Monday, July 04, 2022

Wick Fowler's Famous Texas Style 2 Alarm Chili Kit


For two decades I've made Wick Fowler's Famous 2 Alarm Chili. I'm not sticking to that spelling: chili. By all rights it should be: chile. Due to differences in whether chile is or is not made with beans, I will not be going into details of my finished product. Or why I spell as I do.

I'm here to talk about those ingredients. As I said for 2 decades . . . and then the maker, Reilly Foods removed the salt from the package. And idiot that I was (or am), made a batch of chile and forgot the salt. I know that everyone has rising costs. As I type this in July of 2022, gasoline is over $6 a gallon, up from less a gallon only a short time ago. So I forgive Reilly Foods for removing the salt packet. But I'm unhappy that they did this and I would have paid more for the original recipe box. (I'm also the guy who wants to hear the sounds of the baseball game, but not the sportscasters.)

Some while ago, I got out my small electronic scale that can resolve to .1 grams. I weighed each of the Fowler spices packets in their bags, as the weight of those bags isn't much. And I did weigh the empty packets and it is an insignificant amount by comparison with the ingredient inside it.

I went to my nearest Hispanic market. They carry a large wall of spices. There I purchased, all Chulada brand of spices.

Ingredient List

96 grams Chile Pasilla Molido -- This is finely powdered chile pasilla (dark brown)
9 grams onion powder
9 grams garlic powder
6 grams cumin powder
7 grams oregano (I have flakes or dried leaves)
10 grams salt
7 grams paprika
6 grams Chile Arbol (labeled Red Pepper on the packet)

The above list is a your-mileage-may-vary scenario. Please don't leave snarky comments about how this doesn't taste like 2 Alarm. I would agree it does not. But it gets pretty close and the above list is what I used. As the recipe requires 96 grams of pasilla, you will have leftover spice mixture. My first attempt at this is in July of 2022, so it's a work in progress

Before I go any further, you will not be saving money making your own "kit". Fowler's is about $3.50 per box and I bought all fresh spices and that came to pennies under $7. But if you have read this far, perhaps you are foodie enough to try it yourself.

I did not weigh the packet of masa corn meal. I don't generally use it. I apologize. By law, ingredients listed on packages of food sold in the USA, must be by weight. From the 2 Alarm box:

Chile pepper
Corn Masa Flour (my guess is 2 ozs.)
Salt
Onion
Cumin,
Paprika
Red Pepper
Oregano
Garlic

If you read my list of ingredients and compare with the list above, it is inconsistent. I can only suggest you play around with the quantities. Who doesn't love making chile anyway?

The cumin and oregano are both in one packet in Fowler's. I guesstimate that it is equal parts of each. I can say that I like the flavor of this mixture I made. It's spicy enough to my taste. However, I used no Red Pepper (I believe this is Cayenne pepper or chile, as it is the most abundant commercially and therefore the least expensive to use.)

I weighed all the ingredients into a 2 cup jar; tightened the lid and gave it all a good shake. It stood on the kitchen counter for a few hours before being used. The aromas melded nicely together.

My one serious problem with Fowler's is that their packaging line has started to make improperly sealed packets. I see some onion flakes on the cardboard box I've retained. One box the onion/garlic packet was almost empty and the contents in the cardboard box itself. 

Lastly, next batch I'm going to use a mild New Mexico red powder or a California powder. It's got to have some chile taste, so I won't use paprika.

I made the standard Fowler's recipe. 2 lbs. of ground beef, 8 oz can of tomato sauce, 2 cups of water. The beef was browned and drained of excess fat. I added the tomato sauce and water and then the spices. Covered the skillet simmered for 30 minutes. The batch threw a good amount of liquid, which colored beautifully.

It's important to understand that the ingredients that Reilly Foods buys to make the 2 Alarm Chili is based on science and I cannot buy, at a market, the same ingredients with the same specific gravity or weigh by volume. My recipe is an approximation. Their onion flakes or garlic powder have food properties I cannot replicate (as much as I wish I could). The onion powder I have is not going to be the literally same thing as Fowler's. But I believe I have a good start and am narrowing the focus until that day of heavenly chile perfection arriving.

If you ever read: A Bowl of Red by Francis X. Tolbert, you will learn that in Texas, the spices are toasted to bring out their individual flavors. Whether Reilly Foods does that I cannot determine. I tried toasting cumin seeds for a batch of chile one time. I think I cooked the flavor out. And oregano leaves are almost impossible to toast without burning them.

Serious comments appreciated.