Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Chili Cookbook by Robb Walsh

I love chili in all of its various forms. Love it!

I was, amazingly to some, a bit of a picky eater as a kid. My brother was even worse than I was. In our neighborhood there was a chili and tamale stand that served up the only chili both of us would eat. Years went by, the stand closed down and we moved anyway, but the whole family lamented the loss of that chili. Then in seventh grade I met one of my best friends who, as it turned out, was related to the women who ran that stand. She gave me their chili recipe - a pretty standard red that cooks long and slow to get that red slick of grease across the top - and it's been a go to beef chili for me since.

Sadly when my favorite local cafe closed down I wasn't able to get their recipe for vegetarian chili. Seems odd for someone who's not vegetarian but trust me when I say this dish was so amazing you didn't even miss the meat!

Then of course you have green chili, something I didn't discover until I moved to Colorado ten years ago. My family doesn't understand my obsession with this dish, but seriously, if you haven't tasted it you're missing out. I'm still on the hunt for the perfect recipe to make in house and I try it at pretty much every restaurant that serves it up. Come chile season I'm one of the ones buying up bags and cartons of roasted or fresh peppers (to roast myself) for freezing and using until the following season rolls around.

With beans or without, red, white, or green, meat or no meat, I'm a fan. I eat it in big bowls topped with everything from avocado (creamy cool avocado over a hot and spicy chili is a dreamy combination), onions, cheese, and jalapeƱos. I eat it over hot dogs, baked potatoes, french fries, or chips (Fritos are the best). I crave it when the season starts to turn. Yeah, I'd say I'm a bit addicted. And I already have a chili cookbook in hand, one that highlights a variety of recipes from restaurants and diners across the US (and even some in Canada). I also happen to know there's a new Terlingua Chili cookbook due out soon featuring some of the award-winning cook off recipes.

So why do I (or you) need another chili cookbook? Well, first Robb Walsh is a Texas food icon. His knowledge of Texas food ways and traditions is pretty unbeatable. He's a former restaurant reviewer, a restauranteur himself, and the author of five other Texas based cookbooks as well as being the co founder of Foodways Texas. Who better to write a chili cookbook?

Then there's the book itself. Walsh highlights not only the history of Texas chili but the history of chili in general. From the Aztecs and their surprising "chile tax" and the spread of chili around the country to other ethnic variations and twists on the dish, he covers it all.

Walsh includes recipes for making your own chile powder, an essential if you have access to dried chiles, and recommendations for store bought varieties if you don't, and then dives into the dishes themselves. Beginning with a Lobster Chili inspired by one of the earliest mentions of the dish, Walsh takes readers through every variety imaginable: from Texas red, New Mexico green, Route 66 classics (and dishes to use them on), through to the bean/no bean argument, vegetarian and beyond - pretty much every variation you can imagine is in The Chili Cookbook.

The recipes are easy to follow and Walsh makes suggestions (like store bought chile powder recs as mentioned above) for substitutions and such throughout. He's even added slow cooker instructions and variations where available.

Two things I really love about this book (aside from it being focused on what is clearly one of my favorite foods) are the accessibility (per my comments above) and the overall lack of pretension. Whether you eat it Cincinnati style, spiked with cinnamon and served over spaghetti, or classic Texas style in a Frito Pie, chili is a humble dish. It's something that has been served up for generations and by just about every culture in some form another. It's comfort food through and through. Whether you choose to go all in and make your own chile powder and chorizo, and serve it up with bison cooked in rendered tallow or go with store bought powder, ground beef, and vegetable oil, it's basically all about personal preference and Walsh won't hold it against you. Heck, there are multiple recipes that call for Velveeta! (The Old-Fashioned Tex-Mex Enchiladas. To. Die. For.)

So if you're like me and love a good chili, I can't recommend this book highly enough. Throw a chili party. Fall in love with the Green Chili with Pork and Potatoes. Try a vegetarian variety like the Lentil, Sweet Potato, and Ancho Chili. Maybe you'll even find your own favorite red in Richard Bolt's "Deviled Beef" or Walsh's El Real's Chili Con Carne. There's something for every chili enthusiast in this book!

Per Blogging for Books requirements: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

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