Wyoming's take on chili

Jeff received a packet of chili spices from his friend, Jake, who recently returned from Wyoming. Jeff concocted a “ch-” sounding name for it, that I, in turn, transmitted to a Ph.D. student at work as “chupacabra.” He didn’t get the reference; only asked if the word was Native American in origin. According to Jake, this particular blend is specific to Chugwater, WY. I’m not entirely sure how as the ingredient list seemed pretty standard for chili mixin’s, aside from the brown sugar. I do know, however, that it was an excellent blend; no sweetness, a nice nose-dripping heat, and enough cumin to be savory, yet not funky. Unlike most spice blends, I didn’t feel the need to augment it except for a touch more salt. The recipe also called for 15 oz. of water, preferably from the locale. Perhaps that’s the secret ingredient. After all, there are sake and soba recipes that hinge entirely on water, rice and flour from one particular prefecture. Needless to say, I’m quite curious although it’s unlikely we’ll be trekking out for field research.

Our version retained the spirit of the packet’s recommendations, within geographic reason, starting with a whopping two pounds of ground beef. Instead of 15 oz. of tomato sauce (Tomato sauce? WTF, Jake. Is something getting lost in translation across the Mississippi?), we used 28 oz. of diced tomatoes and cut back on the suggested equal ratio of (non-Chugwater) water. We also used one can each of black and pinto beans instead of two pinto. Finally, we threw everything in the pot together after draining the meat instead of adding the beans last. If you rinse them, they aren’t that starchy.

Down the street and in other states, Saturday was Chili Day as well. Ohio chili featured the same pinto/black bean mix. I don’t know what Kevin and Jake did with their Chugwater blend, but I would be curious to know. As Jeff and I chopped and opened cans, we stopped for a minute and asked, “What else goes in chili?” For some reason, the onion/meat/beans/spices concoction seemed far too minimal. We carried on while entertaining possibilities, none of which were suitable.

Serve with Black Diamond five-year cheddar and chopped red onions. Cue “True Grit.”

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