Home Cooking: Let’s have a chili cook-off (column) | SummitDaily.com

Home Cooking: Let’s have a chili cook-off (column)

Suzanne Anderson
Home Cooking

I have two chili cook-off stories. Both are very instructional in not only making chili, but becoming a confident cook.

The first is a cautionary tale and occurred years ago and far away. When I lived in Kiev, Ukraine, in the mid-1990s, the U.S. Embassy held an annual chili cook-off.

Being one who loves to cook and more than a little competitive, I decided to enter. The night before the competition, I stayed up very late creating a chili con carne I was certain would win. And it might have, if I hadn't been drinking copious amounts of red wine and erroneously decided that what was good for the cook was good for the chili. One minute I had a winning chili, the next minute I had a miserable cross between chili con carne and beef bourguignon. I did not win. Nor did I place.

My second tale has a happier outcome and is where I discovered my Zen of Chili. In September 2011, I entered another chili cook-off, this time in my new hometown of Evergreen, Colorado. This is an annual event hosted by Evergreen's fire department and brings out professional and amateur competitors.

The caveat is that you are required to make the chili on the morning of the competition, in the parking lot where the event takes place. Big pots, hot plates and hundreds of your neighbors visiting each table, to sample the chili and vote for their favorite.

My brother John and sister-in-law Heidi were visiting that weekend and they rushed off to the grocery store when it became apparent that my one regular pot of chili was not going to feed the eager hordes. This also meant that I had to create chili built on tasting as I went along. The outcome? I won third place!

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This week's recipes incorporate the lessons of both stories: There is no wine involved and I tasted as I went. I couldn't decide which chili recipe I wanted to share, so I've provided you with three. You can make them ahead, the day before is perfect, like most stews they taste better the next day. Chili also freezes well.

These recipes make large quantities, perfect for football watching parties or an easy après ski dinner you can make ahead for your out-of-town guests to enjoy after a day on the slopes. For this single gal, these three enormous pots of chili will be frozen until Tuesday, Oct. 24, then they'll be thawed, heated and served at St. John's Episcopal Church's weekly Tuesday night community dinner. I'll be starting my third season with a great team who prepare and serve dinner one week each month from October through April. Come on down and have a bowl!

Texas Chili Con Carne (Beef Chili)

Ingredients:

2.5 lbs beef chuck roast, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 lb ground elk (or ground bison or beef)

2 yellow sweet onions diced

4 cloves garlic, chopped

2 red bell peppers, diced

48 oz diced tomatoes (fire roasted or Ro-Tel with green chilies)

6 cups beef stock

1 bottle of beer (I used Shock Top with orange and coriander flavors)

¼ cup cornmeal

1 tablespoon chipotle chili powder (or use regular chili powder if you want to turn down the heat)

1-2 teaspoon cumin (adjust to your taste)

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon coriander

2 teaspoons cocoa powder

2 tablespoons tomato paste

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Brown the meat in a large Dutch oven, remove meat to a plate. Add onions, peppers and garlic, and cook until the onion is soft.

2. Add the meat back into the Dutch oven, then add the remaining ingredients. Add seasonings, taste, and adjust to your palate.

3. Allow the chili to cook for 40 minutes to one hour.

4. If you want to stretch the chili further, add three cans of beans of your choice, black, kidney, pinto or all three.

Colorado Chili Verde (Pork chili)

Ingredients:

3.5 lbs of pork shoulder chopped into bite-sized pieces

2 red onions, diced

4 cloves of garlic

1 bottle of beer

2 – 28 oz cans of whole tomatillos, drained and pureed in a food processor

2 – 13 oz containers of roasted chopped green chilies, in the frozen food aisle

1 tablespoon chipotle chili powder (or use regular chili powder if you want to turn down the heat)

1-2 teaspoons cumin (adjust to your taste)

2 teaspoons Mexican oregano

1 teaspoon coriander

6 cups of chicken stock

1 bunch cilantro leaves, chopped

3 tablespoons cornmeal

A squeeze of lime juice

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Brown the meat in a large Dutch oven, remove meat to a plate. Add onions, peppers and garlic, and cook until the onion is soft.

2. Add the meat back into the Dutch oven, then add the remaining ingredients. Add seasonings, taste and adjust to your palate.

3. Allow the chili to cook for 40 minutes to one hour.

4. If you want to stretch the chili further, add beans. Garbanzo and Great Northern beans work well with this chili.

Vegetarian Chili with Butternut Squash and Black Beans

Ingredients:

2 medium butternut squash (peel with a vegetable peeler and cut into bite-sized pieces)

4 carrots – chopped

2 bell peppers – chopped

2 red onions – chopped

3 – 14 oz cans of black beans

6 cups of water or vegetable stock (or chicken stock if you wish)

1 tablespoon chipotle chili powder (or use regular chili powder if you want to turn down the heat)

2 teaspoons Mexican oregano

1-2 teaspoons cumin depending on your palate

1 teaspoon coriander

2 tablespoon tomato paste

3 tablespoons cornmeal

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Sauté butternut squash, carrots, onions, peppers and garlic, and cook until the onion is soft.

2. Then add the remaining ingredients. Add the seasonings, taste, adjust to your palate.

3. Allow the chili to cook for 40 minutes to one hour, until the butternut squash and carrots are tender.

Top any of these chilies with chopped avocado, shredded cheese, tortilla strips, chopped onions, cilantro or sour cream. Enjoy!