Bob's Cowboy Cookin'

I have a confession to make. I haven't spent much time on horses, and I do not currently own a pair of cowboy boots or a ten gallon hat. In fact, I live in Santa Cruz, California, which is about as far from the Wild West as you can get by going West. On the other hand, I did grow up in Texas, and you can't ever really get the Texan out of me, any more than you can George W. Bush. So, without further ado, here is my little contribution to Cowboy Cookin'. These dishes are not to be confused with BBQ, Smoking, or Grilling, which are covered elsewhere. But they are uniquely Texas-style eats that I think you'll enjoy.

You can almost imagine a guy like Emeril Lagasse doing a Texas Cowboy Cooking TV show. I would nominate Sam Peckinpah for the role. He'd stand up there with his big droopy mustache, rounded hat, bandana, and boots drawling in a right neighborly way about how to cook this or that. Pretend for a minute that you are that guy while you make these dishes. Your dinner guests may find it a bit strange, but it'll help put you in the proper frame of mind.

Bob's Chili Molé

This is an amazing recipe. It's so good, we always make a double batch and freeze some. We're talking Texas-style chili, so there's no beans. The secret ingredients are homemade chili powder and chocolate.

Ingredients

5 assorted dried chiles. The more variety the better. Try some anchos, Anaheims, and chipotles. Whatever you can get!
4 slices of bacon
1 large yellow onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground sirloin
1 point coarsely ground beef
3 tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 shakes of Tobasco sauce (aw heck, try 3)
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate (use the good stuff!)
28-ounce can pureed tomatoes
1 1/2 cups beef stock
2 tablesppns masa harina mixed with 1 tablespoon water to make a smooth paste

Condiments (You did know chili has conidments, right?)

1 cup shredded sharp Chedder
2 cups sour cream (reduces the fire as needed)
1 large red onion, diced
tortilla chips (or Fritos, if you're making Frito Pie, tasty!)
sliced jalapeno peppers (for the real studs among you)

Preparation

Preheat your oven to about 350 degrees and put the chiles on a baking sheet for 10 minutes to dry them out. Break them open and get rid of stems and seeds, then stick the rest in a food processor. Now yo've got your own chili powder, and it packs a tasty kick.

In a large pan, fry the bacon over medium heat until crisp. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is translucent--about 10 minutes. Remove the bacon. You can use it for BLTs or breakfast, but it ain't goin; in this chili. We just wanted the pork fat to fry things in, not the bacon itself. Depending on time of day, our Schnauzer thinks she's gone to heaven if we can't think of anything else to do with it.

Increase the heat to medium-high and brown the beef with the onion and garlic in these drippings. Now we've got pork fat and beef fat: woohoo! Using a large spoon, remove as much fast as possible (sigh, but it's the right thing to do).

Stir in your ground chiles and the rest of the spices. Whoa! Smells like chili now!

Add the chocolate in little chunks and keep stirring. Cook over medium heat about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and beef stock. Simmer, uncovered, over low heat, for about 1 1/2 hours.

Stir in the masa harina mixture and cook for another 10 minutes.

Okay, now it's time to eat!

Put some tortilla chips in the bottom of the bowl, top off with chili, and then add the condiments of you choice. Try this with a tasty margarita (see the Michael Cichon recipe over on the cocktail page) and you'll see it goes down good!

This is one of those recipes that gets better with age. Freeze it in blocks and microwave when ready to eat. It is better over time. This chili is so easy to make, I'd keep some in the freezer all the time if I didn't eat it so fast.

Bob's Cowboy Chili

If you ain't gonna cook it over fire, the next best thing would be in a big pot and with a lot of spices to mingle with the good eating that's soon to come. That surely does sound like chili to me!

Chili is a standard for Texas. I think they take it more seriously there than ribs, although probably not as seriously as brisket and beef. The best and most famous chili cookoff on the planet is the Terlinqua Chili Cookoff. If you've never heard of it, think back on where you hear the word Terlingua. Chili's restaurant has or used to have a "Terlingua Pride" burger that was a chili burger. Terlingua is a ghost town near the Rio Grande along the border of Texas and Mexico, so its a fitting location for such an event. Certainly beats a chili cookoff in New York City or some other crazy spot.

Folks put all kinds of crazy stuff into their chili. I saw Emeril pour a bottle of beer in, not because he's from chili country and knows, but just because you have to do something to "kick it up a notch" if you want to be noticed. Chili is one of those blank canvases in life on which you express yourself. I confess, this is a fairly basic recipe, but I do provide some notes on variations that work. You can cook the chili forever, or quickly. I'm lazy, so again, this recipe is pretty basic. I think you will find that's its both tasty, and true to the Texas strain of chili.

One last note. There's no beans shown in this chili. Real Texas chili has no beans, but a lot of people grew up thinking chili has beans, and they're disappointed when they don't find any. You can add some real easy. Just cook 9 cups of red kidney beans on the side and toss 'em into the chili at simmer time.

Ingredients

4 pounds chili-ground meat. Chili-ground is coarser ground than regular ground beef. (or substitute sausage for half the meat--andouille works well)
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, or more
1 teaspoon ground oregano
1 teaspoon cumin seed
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 16-ounce cans of crushed stewed tomatoes

2 cups hot water (or beef stock or a bottle of dark beer if you want more flavor)
2 green bell peppers, chopped
3 large red and 3 large yellow sweet peppers, chopped
2-3 jalapenos, per your tolerance
salt, to taste

Extra diced onion and grated cheddar cheese to go on top

Preparation

Put the meat, onion, and garlic in a broiler or skillet. Sear until its lightly colored. Add the oregano, cumin, chili powder, tomatoes, and hot water. Bring it all to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for at least an hour. Skim the fat off as it cooks out of the meat. When you're about ready to serve, add the peppers and salt to taste, and let it cook for 15 minutes more. If you're in the "cook it all day" camp, you may prefer to throw the ingredients together in a crock pot for the simmering stage.

I like to top the chili with some freshly diced onions and grated cheddar cheese. Some folks sliver jalapenos on top as well, but I like mine cooked in to tame 'em down a bit. If you're a city slicker, you'd probably like a dollop of sour cream on top, but seems a bit much for this ole cowboy to stomach.

And don't forget--chili is one of those dishes that tastes better after freezing and thawing. Why not put a block into the freezer? Makes a great microwave lunch!

Chili Side Dishes

There's only 3 to worry about: ice cold beer, corn bread and slaw. All three are easy and require no fuss. Use the mix from the store for the cornbread--super easy. For the slaw, pick some up from Kentucky Fried Chicken. Yes, you can make better slaw, but it's a whole lot of trouble and theirs is mighty good.

Bob's Inside-Out Chiles Relleno En Nogada

Here's a truly unique dish--I know because I invented it. I read an article in Fine Cooking on stuffed chicken cutlets. It sounded good, so we tried it. The dish had potential, but the stuffings offered in the article just didn't have much pizazz. As Emeril would say, we needed to kick things up a notch. For some reason, I got to thinking about the Chiles Relleno I used to get at a restaurant called La Bodega in my home town of Midland, Texas. That dish was legendary, because it was a sweet preparation, rather than the fiery combination you see most places. The chiles were covered in sour cream with nuts and raisins. I later discovered this too is a classic way to prepare the dish in the Puebla region of Mexico, where it's called Chiles En Nogada. I call them "Inside-Out Chiles Relleno En Nogada" because instead of stuffing the chiles with meat, you stuff the meat with chiles.

The sauce is interesting, and comes out very similar to a sweet cinammony version of what we have in Cozumel, Mexico that's called "crema".

Boy did it turn out great! The sweet creamy sauce and cheese inside the chicken perfectly complement the fire of the chiles, and make everyone happy, happy, happy!

Inside-out Chiles Rellenos en Nogada!

Chicken Breasts
4 large boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1 ½ cups fresh breadcrumbs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup olive oil

Filling
4 poblano chiles, roasted, seeded, and deveined
4 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated
4 ounces Muenster cheese, grated

Sauce
½ cup slivered almonds
½ cup yellow raisins
½ cup feta
½ cup sour cream
½ cup half and half
¼ cup cream sherry
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinammon

Roast and peel the peppers. You know the drill: char the flesh black over an open flame (gas burner or grill), pop them into a bag to make steam, and then after maybe 10 minutes take a knife and scrape the charred skin off. Get rid of the seeds and the veins while you're at it, and cut the flesh down to a size that is easy to stuff into the breasts.

Cut the pocket for the filling on the thicker side of each chicken breast using a sharp knife. Cut to within about 1/2 inch of the ends.

Stuff each breast with 1 pablano chili skin and ¼ of the cheese. Season on both sides with Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper.

Place the flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs each in a wide shallow dish. Dredge the chicken breasts through each one in turn. Set them on a plate and let them rest at least 5 minutes in the refrigerator so the breading will set. This is a good time to make one of the other dishes of the meal.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet until it is very hot over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, cook two of the breasts at a time until they are golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the breasts to a baking sheet when done.

Frying the cutlets prior to baking...

Bake the breasts in a 350 degree F oven until done, about 15 minutes.

While the breasts are baking, prepare the sauce. Blend the sour cream, half and half, sherry, cinnamon, sugar and salt until smooth. Whisk in the feta crumbles. This sauce will approximate a sweet Mexican crema.

When the breasts come out of the oven, spoon the sauce over them. Garnish almonds and raisins.

Bob's Slow Cooked BBQ Beans

There are two schools of thought when it comes to beans served with BBQ. The first wants beans that taste smokey, like the BBQ. Generally these will be pinto beans. The second wants something to contrast the BBQ, usually with smaller beans and a vinegary, sweet, mustardy flavor. I happen to like the contrast, so I make that style most of the time and this is my recipe. These beans are more baked beans than BBQ, but they go with BBQ, and you sure could bake 'em in a Dutch Oven over a fire. Last Memorial Day I had a BBQ and these beans were the first thing to run out!

4 slices of bacon, diced
1 large yellow onion, chopped
11/2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 pound dried navy beans, rinsed and cleaned
1 cup brewed coffee ('cause why not?)
1/2 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce (KC Masterpiece will do)
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons of whole-grain mustard
1 tablespoon molasses
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
8 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
1 shot of Bourbon if yer feelin' feisty!

Preheat your oven to 300F degrees.

In a heavy cast-iron Dutch Oven cook the bacon over medium high heat until crisp.

Add the onions and cook until it has softened and lightly caramelized.

Add the garlic and thyme and cook for another minute. Then add the beans, coffe, BBQ sauce, mustard, molasses, Tabasco, pepper, and bourbon. Stir to combine well. Add the water and salt, raise the heat, and bring it to a boil.

Cover the pot and transfer it to the oven. Let the beans bake for 2 hours, undisturbed.

Remove the pot from the oven and stir. Return it to the oven and continuing baking until the beans are tender, usually another hour.

Once the beans are tender, remove the lid from the Dutch oven and continue cooking until the liquid has reduced to a thick consistency. This will take another hour to an hour and a half.

Remove from the oven and adjust the seasoning to taste.

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All material 2001-2006, Robert W. Warfield.