2016 Winner Terlingua Chili Cook Off

2016 Winner Terlingua Chili Cook Off

Back in the 60s it was understood that the finest chili cook in all of Texas was Wick Fowler.

To chisel that assertion into stone, a group of chili lovers calling themselves ‘Chili Appreciation Society International’, led by Dallas newsman Frank X. Tolbert, issued a challenge to one H. Allen Smith, a New York-based funnyman who had written an inflammatory article titled “Nobody Knows More About Chili Than I Do”

Smith was coaxed out to Terlingua, Texas the week of October 21st 1967 where he faced off with Fowler in a juried shootout. There were three judges: Justice of the Peace Hallie Stillwell, vice-president of Lone Star Brewery Floyd Schneider, and Dallas attorney Dave Witts

The ramp-up for a showdown had been a long time coming. Rifling through the CASI archives we discovered that founder George Haddaway had once attacked a cook at the Dobbs House in Houston. His crime? Putting beans in Haddaway’s chili. When the police were summoned they reprimanded the cook and went on their way.

Saturday October 21st 1967. In Washington DC, some 1900 miles away, the Vietnam War Riot was only hours from erupting but West Texas was reasonably calm considering that 500 rough and tumble Texans were drinking free beer and spoiling for a fight

H. Allen Smith rides into Terlingua from his rented room in Alpine while Wick Fowler decamps from Carrol Shelby’s nearby ranch. The showdown is on.

It begins with a chili convocation from Bones Hooks, a Black chuckwagon cook and cowboy:

“Lord, God, You know us old cowhands is forgetful. Sometimes I can’t even recollect what happened yestiddy. We is forgetful. We just know daylight and dark, summer, fall, winter and spring. But I sure hope we don’t never forget to thank You before we is about to eat a mess of good chili. We don’t know why, in Your wisdom, You been so doggone good to us. The Chinee don’t have no chili, ever. The Frenchmens is left out. The Rooshians don’t know no more about chili than a hog does about a sidesaddle. Even the Meskins don’t get a good whiff of it unless they stay around here. Chili eaters is some of Your chosen people….”

After two hours of hard-nosed, camp-cooking, the judges were ready to make their pronouncement:

Justice of the Peace Hallie Stillwell cast the first vote for Smith. Floyd Schneider cast his vote for Fowler, tying the knot. The tie-breaking vote came down to Dave Witts.

Then the unthinkable happened. A mystery man proffered a spoonful of chili to the attorney; upon ingesting it Witts spat it out, and fell into paroxysms of coughing and declared himself poisoned and unable to continue. It was never determined which combatant’s chili caused the one-man melee.

The first Terlingua Chili Cook-off ended in a tie.

2016 marks the 50th anniversary of that first cook-off. News travels slow out of West Texas so it was only this morning that we discovered that Terlinguan Deanna Castillo won this year’s event. We poked around online and found her recipe on the Ranch Reserve magazine website. Ms Castillo serves her chili at High Sierra Bar and Grill in Terlingua, Texas.

Ghostown Chili

2 pounds of beef chili grind

1 (14.5-ounce) can beef broth

1 (14.5-ounce) can chicken broth

1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce

2 serrano peppers, whole

Salt as needed

Spice Dump #1

1 tablespoon Mild Bill’s Cowtown light chili powder

1 tablespoon Mild Bill’s San Antonio original chili powder

1 tablespoon Mild Bill’s Dixon medium hot chili powder

2 teaspoons Mild Bill’s onion granules

2 teaspoons Wyler’s beef granules

2 teaspoons Wyler’s chicken granules

1 1/2 teaspoons Mild Bill’s garlic granules

1/4 teaspoon Mild Bill’s cayenne pepper

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Spice Dump #2

1 tablespoon Mild Bill’s cumin

1 tablespoon Mild Bill’s San Antonio original chili powder

1 tablespoon Mexene chili powder (available from Mild Bill’s)

1 tablespoon Mild Bill’s Cowtown light chili powder

1/2 teaspoon Gunpowder Foods Hot Stuff (available from Mild Bill’s)

1/8 teaspoon Mild Bill’s cayenne pepper

1/8 teaspoon brown sugar

1 package Sazón Goya (available from Mild Bill’s)

Brown the beef in a large pot; drain the grease and remove the meat from the pot. Add the beef broth, chicken broth, and tomato sauce in the same pot used for the meat; bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the serrano peppers and Spice Dump #1. Add the meat back into the pot. Boil on medium heat for 30 to 35 minutes or until meat is done. Squeeze the juice of the peppers into the chili and discard the peppers. Forty-five minutes before serving, bring the chili to a boil. Add Spice Dump #2, and cook for 30 minutes over medium-low to medium heat. Check for salt, and adjust, if necessary.

and for good measure here’s H. Allen Smith’s recipe

Get three pounds of chuck, coarse ground. Brown it in an iron kettle. (If you don’t have an iron kettle you are not civilized. Go out and get one.) Chop two or three medium-sized onions and one bell pepper and add to the browned meat. Crush or mince one or two cloves of garlic and throw into the pot, then add about half a teaspoon of oregano and a quarter teaspoon of cumin seed. (You can get cumin seed in the supermarket nowadays.) Now add two small cans tomato paste; if you prefer canned tomatoes of fresh tomatoes, put them through a colander. Add about a quart of water. Salt liberally and grind in some black pepper and, for a starter, two or three tablespoons of chili powder. (Some of us use chile pods, but chile powder is just as good.) Simmer for an hour and a half or longer, then add your beans. Pinto beans are best, but if they not available, canned kidney beans will do – two 15-17 oz. cans will be adequate. Simmer another half hour. Throughout the cooking, do some testing from time to time and, as the Gourmet Cookbook puts it, “correct seasoning.” When you’ve got it right , let it set for several hours. Later you may heat it up as much as you want and put the remainder in the refrigerator. It will taste better the second day, still better the third, and absolutely superb the fourth. You can’t even begin to imagine the delights in store for you one week later

Here’s Wick Fowler’s Recipe

3 pounds chili-grind beef, mostly lean
1-1/2 cups canned tomato sauce
Water as needed
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
3 heaping tablespoons chile powder
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon cumin seed or powder
2 onions, chopped
6 or more cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon paprika
12 or more whole dried Japanese chiles (very hot)
6 to 8 chilipiquins (very, very hot)
3 tablespoons flour for thickener

Sear the meat in a large skillet until gray in color. Transfer the meat to a chili pot, along with the tomato sauce and enough water to cover the meat about 1/2 inch, mixing well. Stir in the Tabasco, chili powder, oregano, cumin, onions, garlic, salt, cayenne, and paprika. Add the Japanese chiles and chilipiquins, taking care not to break them open. Let simmer for 1 hour and 45 minutes, stirring gently at intervals.

About 30 minutes before the end of the cooking time, skim off any grease that has risen to the top. Mix the flour with a little water to make it liquid without lumps. Add this paste to ingredients in the pot and blend in thoroughly. Adjust salt and seasonings. Unless you are chili hungry at the moment, let the chili remain in the pot overnight, then reheat and serve. Freeze any chili left over. Serve with sliced or chopped onions and pinto beans on the side.
Yield: 8 servings

To make a genuine bowl of authentic Texas Red you have to follow the rules

We spent a full day researching this article, here’s our bibliography

A Bowl Of Red

Hallie Stillwell

Vietnam War Riot

Chili history

Chili history

Chili history

Chili history

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