Monday, February 1, 2016

Chuck Wagon Chili for the Rodeo

The end of January brings a wonderful splash of fun to our little city - the Black Hills Stock Show and Rodeo!

Cowpokes and their stuff everywhere you look!

Big cowboys and little ones.

Horses, cattle, sheep, boots, chaps, saddles, coats, gloves, vests....

You name it, you can buy it there.

And then there's the ranching equipment - gates, trailers, trucks, balers, baling netting. Even those things that you put the cow in to hold her while you're pulling her calf (if you don't know what I mean, ask Mary Connealy!).

My son works at a ranching supply store, and he just informed me that those things are called chutes (who would have thought?). Powder River has just come out with a new one that has solar powered hydraulics. Cool, huh?

And don't forget those cowboy hats!

The hallways of the convention center are filled with people. Cowboys, cowgirls, cowkids, and lots of others just enjoying the atmosphere (like my husband and I).

On Saturday, one of the rodeo clowns was walking around greeting the kids. I admit, I usually don't like clowns, but I have to admire those rodeo clowns. They have a tough job and they do it well. Who else would be crazy enough to try to keep an angry bull from goring the cowboy he just threw off his back?

Along with the people, you might just pass an alpaca or a horse being transported from the arena to their pen. Always a fun sight!

Stock Show week has become my time to try out a new chili recipe. You're going to love this one - if you're a cowboy. It is spicy enough to make you forget your saddle sores. :)

Chuck Wagon Chili
(This is an old recipe from the days of cattle drives and chuck wagons!)


2-3 pounds beef (I used part of the round roast in the picture), cut into 1/2" pieces
2 slices bacon
1 large onion, finely diced
2-3 Tablespoons Salsa Verde
8 ounces tomato sauce
4 Tablespoons chili powder
2 Tablespoons cumin
4 cloves garlic, finely diced
1/2 teaspoon oregano
2-3 cups water
1 cup beef broth (optional)
pinch of cayenne (use your own judgement on how large YOUR pinch should be!)
pinch of thyme
salt and pepper to taste

(flour and additional water will be added in the last step.)

Yes, you read that list right - there are no beans in this chili. In cowboy country, the beans are often cooked separately. This chili can be served over beans, refried beans, rice, or cornbread. But be sure to serve it with something to cut the heat!

In a Dutch oven or large kettle, cook two slices of bacon until done. Remove the bacon and reserve until later.

In the hot bacon grease, cook the beef cubes until brown on all sides.

About half-way done.
Add the onions and garlic, and continue cooking until the onions are soft.

Now add the remaining ingredients. Simmer for at least an hour, stirring occasionally, adding a little water if necessary.

*A note from the original recipe: "Do not cover unless you're cooking outdoors." Um-hum. I can imagine what those chuck wagon cooks are trying to keep out of the chili.

When it is well cooked, the sauce will look very dark brown - almost black - and the meat will be tender.

20 minutes before serving, thicken the chili with 2 Tablespoons flour mixed in 1/2 cup water. Let simmer for an additional 15-20 minutes.

I served our chili over corn bread, with a piece of bacon for a garnish. For my cornbread recipe, go here: Another Salvo in the Great Cornbread Wars

VERY spicy, but so delicious!

And you can tone down the spiciness by adding less of any of the heat-producing ingredients.

One more shot of the stock show -

The North American Sheep Dog Trials are held on Thursday, along with a sheep shearing contest. I went last year (it was research - really!), and I'm seriously considering going again this year. I love watching the dogs work.

And they remind me of Thatcher's predecessor, my Border Collie, Connor. He was an old man when he died four years ago, and I still miss him. Some dogs just settle themselves into your heart a little deeper than others, don't they?

So here's our question of the day - If you were going to the Stock Show, which part would you want to see first?


  1. I want to come to this stock show. One of these years! I would love that so much!!!!!

  2. Chili with bacon. What could possibly be wrong with this recipe?

    The Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo is in progress right now, too. Actually, we had talked about doing today because it's military day, but somewhere along the way we either forgot or decided against it. Oh, well. We've still got time. I mean, what's not to love there, right Jan? You're basically surrounded by cowboys. ;)

    1. Sigh. Cowboys.

      What is it that draws us to westerns and cowboys?

      I hope you get to go to the stock show! There's nothing there not to love!

  3. Oh - I'd camp out at the sheep dog trials. I love watching the dogs work and I just plain love dogs and miss having a dog and so I'd be there drooling over the dogs. LOL

    And Connor is a handsome lad and has a very sympathetic face. I can see why he holds a special place in your heart.

    1. That's what I did last year, Kav. I camped out all afternoon during the preliminaries at the trials. The second best part (after watching the dogs work) was listening to the running commentary between the two sheep ranchers sitting behind me. I learned more from their conversation than I could have from reading six books!

      And yes, Connor was one of those once-in-a-lifetime dogs. I'm sure he could read my mind.

  4. Jan, Connor looks like a long haired version of my dog Duke! So sweet. I still miss our chocolate lab who died several years ago.

    If I make this chili, I will definitely be leaving out some of the hotness! LOL Sounds yummy, though.

    1. You will probably want to leave out a couple tablespoons of chili powder, and maybe all of the cayenne.

      Another way to reduce the heat would be to use a small can of diced green chilies instead of the salsa verde. That way you'd get the flavor with much less spiciness!