Frank X. Tolbert's Original Bowl of Red

"From the Jamison's Texas Cooking cookbook. "One pundit said that if chili were a religion, A Bowl of Red would be it's bible and Frank X. Tolbert its Moses. This recipe is courtesy of his family and it is the traditional approach to making Texas chili. The first chili cookoff was started by Mr. Tolbert in 1967 between Texas chili master Wick Fowler and Midwest humorist H. Allen Smith. Smith had been brazen enough to write "Nobody Knows More About Chili than I Do", which debunked Texas red. Mr. Tolbert tested Smith's recipe and declared it "a chili-flavored low-torque beef and vegetable soup." That led to the first World's Championship Chili Cookoff, in Terlingua, Texas, a high-noon event that ended in a draw. The first judge voted for "Soupy" Smith, the second judge voted for Fowler's entry. The last judge took a bite of Smith's chili, feigned convulsions, and fell to the floor. When he regained his voice he declared that the Midwestwern chili had paralyzed his taste buds and left him unable to vote, forcing a draw.""
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Ready In:
2hrs 40mins




  • Break off the stems of the chiles, and remove the seeds.
  • Place chiles in a small saucepan and cover them with water.
  • Simmer for 30 minutes.
  • Purée the chiles in a blender with a tiny bit of cooking liquid to make a smooth, thin paste.
  • Use as little liquid as possible, unless you want the chili to be soupy.
  • Pour the chile purée into a Dutch oven or large, heavy pan.
  • In a heavy skillet, sear the meat in two batches with the beef suet until the meat is gray.
  • Transfer each batch to the chile purée, then pour in enough of the chile cooking liquid to cover the meat by about 2 inches.
  • Bring the chili to a boil; reduce heat to a simmer.
  • Cook for 30 minutes.
  • Remove the chili from the heat, and stir in the rest of the ingredients.
  • Return chili to the heat, cover and resume simmering for 45 minutes, keeping the lid on except to stir just occasionally.
  • (Too much stirring tears up the meat) Add more chile liquid only if you think the mixture will burn otherwise.
  • After 45 minutes, you may add the masa harina, if you wish.
  • The masa adds a subtle, tamale-like taste, but it also thickens the chili.
  • Cover the chili again and simmer for another 30 minutes.
  • Do a lot of tasting to see if seasoning suits you.
  • Add more seasonings as you like, but go easy on the oregano to avoid ending up with a spaghetti sauce flavor.
  • Take the chili off the heat, and refrigerator overnight.
  • Skim as much fat as you wish from the chili before reheating it.
  • Serve hot.

Questions & Replies

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  1. jmitch7813
    Actrually, Mr. Tolbert's recipe called for beef kidney suet, which adds a great taste to the dish but is hard to find these days. I also think his included paprika. I have his book somewhere...just need to find it!
  2. hitekredneck1
    Not Frank's ORIGINAL recipe. my ex-wife's father, Tommy Chenault was the composing room foreman for the Dallas Morning News for 40 years. Knowing I love chili, and being a close personal friend of Frank's, he got Frank to write his recipe down for me. I have since lost it and was here looking for it. This is not it. His original recipe called for shank meat, because it makes it's own suet.



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