Texas-Style Vegetable Soup
Growing up in Texas, there were a few things everyone knows almost from birth; first, Texas is the best state in the Union. Hell, I know folks who still call it the Republic of Texas and refuse to associate her with the rest of those Yankee states. Secondly, the only time it is okay to assume something is when you are assuming a Texan is carrying at least one firearm. Heck, it’s okay to assume a person's dog is either carrying an extra weapon, is a trained weapon, or is carrying the extra ammo, in case there is a need to fight off a band of invading foreigners again. Lastly, but not least important, CHILI DOES NOT HAVE BEANS!!!
Before any of you go off saying, "Well, I like beans in my chili." That’s fine, but don’t call it chili; it’s now spicy vegetable soup. I know the next statement too. "Well, who made Texans the authority on chili?" Well, considering that chili was invented in San Antonio, Texas, I would say that ends that argument. Early in Texas history, a group of women referred to as the “Chili Queens” had set up an outdoor, brick oven, cabana-style restaurant. They specialized in chili-con-carne, literally translating into chili with meat, and served it to cowboys, soldiers, or anyone stopping by for a bowl. Hence, chili was born. In fact, as soon as you add anything to the chili, it picks up a new name. Need proof; add macaroni to chili, it is now goulash, add Fritos, and it becomes Frito pie, add beans, and it becomes spicy vegetable soup. Heck, I myself like beans; that’s why as a good Texan, I don’t refer to it as chili, but Texas-style Spicy Vegetable Soup.
Last night, Friday the thirteenth, I decided to make some Texas Style Spicy Vegetable Soup. My lady had made the suggestion the night before. We did have some venison (deer) chili meat and some wild hog pork sausage that needed cooking, plus all the other ingredients required to complete the task. I will share how I make it, plus some tips I picked up in my years of experience behind a stove or playing Sioux chef for my mother or siblings. No, you don’t have to use deer chili meat or pork sausage; hamburger meat will do just fine.
Things you will need:
- Large soup pot with a lid and wooden spoon or something to stir with
- 1-2 pounds of your choice of ground meat. (Depends on how meaty you like)
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil or bacon grease
- 1-2 yellow onions (again, if you want more, put more)
- 4 garlic cloves
- 3 tablespoons Chili powder
- 3 tablespoons Cumin
- 3 tablespoons Sugar
- 2 tablespoons Salt
- 3 tablespoons Pepper
- 4 tablespoons Tomato paste
- 1 can of diced tomatoes, drained
- 1 8 oz can of tomato sauce
- 1 can of black beans, drained
- 2 cups of beef broth
- Cayenne pepper (optional I leave this out and just add some to my bowl)
- 1-3 six-packs of preferred beer or other adult beverage
This is just a good jumping-off point for first-timers not sure of their taste preferences. Things you might add are chopped bell peppers or chopped jalapeños. If you do, toss them in at the same time as the onions. Also, feel free to play with the amount of spices used; again, this is just the basics.
Alright, first crack open a beer and take a sip. Then make sure you have all the ingredients; the last thing you want is to get knee-deep into cooking and realize you’re missing something and have to make a mad dash to the store or try to substitute with ketchup or beer. Trust me, I am speaking from experience on this one.
With that lined out, take another sip of beer, place the onion in the freezer, then the unpeeled garlic cloves in a mason jar with the lid on, or a jar with a good cover. What’s this sorcery, you ask. Placing the onion in the freezer for about ten to twelve minutes will cause the juices to pull into the membranes of the onion, and so, when you go to chop the onion, it won’t cause your eyes to water or cause a flashback to the gas chamber for my soldier audience.
With the unpeeled garlic in the mason jar, shake the hell out of it. With the lid on, Private! I mean, shake it like you’re trying to break the glass with the cloves. It will peel the cloves for you. I learned this from my oldest sister about two years ago, and it has been a game-changer. I use garlic cloves in just about every recipe, so this trick probably would have added three years to my life that I had otherwise spent standing over a trash can.
With your peeled garlic, mince two of the cloves and slice the other two. Now place the large pot over medium-high heat, and add the olive oil or bacon grease. While it heats, pull the onion out of the freezer and chop it up. I generally save half of what I chop for topping the soup after it’s done. Once the onion is chopped, add it and the garlic to the pot; let them cook for about 3-5 minutes or until lightly browned.
Get another beer while you wait.
Now add in your meat, and with your wooden spoon or substitute stirrer, break the meat up and let cook about 5-7 minutes or until browned, occasionally stirring to mix the onions and garlic throughout. Take another sip.
Once browned, add the chili powder, cumin, sugar, tomato paste, salt, and pepper. Stir well, and guess what, take another sip.
Let it come to a bit of a bubble, and then add the rest of the ingredients, mix well and allow it to go to a good boil. Might as well take another sip and replace the empty can in your hand with a full one.
Once the soup is boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low and let it simmer uncovered for about 20-30 mins. Yes, you can take another sip.
Finally, turn the heat way down low and cover till ready to eat. In my personal opinion, the longer it sits, the better it’s going to taste, but after six beers, who really cares.
There you have it, ladies and gents, Texas-style spicy soup. I like to make cornbread with it, but that is your choice. If you try this and throw something strange in it, let me know. I’ll try anything once.
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