The Big Chili Transcript

[Grumpy Gus takes AB's place as first person. When he's talking
to the camera, I won't note his dialogue with "GG:"]

On The Trail

GUESTS: Grumpy Gus and Rusty

GRUMPY GUS: You know, Rusty? Nothing burns me up quite like when folks take a good, honest piece of American kibble and go fussing with it, dressing it up, like it was one of them fuzzy old ... [searches for the word]
RUSTY: Poodles!
GG: Poodles is right! Case in point: chili. Do you know, Rusty, there's folks actually compete with chili, like in a culinary rodeo?
R: That don't make no sense!
GG: No, it don't make no sense.
R: How are you supposed to get a saddle on a bowl of red?
GG: What I'm talking about here, Rusty, is the fact that a good, honest bowl of chili don't need no mushrooms. Don't need no 'taters. Don't need no duck fat. Don't need no chocolate, no jujubes, no ... Why it sure don't need none of that tofu.
R: It sure don't need no beans.
GG: No, it don't need no beans.

    Not that there's anything wrong with beans per se. It's just, well, when a feller's putting his, his fork into something he expects what he's expecting. And if he don't get what he's expecting a feller's likely to get a little disoriented.

R: Wh... Just like that time I met that saloon girl in Dodge. I could've swore she was ...
GG: No. No. No! That ain't what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the fact that chili making is all about taking a few little barely edible bits and pieces and converting it into a sublime gestalt of flavor and texture.
R: I thought it was about cooking.
GG: No sir, it's about ... [cut to opening montage]


GUEST: Mysterious Stranger

    Now the history of chili ...

R: ... with an "I" ...
GG: ... yes, with an "I",

... used to be foggier than Rusty's head after a night in town. That is, of course, until this mysterious stranger wandered into camp.

AB: Go ahead, Mysterious Stranger, tell 'em what you done told us.
MYSTERIOUS STRANGER: Well, nobody really knows how that dish we call chili con carne originated.

    Hence, the mystery.

MS: But they do know it didn't come from Mexico.
R: Huh?
MS: However, the predominant flavors—the cumin and the chili peppers and the oregano—they did.
R: [to GG] Look how soft his skin is!
GG: Well, Rusty, he probably uses sunscreen.

    As should we all.

MS: Some nutritional anthropologists say that chili came with a group of 16 families from the Canary Islands who came and settled near San Antonio in 1731. Other people say that the first recipe for Chili Con Carne ...
R: [to GG] That means "chili with meat".
GG: Thank you Rusty. Now are you going to let the little feller finish?
R: Okey-dokey.
GG: Okay then.
MS: ... was written by a 17th-century nun named Mary of Agrada. She said that recipe came to her when she was in a trance.
R: A nun!
GG: A trance!
GG & R: Mmm hmm!
MS: But I think it was concocted by cooks in the 1850's. They pounded together dried beef and fat and salt and chile peppers into bricks. And those bricks could be reconstituted in hot, boiling water.
R: [to GG] What's "reconstituted"?
GG: Ahh, it's French, I think, for "putting something together". I don't know.
MS: But the real advance in chili-making came in 1890 when a spice mix called chile powder hit the market.
GG: Well, I don't know about that. 'Round here we make our own chile powder but it's a dang good story. Say stranger, you want some more coffee?
MS: You got decaf?
GG: [looks at Rusty and then slowly looks to camera] You know, stranger, I think maybe it'd be best for all of us if you just rode on tonight.
MS: Well, fine then. You boys smell bad anyway.
R: Smell bad?

[GG and R smell themselves and then watch MS ride of]

R: Side saddle? Strange.
GG: Well, Rusty, I reckon that's why they call 'em "strangers".
R: I better tend to the horses.
GG: Yep. And I better tend to the chili powder.

    And if you're going to make some quality chili powder ...

R: [from off camera] With an "I".

... [sighs] you're going to need some quality dried chiles.

R: [again from off camera] With an "E".
GG: Yes, with an "E".

    I like to use three-of-three. I have here 3 ancho chiles. These are basically the dried version of poblanos. You can use any large dried chile of this size. It'll be just fine.

3 Ancho Chiles, Stemmed,
    Seeded & Chopped

    We've got ourselves some little cascabels. That means "little bell" in Spanish and you can hear it. That's a cute little bugger. Sounds kind of like a rattlesnake, though.

3 Cascabel Chiles, Stemmed,
    Seeded & Chopped
    You've got to be careful. Now these are going to provide most of the flavor, while most of the heat is going to come from this little arbol. I've got 3 of these bad boys too. You could use cayennes as well. 3 Arbol Chiles, Stemmed,
    Seeded & Chopped

    Now remember, you want a little bit of heat in your chili powder but not too much. You can always kick it up a notch later with the addition of some Cayenne pepper, but you can't cool it off. No sir, that's just the way it is.
    Now I do want to get the seeds out of here because they are bitter. So I just clip off the end with my trusty range scissors and throw them out on the ground. Hey, maybe next year when we come back there'll be peppers growing up all over the place. Sorry, chiles. Chiles. These are technically chiles. Then I just take them and cut them up right into the pan. Got a few seeds in there. It ain't going to be the end of the world. There we go.

    Now we're going to add a couple tablespoons of whole cumin. 2 Tbs. Whole Cumin

    So we're going to let these roast over medium-high heat until they become nice and fragrant, or until those cumin seeds start blowing up all over the place. Now why are we bothering with this here roasting if they's already dry? Because the essential oils inside the seeds and inside them pods is going to get woken up by that heat. Even if you're going to hold onto this for months, you want to do this part now. Just give it a shake every few minutes.

    Meanwhile ... [places a blender on a rock] There. Just break out your favorite camping blender—I know you've got one—and throw on in 2 tablespoons of Garlic Powder, about a teaspoon of paprika—I like the smoked kind, but the regular kind's fine too—and a tablespoon of dried oregano. It's just about the only time I use the stuff.

2 Tbs. Garlic Powder
1 tsp. Smoked Paprika
1 Tbs. Dried Oregano

    Now go retrieve the rest of your chiles. Carefully integrate them into the carafe. There you go. Lid her on up and put the spurs to her. [turns them on and blends them] Allow chiles & cumin to cool completely before adding to blender.

Process until the ingredients are a fine powder.

    [turns off blender] Now do yourself a favor and leave that lid on for a good minute else you'll take off the lid and mace yourself. And that ain't good eats. No sir. Now you can bottle this stuff up and it'll keep for about 6 months. Whatever you do, don't use store-bought chili powder. I promise you, there's more flavor in the glue holding onto this label than there is in this bottle.

AB: Right, Rusty?
R: [enters] Yep.
GG: I reckon it's about time to cook us up a mess of red.
R: Yep.
GG: Did you bring the groceries?
R: Nope.
GG: Nope. Rhymes with "dope".
R: Yep.
GG: Oh bother.

In the Old West cowboys would often throw bulls eyeballs into their chili.

Whole Foods: Atlanta, GA

200 miles & 8 hours later ...

GUEST: Deb Duchon, Nutritional Anthropologist

GG: Now Rusty, you need to keep in mind that chili is a very basic kind of food made out of some very basic kind of parts. Now we've got meat, chile, chili powder ...
R: With an "I"
GG: Right. We need a liquid and some kind of thickener of some type, and I reckon we could use some vegetation, like maybe some onions.
R: And garlic powder.
GG: Yeah, garlic powder, too. And if we don't go and get crazy with it, I reckon we could use some canned tomatoes. But right now what we need to do is rustle us up a little bit of meat. Which way?
R: Hot diggety dog!!
GG: Ah, that way. Alright. Here we go. [they head off to the meat section]

    When you consider the type of folks often blamed for inventing chili, one notes a common denominator, poverty. Immigrants, nuns, cowboys, all generally living in a state of profound broketitude.

R: [is breathing heavily, fogging up the glass, as he leers into the meat case]
GG: Oh, come on, Rusty. We don't need none of this uptown meat. [leaves but returns to haul Rusty off] I said come on!
R: Ooohhh!

    If you want to cook up an authentic bowl of red, you’re going to have to think cheap. And in the modern American mega-mart, that means going with stew meat, about 3 pounds of it. Now I give you that the traditional chili meat of choice is beef, but you know, rustlers like me and old Rusty, heck, we'll use just about any meat we can get our hands on. [camera pans around to show Rusty talking so a pretty lady] So we're going to go with a mixture. I going to go with one pound of this here beef, stew beef. We're going to go with one pound of this here pork. That'll be good for texture. And for a little added flavor, we'll go with a pound of this here lamb. Now all we've got to do is rustle us up some chiles.

GG: [leaves but Rusty continues to talk, returns to again haul Rusty away] Come on, boy!

    Now believe you, me, our chile powder is going to deliver on some heat, but real chili lovers, myself included, often like to kick things up another notch by infusing a little more chile into our situation. Now fresh chiles like this here jalapeño, and this here habañero—often called "Scotch Bonnet"—are commonly available in the modern American mega-mart. [Rusty pops up wearing a plaid bonnet] But they's real perishable. That means they go bad fast. And they don't fit real well in a saddlebag. Which is why I often used canned. That's right, kids, canned chiles.

R: That's chiles with an "E".
GG: You have got to come along, son!

    Now as far as I'm concerned, the flavor of chili ...

R: With an "I".

... comes from these right here, chipotle chiles ...

R: With an "E".

... in adobo sauce. A piquant mixture of ground chiles ...

GG: [stopping Rusty from speaking] Shut it.

... with herbs and vinegar. Now chipotles, of course, are nothing but smoked jalapeños, but that's the thing that's challenging about learning your chiles. You see, in Mexican parlance, the, the dried, the fresh, the smoked version of the very same pod, may all have different names. So it's a little bit tricky. Now while we're in this here neighborhood, we're also going to get us a little bitty can of this here tomato paste.

R: Can we put these in this time? [holds up some packages]
GG: Rusty? Boy, that's seaweed.
R: Yep.
GG: Rusty? Time out!
R: [hangs his head and faces the shelves]
GG: [in a new section of the store] Well, there it is, Rusty.

    It's the secret ingredient of lazy chili chefs everywhere. Now you could go spending an hour slicing and dicing various vegetation. But I say why not just crack open the lid on your favorite hot salsa? This here is my favorite. It's made in New York City, so you know it's good.

R: Imported!
GG: That's right, imported.

    Now chili is a stew-like device, so we're going to have to have some other liquid and I figure it could be soup, it could be one of them bouillon cubes, but why not make it something you'd actually want to drink if you had some leftovers?

R: You thinking sarsaparilla?
GG: No Rusty. I'm thinking beer!
R: [does a happy dance] Woo hoo, woo hoo ding-ling ding!

    The question is: what kind? Now light beer ain't hardly beer at all. So that's out. Heavier brews like porter and stout tend to get bitter when you cook with them. So we're just going to stick with a good old middle-of-the-road ale like this one here.

middle of the road ale

R: [is filling up a shopping cart full with beer]
GG: Now Rusty? Ain't nobody getting married or buried. We only need one little bottle of this here stuff.

    Now we've got our meat, our chiles, we got out liquid, secret ingredients. Heck, all we need now is a thickener to hold all this together. Since we already got salsa on board, heck, why not use ...

[cut to the chip section of the store]

... Tortilla Chips! Now I am perfectly aware of the fact that, traditionally speaking, chili should be thickened with a special kind of corn flour called, ma ...

DEB DUCHON: Masa harina, the traditional corn flour of Mexico. It's used to make tortillas, tamales, and chile relleno. That's chile with an "E".
GG: Well, go on, stranger.
DD: But ground-up tortilla chips are a lot easier to find and just as easy to use. Bye, boys.
GG: Rusty? I think we just had us one of them day-jah- voos. Come on.

Masa is made with sun-dried corn kernels
that have been cooked in lime water.

The Kitchen

GG: Come on, Rusty. We've got to get out of this rain. [enters the house looking around] Hello! Hello! Howdy? Rusty? Looks like ain't nobody home.
R: Well, they ought not leave that door unlocked.
GG: Well maybe not everybody in the world's got a mind as suspicious as yours. I reckon the lady of the house wouldn't mind if we did a little cooking.

[they enter the kitchen area and stop
in wonder at the splendor and oddity of it]

R: This place is kind of creepy.
GG: Yeah. A bit off kilter, I'd say. Well, why don't we just do what we need to do and get out of these folk's hair. Why don't you go rustle us up a pot and I'll deal with the groceries. Okay? Go that way! Over there. [notes the model steer on the table] Huh. Well, I reckon these folks ain't all bad.

The first World Championship Chili Cook-off
was held in Terlingua, Texas in 1967.

The Kitchen

GG: Well, this is kind of funny looking for a pot, but I reckon it'll do. Now how about going and getting us a mixing bowl of some kind. Thank you.
R: [leaves]

    Now, step one to your chili making is you're going to get yourself a big old heavy pot, and you're going to put it over a real hot campfire. And they got that here.

R: [returns with a large bowl]
GG: Ah, that's perfect. Now how about getting us some cooking oil? That's what we need.

    Now get yourself a big old bowl and toss in your one pound of beef product, your one pound of lamb—[to the lamb] get on in there—and your one pound of pork. Pork, lamb, beef. We got it all. 1 Pound Beef
1 Pound Lamb
1 Pound Pork
    Now we need a little bit of salt on there to give it some season. I bet they got... [finds the flip-lid kosher salt container] Well, ain't that clever! Gosh darndest thing. We're only going to use one and a half teaspoons because there's plenty of salt in them tortilla chips. Got to take that into account. There. Just toss that, and then we're going to lube it up a little. 1/2 tsp. Kosher Salt

GG: Rusty! Where in tarnation's that oil, boy?
R: [takes oil off a shelf and notices the shelf-cam] What in tarnation? These folks got a security camera in their cupboard. They must really be fat.
GG: How's that?
R: Cause they really are watching what they eat!

    Alright, then. Now we need to remember that we're doing inside cooking here. We don't want to make any more smoke than is absolutely necessary. So we're going to go light on this here oil. About 2 teaspoons. Just enough to barely cook this meat. Now we're going to brown in batches. The trick here is to not crowd the pan.

2 tsp. Peanut Oil

R: How come?
GG: Because if there's too much meat in the pan, the temperature will drop and we won't get a good sear. And if the pieces are too close together, there won't be room for the juice to evaporate, and it'll just sit there and stew. And that ain't ...
R: ... good!
GG: No, it ain't.

    So we're going to work in batches. I reckon we'll have maybe 3 batches here. Now as soon as this batch is good and brown, we'll move it off into that other bowl and go again.

GG: Uh, go get us another bowl. Go on!
R: [exits]

    Now when all that meat's browned off we're going to dump that whole thing in that big old pot there. Gosh darn it, I got a couple of pieces a stuck. There. Now put this back over high heat and then pour in one bottle of beer, plus one tablespoon. There we go. Now do we really need all this here beer? No, sir. Heh heh. You don't. But it sure is nice having to drink the leftovers. 12 Ounces Medium Ale Beer
    Now we're going to scrape around on the bottom of this just to dissolve all them little bits. A Frenchman once told me that's called deee-glazing. There we go. We're just going to push that around a little bit. Now everything else goes in the pot, including one tablespoon of our tomato paste. There we go. Let's see. One tablespoon of our chili powder.

R: With an "I".
GG: With an "I"!

1 Tbs. Tomato Paste
1 Tbs. Chili Powder
    Well, it's close to a tablespoon. I also like to add about a teaspoon of ground-up cumin, because I just like the way it tastes. There we go. 1 tsp. Ground Cumin
    Now we've got 3 big handfuls of our tortilla chips. There we go. We're going to break them all up good, too. There we go. There we go. That's good. Alright. Now one whole 16-ounce container of our New York salsa. There we go. And 2 of them canned chipotles, chopped up, along side one tablespoon of their adobo sauce. 30 Tortilla Chips

16 Ounces Salsa
2 Chopped Chipotle Peppers
1 Tbs. Adobo Sauce

R: [enters with gloves on]
GG: Them's nice gloves, Rusty. Jeepers.

    Now this stuff [adobo sauce] is dang tasty. And it is double-dang hot. So don't go adding more unless you know what you's doing. Luckily, I knows what I's doing. Woo!

    Last but not least, we put back in the rest of the meat. There we go. Everybody in. Alright. Mighty fine. Add the 3 pounds of stew meat back to the pot.

    Now, nothing left to do but lid her up! [attempts to place the pressure cooker lid on] How do you put on this old dang thing?

R: Hey! It's a pressure cooker, you ignorant wretch! You line this up. You turn the handle over, and then you lock it in.
GG: Well I, I knew that. I, I knew that.
R: Now the locking lid creates a pressure of 15 pounds per square inch, which in turn, raises the boiling point of the liquid inside to the neighborhood of 235 degrees.
GG: Celsius?
R: No, Fahrenheit.
GG: Alright.
R: Which, in turn, cooks the meat a heck of a lot faster.
GG: Well, how much faster?
R: A heck of a lot. When the steam starts to come out here ...
GG: Yeah?

R: ... back down on the heat until it's just barely whistling at you, and wait 25 minutes.
GG: That's it?
R: Mmm hmm.
GG: 25 minutes!
R: Mmm hmm.
GG: Dadgum! Where'd you learn about this contraption?
R: I saw it once on the Food Network.
GG: They got one of them?
R: Bam!
GG: [jumps high] Gol-darnit! You startled me, boy! I'll call you if I need you.

   [alarm goes off, GG gets up from snoozing on the counter] Ah! Whew! That's one rude awakening right there. Boy howdy! Alright, I reckon it's chili time.

GG: [wakes Rusty up] Alright, Rusty? I said Rusty. Hey! What's next?
R: Just press that little button there on the handle.
GG: [steam rushes out] Whoa!
R: Heh heh heh heh heh! Pressure release valve! Now if you don't want to use it, you can run the covered pot under cold water and that'll suck the heat right out of the pot.
GG: Why not just go ahead and open it now?
R: Well, it's got a pressure-sensitive lock. If you did it, you'd blow that chili sky-high!
GG: Oh. Well in that case, I'll wait.

The pressure cooker was invented in 1679 by French physicist Denis Papin.

The Kitchen

GUEST: Alton Brown, Homeowner

R: [to the camera] Mmm mmm. Now there's no right or wrong way to serve chili, but I do have to say that I find a bowl that's 3 times wider than it is deep to be the most appropriate. And here's the best thing: when it comes to toppings, the sky's the limit. Sour cream, onion, cilantro, truffles, or quail eggs, are all ...
GG: Boy, what in the name of all that is good and sacred are you talking about?
R: I'm just presenting some possible service options.
GG: Oh. Oh you are. Well allow me to present a service option.

    You put the chili in the bowl. You put the spoon in the chili. You put the chili in your mouth. That's it.

R: But Paw!
GG: Don't call me that, boy! It makes me feel ... old.

    Now for you folks at home that ain't got one of them ...

GG: What'd you call that thing?
R: Pressure cooker. [continues to point out service options in the background]

... pressure cooker, don't despair. Just get yourself a nice, big, heavy Dutch oven. Preferably one that's cast iron. And do your meat browning in there, and add all your ingredients, bring it to a boil, clamp on that lid, and toss it in a 350 degree oven for anywhere from 6 to, I don't know, 24 hours, depending on what you like.

GG: Would you stop that?

    I'm going to go make me another batch of this.

GG: [opens up the oven and him and Rusty both look inside] There. Heh heh heh. Now why do you reckon they got a camera in the oven?
R: Beats me.
GG: You'd think it'd melt.
R: One would think.
GG: Mmm hmm.
R: And they got another in the refrigerator and one in the pantry, too. Weird, these people.

[sfx: door opening]

GG: Well then let's not hang around to meet them! Let's skedaddle, boy! Come on! Uh, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait! I'll get the chili, you get them beers!
R: The beers!
GG: Don't leave the beers!
R: Beers. [notes the steer model] The cow!
GG: No, no! Leave that dang cow, we got plenty of the real thing! Let's go!
R: Yip! Yip! Yipee! Yee hah!
GG: Woo hoo!

ALTON BROWN: [enters the kitchen] What? What happened around this place? Gee whiz! "Middle Of The Road Ale"? [notes the Dutch Oven in oven and comes over for a sniff] What's? Wow, it smells like someone's been making chili ... with an "I". But you know, that would make a tasty episode of Good Eats.

Transcribed by Mike DiRuscio

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Last Edited on 08/27/2010