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Terlingua Red Chili: The competition way

From Jim Parker, Hard Times Cafe co-founder

The Terlingua Red Recipe is an adaptation of my competition recipe — the one that won 8th place in 1994 and was on the Finals Table (top 20) in 1997 at the Terlingua International Chili Championship. Terlingua is the “superbowl” of chili cook-offs where 350 of the top competition chili cooks compete every year.

A basic chili recipe is not complicated at all. The Terlingua Red spice blend is simply chili powder, cumin, cayenne, garlic powder, onion powder and a little salt. Much of what makes a winning recipe is the care and attention given in the preparation. The following is my cooking technique when competing. If you want to make a good bowl of Terlingua Red, follow the directions on the box. If you want a bowl worthy of competition, try this one.

In addition to the spice blend, you’ll need:

  • 2 pounds of coarse ground beef (preferably 80% or 85% lean)
    2 pounds of cubed chuck shoulder. Cut the chuck shoulder into 1-inch steaks, put the steaks into the freezer just long enough for them to become slightly frozen. Remove the steaks and cut them into cubes. (Putting the chuck shoulder steaks into the freezer firms them up enough to be able to cut the meat into perfect cubes.)
  • 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 12 oz cans of beef broth (have several cans available)
  • Optional items: 12 oz can of chicken broth, a little bacon grease, a pork chop, Worchestershire sauce, and/or McCormick season salt

Now you are ready to go!

Brown the meat in your chili pot in the bacon grease. (The bacon grease lends a broader, richer flavor to the meat). While browning the meat sprinkle on a few shakes of McCormick season salt and Worchestershire sauce. Once the meat has been browned, pour off the fat and dispose of it. Put the meat back in the pot with either the chicken broth (optional) or water to cover the meat in the pot. Boil the meat until it becomes tender.

If you are cooking the cubed chuck shoulder its best to boil the meat in the chicken broth. An enzyme in the chicken broth helps to tenderize the meat as well as adding flavor to the meat. You can add the pork chop in the pot while you are boiling the meat. The pork adds extra flavor.

Once the meat becomes tender, add beef broth and the can of tomato sauce and bring things back up to a boil. Now is the time to add the spice mix.

Thoroughly stir the spice blend into the meat and broth and adjust the flame for a very slow boil. Boil covered for approximately hour (longer for the cubed beef) — occasionally stirring. As the moisture evaporates and the gravy thickens you may add additional beef broth to suit your preference. You are striving for a thick rich gravy.

If you used the pork chop in your recipe, take it out of the pot once your chili is ready to serve. You will have a cooked pork chop with the chili spices cooked into it. Eat the pork chop. It’s an added treat to reward you for your efforts.

Because Terlingua Red is a beef broth based chili you’ll find that it is very tasty by itself. However, serving it on top of beans, spaghetti, or even frito corn chips enhances the enjoyment of the chili. Be sure to top it with cheese, onions, or even a little sour cream.

Enjoy! Jim Parker


Hard Times Texas Chili

Cook meat in skillet until tender. Add 1/2 packet of spice mix as meat is cooking. Stir in well. Transfer to chili pot and add beef broth or beer. Mix in remaining spice mix according to taste and simmer covered for at least 30 minutes. As liquid evaporates, add water as needed to completely cover meat. Drain each serving with slotted ladle or spoon. For enhanced flavor, refrigerate overnight and reheat in double boiler before serving.


Hard Times Cincinnati Chili

  • 2 pounds regular ground beef
  • Water – enough to cover the meat
  • 1 2-ounce bag of Hard Times Cincinnati Chili spice mix
  • 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar

Mix meat and water together and bring to a boil.
Mix in cup of spice mix (2oz. bag) once meat is thoroughly cooked.
Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, vinegar and onion. Mix thoroughly.
Cook uncovered for 30 mins to one hour at medium heat, stirring occasionally.
Traditional Cincinnati chili has a soupy consistency.
Cook beans (pink, kidney or pinto) in separate pot and combine when serving.
(Beans are not included with spices.) To be authentic, serve with oyster crackers in a side dish.


Hard Times Vegetarian Chili

  • 1 6-ounce bag of Hard Times Vegetarian Chili spice mix
  • 1 29-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste (use 1/2 can)
  • 3 large, fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 medium green pepper, chopped
  • Fresh jalapeno, diced
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 ounce dry-roasted peanuts

Empty package into cooking pot with tomato paste, tomato sauce, water and vinegar.
Mix well.
Combine remaining ingredients and cook over low flame for about two hours.
Serve over beans and spaghetti topped with cheese and onions.
Serves 8 to 10.


Fred’s Chili Tips:

  • The folks at the Hard Times know that for many people, the chili that they make at home for themselves is the best chili. Because chili is such an individual experience, it would be difficult to say there is any correct way to prepare it or to eat it. When you go out to eat it, we think our chili is the best.
  • Basic chili is a meat sauce that can be eaten alone. Or, you can have chili with spaghetti, beans, cheese, onions, sour cream, chopped tomatoes and chopped jalapeno peppers. At the Hard Times, we once had a customer who made his own 6-way chili dish by adding a raw egg on top of a 5-way. Of course, there are many individual ways to eat chili. For years, we had a guy who would come in with his own loaf of Wonder Bread and order a bowl of chili straight to make his own chili sandwiches.
  • If I wanted a quick snack of Texas chili, I would put a few beans in the bottom of a bowl and add about a half ladle of dry Texas chili. I'd cover that with a heaping tablespoon of chopped sweet onions and top it off with about six good squirts of chili vinegar. If I had time, I might even add some chopped tomatoes and jalapenos. When I use cheese with the Texas, it's always Parmesan. Cincinnati Chili is a different matter. Because it is juicier, I use a few more beans in the bowl, and shredded cheddar cheese. I prefer it a little hotter than our standard recipe so I will add a little green habanero hot sauce.
  • The way you eat chili should be just as individual as you. Most of all, it should be fun.
  • Incidentally, the reason we don't cook beans with the chili is because they get soggy. If you ever get a bowl of chili and the beans are overcooked, make the server take it back and tell them that Fred said to give you firm beans or your money back.

From Fred Parker, Hard Times Cafe co-founder

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