First of all, my hearty thank you to the Texas Chili Queen from Soup addict for these photos! You rock.
That being said? Here I am in NYC and I don’t have the actual ingredients my Grandfather from Texas used which always included on really super great chorizo, no matter how much beef he added. I am not going to go all the way to 116 street to get Mexican chorizo like I usually do or go to Essex market to see if they have “fresh” chorizo. Darn!
Alas, I am not going to let that deter me from the Chili Queen constellation in the sky that looks like a big dipper of chili with a huge Texas star wincing from too much heat. I love these photos! Needless to say this is some serious voodoo for me to summon up the chili recipes of my Dad and my Grandfather. It caused me much as they say “chingazos” Why the fighting words? Because my Grandfather Felix whom was we don’t exactly know what nationality he was? The name Felix suggests French Acadian but my Mother swore he was 1/2 Italian? The rest was Spanish Creole and definitely Comanche which is probably why I don’t need hot peppers to get fired up. Oh and that is only from my Grandfathers side. His Mother being from a place where spices are not terribly prevalent was made up for by the fact that she herself was quite a spicy horsewoman whom traded horses. The fastest and there she went like Queen Boudicca we have no idea where?
When I stop to think about my Grandfathers life it is precious indeed. It brings to mind Sergio Leone’s flick “Once Upon a time in the West” I am certain that much of his early life was forged around the beginnings of the railroad being set thru his hometown prior to this quite sleepy and loaded with cowboys and chili. He hopped trains and ran away from Texas and here we are making chili! I am sure that the Mexican border Chili Queens and the cowboys and their cattle must have been a very aromatic story. How marvelous. My Dad and his brother Felix all had middle names named after cowboy crooners like James Autry. Happy folk and simply genuine.
My Fathers love for Mexican food probably went a little too far as he eventually married a woman from Mexico whose blood could be traced indeed to Spain. Oddly her recipes were less the glorious rich plethora from Mexican magical fresh gardens but in fact often used potatoes in enchiladas? It never mattered because eventually my Father did all the cooking with her sisters and cousins from whom surely one of them had recipes from local regions amazing. I grew up with a moca hetey. Spelling I am not sure. This is what I am missing to grind up the smoked peppers. Why as they used to say and it is not such an anomaly in Los Angeles to say “Let’s throw some chingazos” It’s very common and all the kids would say it in school when a throw down as they now say with Bobby Fly! But in my case my father broke the tradition of pinning the rings to his shirt and I had no idea. I asked his wife If I could just have one of the rings so I would have the magical tool to cook chili! Let’s just say that started quite a throw down. I know that in heaven the diamonds and rubies are shining down on me somewhere and that’s good enough for me as the gene of cooking starts in the heart.
With great excitement I make Chili today but also with some sentimental depth of amber tears. My grandfather used to take off his ruby ring from his pinky and then the diamond one from his wedding finger. He would pin them on his undershirt and this meant something amazing was about to happen! I have become a little like him, not the amazing part but the wildly mixology part. Before there was a term mixologist there was Felix and that does not mean booze. Simply alchemical mixing of amazing fruits, spices, pies and more pies. Like Rachel Ray says “I don’t bake” Well, that’s the only thing I have in common with the Queen. I do love to mix botanics and I should change my name to Botaniko instead of….
Anyway, I am going to try something new! I have some pretty good wine from the Tuscan region. I recently watched Chef Borelle of Mario Batali. She has her own show and I cried, I mean I did watching her. I really love food. She was making Wild boar with pappardelle. How fast she made it and how beautiful with juniper berries. I am sure that it is amazing. How fast she made the pasta that is and how enchanting. I am praying that my wonderful Sister gets a job as a chef soon, hence I cried.
So, I am going to cook the beef with wine and a mixture of pork, veal and sirloin. The actual side of beef with ground above. I only have a few peppers but my Father did send me an assortment of peppers he loved. His recipes make me cry. I loved my Father so much and it meant the world to share with me, if even on the phone lots of endless advice. He could talk for days about how I was going to improve a recipe. Like an architect he would go over just what floor in the stage of layers of flavors I had to redesign. His passion for food was frightful when it came to knives. He was a US ARMY Sargent before I was born but this fact never changed when he was in the kitchen! ha ha.. Knives were to him the way my Mother was about swords for samurais. They were quite a team. My Greatgrandfather wrote stories during the Meiji era about how his family had to relinquish their cherished swords to be melted down into dog chains for exotic poodles. Hence I will probably never get a poodle for this sad fact. Long before Tarrintino and his educating the world about the tamagaje samurai process in Kill Bill. Some of us knew the great beauty of the Japanese sword. Alas, my father was a serious taskmaster when it came to using his knives and for that matter his ancient vinyl records. These two one was a sword of the chef and the records were the musical tools of celestial beings of the likes of Saint Michael the warrior!
I barely have a paring knife but that’s just as well because to cook a great chili I am hoping it will only take the heart of a warrior and not bombs of chili so hot as to be a 5 alarm. I am going to aim for a smooth but spicy operator of a chili so let’s go and oh yes, I am using beans. Oh yeah!
The best part of making chili with beans in my family growing up was later making homemade tostadas and tacos. Homemade guacamole etc. We simply must have kidney beans. Oh my goodness, there is no supermarket nor row of chili spices as we had on the West coast? The beans are also a bit different but I decided not too care. I am going to use 2 local ruby rojas. I have experimented with Indian peppers in the past, but not today. I once made lots of Acadian shrimp and strange as it seems on Tostada day it went great with all the fixins. One day for a huge political religious debate I made chili. Let’s just say, we won the war. There is no way to win against the voodoo spices of the Great Chili Queens of Texas.
I went to a press party from the South here in NYC in the snow. They brought their Southern hospitality. They BBQ in the snow. A bit of my hair caught fire. The wonderful women whom plied us with amazing cocktails and treats. There was blues and rockabilly music. It was really amazing to be picked up in a limo to arrive at this party for BBQ class. Fire and meat is very primal. Soldiers are prepared to die before they give away their BBQ sauce or chili recipes. They gave me my own branding iron with my name on in to sear a side of beef. I don’t eat meat that often so I use it on eggplant. They gave me my own cutting board with my name on it as well. Southern Hospitality is killer.
Day 3 , I am going to do the sacrilegious and make pappardelle with fresh pappardelle from the amazing Houston street Raffettos. This is “the church of pasta” Another story, but with Chili instead of wild boar. The use of juniper really gets me! I can’t bring myself to put them in Grandpa’s Chili but it certainly sounds unique in Tuscany. My Father should have written a book about Felix. He had the all American story of a Cowboy you don’t and wont hear about on TV. Love you Felix and Dad and heres to you!