Recipe: Chili by David Theiss

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Nevada Day is upon us and a big pot of chili always comes to mind. It’s a great dish that feeds a lot of people with little work and great for a party or just a hot meal on a cold winter’s night.

Chili and Nevada Day have been going hand in hand for quite a few years. In 1982, then attorney general, Richard Bryan started a tradition of serving free chili in cooperation with the Carson Nugget. This tradition has been carried on since then by several people. After 19 years, Governor Bryan then passed the tradition to Lt. Governor Brian Krolicki until last year. Senator Dean Heller then began hosting this event, hopefully for years to come. A popular event that serves thousands and is always a good meal.

Nevada Day celebration seems to be only a Carson City event, although the entire state honors the day. Most other communities in Nevada don’t celebrate it. In Carson City, though, what a great day! I have attended, participated in and watched this parade/party for the last 40 some years. Sometimes, it’s cold and even snowing, but most of the time what great weather and a beautiful day. It’s a great time to get together with your friends and enjoy the day.

While researching Nevada Day, I didn’t find a huge celebration one would expect on an admissions day 150 years ago when Nevada became a state. The United States was still in the midst of the Civil War (the Civil War ended May 9, 1865), so this could have had something to do with it. The first observance of admission day was noted in a diary from journalist Alfred Doten in 1873 with some “grand celebration.” Several more were noted sporadically for years In the future but it wasn’t officially recognized until 1891. Celebrations were held in Reno and Virginia City with few other towns recognizing the holiday. In 1933 the state legislature passed a bill introduced by Senator Ira Winter of Carson City, designating Oct. 31 as Nevada Day, a “discretionary state holiday.” The new law authorized the display of the United States flag and conduct “suitable exercises of a public nature.” In 1938 the Nevada Day parade and festivities were brought to Carson City as a permanent fixture, and in 1939 a bill passed, sponsored by Assemblyman Peter Amodei of Ormsby County, officially designating Nevada Day a state holiday. Since then Carson City has enjoyed this celebration.

I have, for years, prepared a pot of chili on this holiday, as I enjoy making it. In the early 1990s my friend Greg and I partnered up and cooked competition chili in the ICS circuit, International Chili Society. This is a world championship cooking competition that requires a chili license to participate. ICS chili only cooks “Texas chili.” Texas or competition chili is defined as a meaty stew, meat, peppers, onions, various spices, and often tomatoes, but no beans! Competition uses no beans. Just last week Reno hosted ICS world championship cook off. We’re talking a serious chili cooking competition. World championship winner pays $25,000. The best we placed was fifth, but we certainly had a lot of fun doing it.

Chili could be the most popular one-pot dish in American history. Chili was used in the old West for ease of preparation on the trail. They used dried beef, dried chili peppers, and salt. They pounded those together and formed bricks, left to dry, and then could be boiled and reconstituted on the trail for a hearty dinner in one pot. During the late 19th century “chili parlors” were popular. Usually housed in sheds or out buildings, they made large batches of chili and were sold cheaply ensuring even the poor had a hearty meal. Texans love this dish so much they made it their state food.

Chili origins are highly debated, but what we know is chili peppers have been used in Spain, China, India Indonesia, Italy, Caribbean and France, to name a few. All have combined chili and meat to form some kind of chili dish. Peppers were introduced into the southern regions of the United Sates as early as the 1500s. In the 1700s early Texans cooked spicy meat and chili dishes from newly transplanted canary islanders. Chili also varies in spiciness according to region. Some like it mild, and some like it hot, Greg! Chili is an all-around easy and nutritious meal loved by all.

My recipe today (not my competition recipe) uses beans. A sin in Texas, but accepted around the world as delicious. Chili always provides a delicious smell, simmering away on your stove, cooking for hours, it just gets better with time.



2 pounds ground beef, chili grind is best (I sell this chili grind ready to go or regular hamburger can be used)

One large yellow onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon ground oregano

6 tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons cumin

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 29-ounce can diced tomatoes

1 29-ounce can kidney beans

1 29-ounce can pinto beans

1 15-ounce can tomato sauce

1 can RO-TEL

1 4-ounce can green chiles

1 cup dark beer


In a skillet, brown ground beef. Season with 1 tablespoon of chili powder. Saving the grease, remove the beef from skillet. Place the onions and garlic in skillet with the excess grease and cook until translucent, approximately five minutes. In soup pot on high, incorporate onion garlic mixture and beef along with all other ingredients (do not drain beans).

Bring to boil and reduce heat to low and let simmer for several hours.

Chili is ready to eat in as short as one hour. The longer it simmers, though, the better it tastes. I like at least 2-3 hours simmering. Any leftovers make great chili dogs or chili cheese omelets.

This chili would be considered just warm in spice heat. Garnish chili with a good cheddar cheese, fresh cut onions, and/or sour cream.

Happy Nevada Day!

David Theiss is owner of Butler Gourmet Meats in Carson City.


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