HOUSTON — It's easy to make chili. "You take poor meat, salt and pepper it, boil the hell out of it and then you take spices and make it taste flavorful." That recipe comes from a champion in the art, John Billy Murray, national winner of the 1984 championship chili cook-off at Terlingua, Tex.
Murray spoke in behalf of chili at the recent Festival of Southwest Cookery in Houston. "The variety we see in chili is unparalleled in any food we have," he said.
According to Murray, the zesty mixture is American in origin, not Mexican. "Chili has become almost a national dish," he said. It is also a benevolent one. Aside from being fun, chili cook-offs raise money for charity, he pointed out.
Murray's advice to prospective chili cooks is to keep it simple. "Chili should be the individual projection of a person's personality," he said. His own recipe is a powerful brew seasoned with chiles--fresh, dried and powdered--cayenne and white pepper. He also adds a large amount of cumin. "Cumin doesn't add that much to the taste, but cumin is truly the smell of chili," Murray said. Here is his recipe: JOHN BILLY'S CHILI
2 tablespoons fat, rendered from chopped beef kidney suet, or vegetable oil
2 pounds beef chuck tender, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 large cloves garlic
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons MSG, optional
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup beef bouillon or broth
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
4 heaping tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons ground cumin
3/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon paprika
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons white pepper
1 large or 2 small jalapeno chiles, halved, seeded and stemmed
1 large dried ancho chile, softened and peeled, or 1 heaping tablespoon ground chile
Render suet fat in large stainless-steel pot. Remove suet and discard. Add beef cubes and cook over high heat until meat turns gray. Add onion, garlic cloves, garlic powder, 3/4 teaspoon MSG, 3/4 teaspoon salt and beef bouillon. Cover and cook over medium heat at rapid boil about 45 minutes or until meat is tender. Meat should be tender enough to squeeze flat between fingers without bouncing back.
Reduce heat. Add tomato sauce, cover and simmer 15 minutes. If desired, remove garlic cloves or mash and incorporate into chili. Add remaining MSG and salt, chili powder, cumin, cayenne, paprika, white pepper, jalapeno chile and ancho chile or ground chile. (If using ancho chile, seed and stem pod and broil to blacken skin. Soak in warm water 10 to 15 minutes to soften. Scrape pulp from skin and discard skin.)
Cover and simmer 45 minutes longer, stirring frequently. Add additional broth or ancho chile soaking liquid, very sparingly, as needed during remaining cooking time to prevent meat from cooking dry. At end of cooking time, remove and discard jalapenos. Chili should be thick enough so 10-inch wooden spoon will stand upright in it, then sink slowly. Makes 2 1/2 quarts, or 10 to 12 servings.