“Chili powder makes you crazy.” Those timeless words, uttered by Joe DeFrates, the only person who has won both the National and World Chili Championship, are repeatedly confirmed in winter kitchens across the country as chefs come to knives over capsicum levels, whether beans belong in the pot or not, the best protein(s) to use, tomato or not tomato? And what about the fixings?
The classic “original” chili recipe was a workhorse, meant to fuel and sustain people on the road. It is thought to have consisted of dried beef, suet, chili peppers and salt, left to dry in the sun, thus rendering it transportable on long trips and cattle drives. (Road chefs could simply add water, boil and serve). Chili culture has come a long way since its debut in 19th-century American society, and even a meat-loving homesick Texan would be hard-pressed to resist some of the highly unorthodox recipes that abound in New York, though they would doubtless refuse to refer to the dishes as “chili.”
With recipes from chefs Anna Weisheit of the Hollow Bar + Kitchen and Kim Klopstock of Fifty South Restaurant and Bar and the Lily and the Rose Catering Co., there are two urgent new reasons to test Joe DeFrates’s hypothesis and weigh in on the always sizzling-hot chili controversy.