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Recipe: Texas Head Start Chili

Hatch long red chiles

I wouldn’t ordinarily post a recipe here–other than a recipe for using the 9 Ways power tools :-)–but I wanted to post this on Facebook and my fanpage has no place for posting word documents any more. So here you are. Something to warm your heart and tummy on a cold day.

Texas Head Start Chili Con Carne

Back story: I learned this recipe from the moms of children in my Head Start class in Odessa Texas, sometime around 1969 or 1970. It’s the real deal—no fancy stuff and minimal ingredients. We made vats of it for fundraising dinners. Head Start was new then and the name of our nonprofit organization, Greater Opportunities of the Permian Basin, reflected the Great Society’s ambitious intention. Head Start has proven its worth over the years and is one of the few Great Society programs still around; this recipe is equally durable.

There’s an easy way to make it and an authentic way. I find the easy way close enough to authentic in taste and texture that after you wrestle with the dried chilis once just to say you can, it’s not worth going to the trouble and mess again.

When I pulled the recipe out of my file on Christmas, 2010 to prepare it for friends, I noticed that the crumbling, yellowed, grease-spotted hand written recipe I’d used for years was on the back of the Planned Parenthood (formerly known as) National Executive Directors Council 1980-81 budget. So I thought I should digitize it for all eternity because life would be hell without great chili once in a while. And great chili is the one thing you can’t call and order for delivery in Manhattan—or at least I haven’t found any this good in the city yet.

Over the years, I’ve often made this chili for PP staff and volunteers. Once in AZ, it was central to brokering cooperation between the persistently competitive Phoenix and Tucson affiliates. In New York, every year I’d make it for the PPFA management team. And many times, I’ve shared the recipe in staff newsletters upon request.

The recipe is so simple that you’d think I’d have it memorized. In recent years, however, I’ve made green chile stew more often than this bowl of red. Thus I’m out of practice and thought it would be a good idea to look back at the recipe.

I start by cooking two pounds of dry pinto beans in a separate pot or crockpot slowly, with water and salt (and if you wish, throw in some garlic cloves), for several hours or until they turn very brown and the bean liquor tastes rich. You won’t need all of them for the chili, but as long as I’m cooking them I make extra for future purposes.

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Copyright 2010 Gloria Feldt