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Friends Share Recipes: Tex-Mex

Eatin' Chili
by John Raven, Ph.B.

One of the great things about having food for a hobby and an essential is making friends with like minded folks. The last article here on the subject of Tex-Mex style foods got a good bit of attention, so I have set about gathering recipes from personal friends to share with Texas Cooking folk.

The first recipes are from an old friend who lives in Garland, Texas. Bob "Ranger Bob" Ritchey has been one of my close friends for some 30 years or more. We were into chili cooking for a long time. Bob more or less "devises" his recipes. He just gets an idea and works on it until it suits his taste. Everyone likes a good picante sauce for their Tex-Mex menu. This is one of the simplest, least expensive things you can find.

Ranger Bob is a competition chili cook of long standing. In 30-plus years of competition, Bob and his family have won every major chili cooking contest in Texas several times over. The competition chili cookers always get into "Eating chili" vs. "Competition chili". Bob has come up with a eating chili recipe that follows the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) rule. It is hard to beat for a quick and easy chili fix.

Ranger Bob's Eating Chili

  • 1 pound ground chuck (say, 85/15 hamburger grind)
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder (Adams, Mexene, Gebhardt's or your own mix)
  • 2 tablespoons catsup (one good squirt)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Water (add as needed to maintain desired consistency)
In an appropriate sized skillet or frying pan, cook meat until gray, stirring often. Add a cup of water.

Stir in all remaining ingredients (Hint: mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl while graying the meat.)

Reduce heat to a simmer and let cook for 30 minutes, adding water as needed and stirring occasionally (let everything meld). Done.

Chili Notes:

  • A little grease is okay to gravy-up the chili powder. Depending on the meat, some grease may need to be spooned off.
  • Salt and cayenne: You might hold back a bit (short measurements) on these per personal taste. Heat is easier to add than remove.
  • Chili powder is more than just powdered chiles; it has additional ingredients. Chili pepper is just that.
  • Chili grind will work as well, just cook until tender before adding other ingredients.
  • Chili is a pot of variables. Meat and chili powder are the major players. Go for good meat and fresh chili powder.
  • KISS it . . . Keep It Simple Stupid. My most famous chili cooking quote regarding secret ingredients is, "It ain't what you put in chili so much as what you leave out."
  • Competition chili and chili for eating are two way different animals . . . the difference between a spoonful and a bowlful. ©2011 Bob Ritchey, USA.

Ranger Bob's Salsa Picante

  • 10 to 12 fresh jalapeños
  • 1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes in tomato juice (The bargain brands will do.)
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic (approximately 4 cloves)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 /2 teaspoon ground comino (cumin)
Deseed a portion of the peppers, about half. (If your jalapeños seem really potent, deseed three-quarters of them. You can add hot, but it's difficult to remove.

In a food processor, chop the jalapeños fine. Don't purée them. Add the rest of the ingredients and process until tomatoes are desired consistency. Cover and refrigerate overnight to let flavors marry. Keep refrigerated. Makes about a quart.

Another of Bob's homie recipes that was inspired by classic Tex-Mex in Austin.


For use on all things Tex-Mex. (For the novices among you, a "part" can be a teaspoon, tablespoon or cup, depending on the quantity you want to make.)
  • 4 parts cumin
  • 3 parts garlic powder
  • 2 parts salt
  • 1 part black pepper
George and Marta Pearce, who live a couple of blocks down the street from me, are two of the better cooks in this part of Texas. George specializes in barbecue, grilling and Dutch oven cookery. Marta turns out authentic Mexican dishes. Dinner at their house is as good as it gets. Here's a couple of their recipes.

George's Jalapeño Cornbread

  • 1 cup corn meal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 jalapeños, chopped
  • 1-1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (6 ounces)
  • 1 4-ounce jar diced pimentos, drained
  • 1 small can cream-style corn
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1-1/4 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup Crisco oil
Preheat a 10-inch Dutch oven with a few coals on the top and bottom, liberally greased of course (the Dutch oven -- not the coals). If you are homebound, preheat the oven to 400°F and grease a 10-inch cast iron skillet and preheat it in the oven.

In one bowl, combine the corn meal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, combine the onion, jalapeños, cheese, pimentos and cream-style corn. Add the two together and mix until combined.

In a third bowl, lightly beat the eggs, milk and oil. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry and stir until just moistened. Pour into the preheated Dutch oven or skillet. Bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until it's done. (You can follow George down to Luckenbach, Texas for some camp cooking.)

Marta's Red Chile Sauce

  • 5 dried Ancho chiles
  • 15 dried mild New Mexico chiles
  • 4 small tomatillos, husks removed
Remove stems and seeds from the dried chiles. Rinse in cold water. Place chiles in a saucepan and cover generously with water. Bring pan to a boil, remove from heat, cover and let stand about 30 minutes or until the chiles are tender.

Meanwhile, place the husked tomatillos in a small saucepan with just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer gently for 5 to 10 minutes or until very tender. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

Place half the chiles with half the tomatillos in a blender with about 1/2 cup of the water the tomatillos were simmered in. Blend until puréed. Repeat with the remaining chiles and tomatillos. Process the chili sauce through a food mill to remove seeds and bits of chile skins.

This is a great sauce for tamales, menudo, posole and chilaquiles. Double or triple the recipe, depending on how much you need.

For making enchiladas or tamales, the sauce is modified as follows:

Mince 2 cloves of garlic and sauté at low heat in 2 tablespoons of lard until tender. Don't let the garlic brown. Add the red chile sauce and season with 1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano and 1 teaspoon ground comino (cumin). Mix and simmer until heated through. If the sauce is too thick you can add chicken broth to get the desired consistency. Add salt to taste.

Marta's Green Chile Sauce

  • 8 tomatillos (about golf ball size), husks removed
  • 2 large, ripe tomatoes
  • 3 jalapeños (more or less according to your taste)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
In a saucepan, cover the tomatillos with water, bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and gently simmer about 10 minutes or until very tender.

In another pan, bring the tomatoes and jalapeños to a boil and simmer 5 or 10 minutes. (The skins will slip off after they are done.)

In a blender, combine the tomatillos and tomato/jalapeño mixture, along with the garlic, until puréed. (Use a little of the cooking water from the tomatillos to make for easier puréeing.)

Add the chopped onion and fresh cilantro. If the sauce is too thick, you can add chicken broth to get the consistency you want. This sauce is the basis for green enchiladas, pork guisado and other recipes calling for green sauce.

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