Last weekend, I attended my mother-in-law's 3rd Annual Chili Bowl Competition. I recall years ago when she just came up with the idea, an idea to bring people and family together for an event other than football. Usually the week after the Superbowl, she has hosted an afternoon devoted to chili. The first year of the chili bowl, I proudly took home a blue ribbon for the number one chili voted upon by a panel of judges. The following year, my chili verde didn't quite make the cut with so many good traditional chili recipes ahead of mine. For the 3rd Chili Bowl, I moved up in the ranks as a judge for this event along with a much more qualified food editor, a cook, and a fellow foodie like myself.
As the guests arrived, my mother-in-law set up the competitors in the kitchen with crockpots. Each entry is numbered as to remain anonymous to the panel of judges. My co-judges and I took this time to enjoy some Mexican brews and work up our appetites to taste 10 different kinds of chili. When it was time to begin the judging, I couldn't believe how many different interpretations of chili these competitors managed to invent. Some were hits others clearly misses, but a sense of effort and creativity remained consistent. Sometimes with chili, less is more. This year our winner certainly took the traditional route with their meaty chili. Ground beef, beef tips, seasoning and jalapenos harmoniously came together in delivering a depth of flavor and simplicity. Instead of chopping up the hot peppers into the chili, this competitor placed the whole peppers into the chili allowing for the flavors to be extracted without an overbearing heat. This chili was all about the meat and the flavor.
The second place chili was our most unique entry of the bowl being a white chicken chili. Although not traditional, this chili stood out with its creamy white texture, tender shredded chicken, white beans and corn. The flavors of chili emerged even though the look was quite different. If I didn't know that it was supposed to be a chili, then I would likely consider it more of a creamy chicken soup. The third place chili was in the traditional style, heavy on savory seasonings. Ground beef, black beans, tomato, beer, and spices brought this home-style chili into the top three.
Some of the chili was just too sweet. I don't mind a little brown sugar sweetness to balance out the spiciness of chili but the sweetness cannot stand alone. Being an adventurous chili maker is commendable but can go wrong if not handled with the utmost care. When being so bold as to submit a seafood chili, your seafood better be on point with no sign of shells or anything to turn off your taster. This play on chili is not recommended unless you are skilled in working with fish and seafood. Using different kinds of meat in your chili can also be tricky unless you have the ability to tie in the right kind of seasonings to enhance the flavor of the meat while keeping the integrity of the chili.
Judging the Chili Bowl has inspired me to try some different methods of making chili. I think I might try the white chicken chili in the near future. Congratulations to the winners of the 3rd Annual Chili Bowl-you know who you are! I plan to post their winning chili recipes in the near future but in the meantime here is my winning recipe from the first ever Chili Bowl and another favorite chili recipe of mine.
Lizzy M.'s 2008 Grand Prize Winning Chili
1/2 lb bacon, diced (Feel free to diced the bacon before it is cooked or after-whichever is easiest.)
1/2 lb mild Italian sausage
1 lb. ground pork
1 lb. ground beef (chuck or sirloin)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2-16 oz. cans crushed tomato
1 can tomato paste
1 bottle dark beer (Guinness or other dark beer)
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1-2 tbsp Adobo sauce (Start with one tbsp and add the other if you like more of a kick.)
2 chipotle pepper in Adobo sauce diced
2 yellow onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, grated or minced
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
3 tbsp cumin
2 tbsp Ancho chili powder
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp cinnamon
*Combine these dry seasonings together to make your spice mixture. Divide into 3 portions. This will make it easy to add the spice "dumps" when it is time.
1. Saute the bacon in a large skillet on medium heat until the fat cooks out. Remove bacon onto paper towels and set aside. Keep a portion of bacon grease in the pan.
2. Remove Italian sausage from the skin and crumble into the skillet. Brown the sausage in the bacon grease and break up with a wooden spoon. This does not have to be fully cooked, since it will continue to cook in the chili pot.
3. In a large chili pot, brown the ground pork and ground beef on medium heat. Salt and pepper the meat while sauteing. Add 1/3 or the first "dump" of seasoning at this time. Saute until the spices are combined with the meat. At this time add the crushed tomatoes, beer, Adobo sauce and the chipotle peppers. Keep on medium heat covered.
4. Add cooked bacon and sausage to chili pot. In skillet saute onions in bacon and sausage drippings on medium heat for about 5 minutes. Then add tomato paste to the skillet and saute until the paste is combined well with the onions. With a grater, grate in the garlic cloves. Stir well and saute for another 3 minutes. Finally add the vinegar. With a wooden spoon scrape up the bits and drippings on the pan and then cook for another 3 minutes.
5. Add the onion mixture into the chili pot. Add another 1/3 or the second "dump" of the spice mixture. Cook the chili on low heat covered for 2-3 hours stirring occasionally.
6. Remove from the heat after cooking for about 3 hours. Let the chili come to room temperature. Store chili in the fridge overnight or at least 14 hours.
7. Set the chili out to bring back to room temperature before putting over heat. Once it is at room temperature or close to it, then place on low to medium heat. At this time add the final 1/3 or third "dump" of the spice mixture and cook for at least 2 hours before serving.
* This chili recipe is made to feed an army or a large family, so keep this in mind before you prepare. You may want to cut back on the amount for less people.
Lizzy M.s' Turkey Chili
1 lb ground turkey
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 1/2 tbsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
1 tbsp Tabasco
Freshly ground black pepper
2 beef bouillon cubes
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, grated or minced
1-28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tbsp liquid smoke
1. In a large chili pot, brown the ground turkey and break up with a wooden spoon. Add the seasonings (chili powder, cumin, oregano, Tabasco, black pepper, and beef bouillon cubes) soon after you start sauteing the turkey. Mix well and continue to saute until the turkey is almost cooked.
2. Next add in all remaining ingredients of onions, garlic, crushed tomatoes, vinegar, and liquid smoke. Stir well. Cook the chili covered on medium to low heat for one hour. Stir occasionally.
*This chili recipe is made for 2-4 people.
Serve with shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream and tortilla chips. With winter lingering on, there is no better time than now to get your chili on. Try one of these recipes or get creative with a new chili concept all your own. Recipes from the 3rd Annual Chili Bowl to come.