When it came to home cooking, the 1970s had a split personality. On one hand, it was the decade of sunflower seeds (not widely available until then) and healthy eating. This magazine offered instructions for making a gingerbread house with granola bars in December 1978. On the other hand, Julia Child had become a household name, and popular beef dishes ranged from Hungarian goulash to French ragoût de boeuf and spicy bowls of red. The following recipe, which appeared in Texas Co-op Power’s 60 Years of Home Cooking, won Gay Dixson (then a member of Pedernales EC) the Texas State Fair El Chico Chili Contest in 1973. A few adjustments for modern tastes (using pure ground chile and olive oil instead of shortening) make the results more vibrant and just as satisfying.
Texas State Fair Chili
3–4 pounds chuck, cubed
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
2/3 cup flour
2 tablespoons olive oil (or vegetable shortening or bacon fat)
2 medium onions, chopped
2–3 cloves garlic, minced
2 quarts water, heated
3 tablespoons hot paprika
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons pure ground chile powder (such as ancho or New Mexico)
2 cans (8 ounces each) tomato sauce
Hot sauce, as desired
1. Place the beef in a mixing bowl, sprinkle with the salt, pepper and flour and use your hands to combine until the meat is well-coated.
2. Heat the oil (or shortening) in a large, heavy Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the beef (in batches as necessary) and brown on all sides; use a slotted spoon to transfer to a plate.
3. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring, until the vegetables have softened. Add the cooked beef back into the Dutch oven along with 2 quarts of hot water and simmer 1 hour.
4. Stir in the paprika, cumin, chile powder and tomato sauce and simmer an additional hour, stirring often, until the meat is very tender. Taste for seasonings and add additional salt and hot sauce, to taste.