I traveled one day recently to New Bethlehem to have lunch with my new friend Josh Walzak, editor of The Leader-Vindicator there.
Josh took me down Broad Street about a block to EverMoore’s Restaurant where he ordered a burger and I had the chili.
The server assured me the chili was good.
I pointed out to her that I am from Texas and that I had, at least up until that point in time, not had chili in Pennsylvania that would qualify as “good” in my home state.
She didn’t back down, so I decided to give her chili a chance.
And she was right. I enjoyed it. It was, in fact, “good.”
It fell short, however, of “excellent” in a couple of dimensions.
First, it was not thick enough. Really excellent chili can be eaten with a fork.
Second, it was diminished because someone had accidentally spilled beans in it.
(I know that was an accident, because everyone knows real chili does not incorporate beans.)
Before I go any further, perhaps I should establish my credentials.
I have both competed in and judged chili cook-offs in Texas.
In that latter capacity, I’ve eaten (well, at least I’ve tasted) chili so pepper hot it took your breath away. And that’s not hyperbole. It really did take your breath away. After a single spoonful, you lost the ability to breathe for a period of time.
I’ve also tasted a “bowl of red” that professed to use “roadkill” as its primary ingredient, and another whose lead chef insisted the meat used in his was “armadillo.”
Once, as a contestant, when I took my Lions Club’s concoction (in separate little bowls for each of four judges) I tried to lean the judging my team’s direction by offering prejudicial comments (favorable to mine and negative to the competitions) as I handed a little bowl to each of the judges.
One of the chili competition judges was a real judge, a state district judge, known for his fairness, but also known as brooking no nonsense and as being straight as an arrow.
When I began my little spiel for him, the otherwise incorruptible judge interrupted, saying, “Don’t waste your breath, son. Just show me the money. I can be bought but I ain’t cheap.”
To try and do my part to improve Pennsylvania’s chili, I’ve decided to share with you my top secret recipe, handed down from generation to generation and, until now, never shared except from father to son.
(All of that last paragraph exemplifies another Texas mainstay we probably will discuss in more depth later. Its initials are BS and in my home state, you must take and pass at least two semesters of it before you can graduate from high school. Truth be told, the recipe came from Southern Living magazine and has been slightly modified by the greatest chili cook I have ever known, that being me.)
In any case, here’s the recipe.
3 pounds ground chuck
1 pound hot bulk sausage
3 medium onions chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 or 5 (or 8 or 10) seeded and chopped jalapenos
¼ cup chili powder
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon ground oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 (28 oz) can whole tomatoes, undrained and chopped
Combine ground chuck, sausage, onion and garlic in a Dutch oven; cook until meat is browned, stirring to crumble meat. Drain off pan drippings. Stir in next eight ingredients. (I tear up each of the tomatoes as I put them in the chili.) Cover and simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
[David Sullens is editor of the Courier Express in DuBois and Executive Editor of CMG East Coast Group, which includes The Leader-Vindicator.]