It’s nearly that time of the year again, May 5, time to celebrate Cinco de Mayo with Mexican cuisine and perhaps a few Margaritas.
And just to be honest with you, my wife, Lisa, and I have been working on a chili recipe for more than three months to celebrate the day.
Cinco de Mayo celebrates the Mexican army’s victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. It is not really celebrated in Mexico. It dates back to 1863 when California gold miners heard about the victory and decided to make the day a holiday. Actually, the holiday didn’t even become popular until 1940 during the rise of the Chicano movement.
Now back to our quest for authentic Mexican chili. It started back in January when we were having lunch at Manny’s on the Boulevard. I’m a sucker for national holidays, and that morning when I woke up I looked at the calendar and noticed it was National Chili Day. Over morning coffee I looked at my wife and said, “Let’s go to Manny’s for lunch and celebrate the foodie holiday.”
And so our adventure began. After enjoying some of the best pork chili in Kansas City and great conversation with David Lopez, the son of the legendary Manny Lopez, Lisa and I drove down Southwest Boulevard and found a small Mexican grocery, La Posada.
We walked inside and were greeted by the most adorable lady. I asked her what her name was, and she replied Maria. We told her we wanted to make chili like the cooks make on Southwest Boulevard.
Immediately, Maria took Lisa by the hand and brought her over to the spice rack. She picked out a few herbs and spices, and then took her down the aisle of the grocery store.
Maria introduced us to her husband, Gilbert, and within minutes he was setting up a little table in the back and giving us a plate with a couple of tamales and some Chicharron (fried pork skins). I didn’t have the heart to tell him that we had already eaten lunch. Believe me, we did not turn anything down.
Maria sat down with us and took out a pencil and a piece of paper and began writing down a recipe for Lisa. She then proceeded to the back of the store and showed me the pot that I should make the chili in. Of course, I had to purchase it. How could I turn it down?
Maria went over the recipe three more times with Lisa, helped her find more groceries and then gave us both a big hug. Wow, we felt like family. We made new friends, enjoyed great conversation, picked up a wonderful recipe and snacked on some delicious dishes. Does it get any better?
It was a cold winter day, and as we traveled down the boulevard I decided to stop at the local butcher and pick up a Boston butt so I could cut it up and perhaps experiment with a little chili when I arrived home.
We finally settled in our kitchen, and over 28 years of marriage Lisa and I have never measured ingredients so precisely, stopping at one point to actually weigh the herbs and spices and then hand-writing every single detail of the recipe.
As our chili started to come together, our kitchen began to smell like paradise. Seriously, I told Lisa that I thought we were onto something and that this may be the recipe we have been searching for.
After a few hours it was time to enjoy the fruits of our labor. Wow, the chili looked perfect. It was absolutely delicious. I must admit, this was the first time we had chili for lunch and dinner in the same day, but it was well worth it.
And so, my friends, I’m sharing our new treasured recipe with you all and hope you celebrate. Perhaps you want to change it or add your favorite spice. Go ahead, you have my permission.
Feliz Cinco de Mayo!
Lisa’s & J.’s Southwest Boulevard Mexican Chili
2 tablespoons Knorr caldo de tomate chicken bullion
5 cups water
5 pounds Boston pork butt, cubed
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/4 cup oil
1 1/2 cups minced onion
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes
4 ounces green chilies
2 (15.5-ounce) cans Goya pinto beans
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons Spanish paprika
1 tablespoon Greek oregano
1 teaspoon coriander
1 tablespoon Mexican cayenne pepper
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
Mix spices and herbs. Set aside.
Blend Knorr caldo de tomate chicken bullion with water. Set aside.
Dice pork and season with garlic. Cover diced pork with spices and mix thoroughly. Add oil to large stock pot and heat on medium high heat. Add pork and brown meat. Add onions and cook 5-6 more minutes.
Blend whole tomatoes on pulse 1 minute and add to pot along with broth and all remaining ingredients except the beans. Mix and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to a medium high simmer and cook for two to three hours until meat is tender. Add more broth if desired. Add beans the last 15 minutes of cooking, adjust with salt to taste.
Serve with warm tortillas.
Chef Jasper J. Mirabile Jr. of Jasper’s runs his family’s 62-year-old restaurant with his brother. Mirabile is a culinary instructor, founding member of Slow Food Kansas City and a national board member of the American Institute of Wine and Food. He is host to many famous chefs on his weekly radio show “Live! From Jasper’s Kitchen” on KCMO 710 AM and 103.7 FM. He also sells dressings and sauces.