Stir occasionally and add more water if necessary. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Serves 8

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