Tolbert's Original Bowl of Red Chili Recipe

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Photo from the Road Food website.

Recipe by Frank X. Tolbert, from his book A Bowl of Red, published by Texas A&M University Press, 1953. Frank Tolbert founded the Terlingua International Chili Championship in Terlingua, Texas and owned a chain of chili parlors in Dallas, Texas.

Tolbert's Bowl of Red Chili

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Tolbert's Original Bowl of Red Chili Recipe:

Recipe Type: Beef, Soup and Stew, Chili, Chile Peppers
Yields: serves many
Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 2 hr


3 pounds lean beef
1/8 pound rendered beef kidney suet (if you want to go for it)
1 teaspoon each oregano, cumin powder, salt, cayenne pepper, and Tabasco
3 tablespoons chile powder (optional)
4 hot chile peppers
At least two chopped cloves of garlic
2 teaspoons masa harina, cornmeal, or flour (optional)*

* The masa adds a subtle, tamale-like taste, but it also thickens the chili.


Sear beef in a large soup pot or cast-iron Dutch oven. You may need a little oil to prevent the meat from sticking. When the meat is all gray, add suet and chile peppers and about two inches of liquid (you can use water, I use beer). Simmer for 30 minutes.

Add spices and garlic, bring just to boil; lower heat and simmer for 45 minutes. NOTE: Add more liquid only to keep the mix from burning. Skim off as much grease as you can, and add masa harina. Simmer for another 30 minutes. Taste and adjust spices if necessary.

This is a spicy chili, so leave out some of the spicy stuff in the beginning if you have a tender tongue. At this point, I refrigerate the chili overnight which allows the chili to mellow and you can skim off all the grease.


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