Pedernales River Chili

This recipe is based upon Ladybird Johnson's recipe appearing in Life Magazine during LBJ's term in office. The Johnson Ranch is located in the Pedernales River Valley so that's how this recipe gets its name. My friends Lee and Monte have modified Ladybird's recipe as shown below. I am told that you should never use hamburger! I completely agree. :-)

3½ lbs. top round cut into ½" cubes
5 T. vegetable oil (divided)
2 C. onion, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic minced
4 T. chili powder (see note*)
1½ t. oregano
1½ t. cumin
1 t. crushed red pepper
14 oz. can beef broth (about 2 C.)
14 oz. can whole tomatoes, cut up (including juice, about 2 C.)
6 oz. can of tomato paste
1 T. salt
1 t. sugar

1-2 T. yellow corn meal (optional, if too thin)
hot water (optional, if too thick)

Pat meat dry with paper towel. Heat 3 T. oil in a large pot, add meat and sear until lightly browned (5-8 minutes), stirring with a spoon. Remove meat from pot and set aside. Add remaining oil to pot and sauté onions and garlic until wilted but not brown. Stir in chili powder, oregano, cumin and crushed red pepper. Mix until onions and garlic are coated. Add remaining ingredients except those marked optional and mix well.

Add meat and simmer over low heat in an covered pot for one hour, then uncover and simmer for 40-50 minutes more or until meat is tender. Cool, cover and store in refrigerator overnight. (It will be better the next day.) Reheat over low heat for one hour. Thicken if necessarily by sprinkling corn meal over it and stirring. If it's too thick add a little hot water and stir, repeat until it's the right consistency.

Monte says, "It'll serve ten or more people, depends how hungry they are. Experiment with more or less chili powder, cumin and crushed red pepper if you like it milder or really hot. Try this first, though, for the taste. Lee used to make two pots for our chili fries."

Note: Add up to 4 T. more chili powder for spicier chili, but cook the recipe using the smaller amount first. I found that 4 tablespoons was quite spicy enough for my taste, and I like spicy food.

Credit: My online friends Lee and Monte from Silver Springs, NM.

Ladybird Johnson's original recipe

4 lb. chili meat (coarsely-ground round steak or well-trimmed chuck)
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t. ground oregano
1 t. comino seed
2 T. chili powder (or more, if needed)
1½ C. canned whole tomatoes
2-6 generous dashes liquid hot sauce
2 C. hot water
salt, to taste

Place meat, onion and garlic in large, heavy pan or dutch oven. Cook until light in color. Add oregano, comino seed, chili powder, tomatoes, hot pepper sauce, salt and hot water. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for about 1 hour. Skim off fat during cooking.

Ladybird's original recipe can be found at the Lyndon B. Johnson Library & Museum.

Credit: Ladybird Johnson.

Filed under Meat   Tagged beef, friends, dinner