Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Eats Sheet: Championship Chili

This week I gloat. I decided to accept a job offer at an employment law firm representing employees. I'll start part time sometime after the new year, and then full time next summer. I was also offered a spot on the Law School's four-member Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition team. This means that I get to go to a regional competition (maybe in Chicago) and hopefully a national competition (in D.C.). It also means that I have to go through intense research crap for the next three weeks to write (with my partner) a 60-page brief which is due before next semester. So much for Christmas vacation. Sigh.

But most importantly, I gloat because I am now the reigning champion of the Cedar Lake Ward Halloween Party Chili Cook-off. My chili was a modified combination of Cabeza's chili recipe and the Dinosaur BBQ recipe, with some of my own variations. It took two days (really a day and a half) to build, and it blew away the competition. There were three categories: best presentation, spiciest, and best overall chili. I won the third.

Not only am I a great culinary, I am also magnanimous. So I blush not to share my winning blueprint with the world. It follows:

1. I started with 3 pounds of steak cut into bite-sized pieces. I sprinkled these generously with cajun seasoning, black pepper, and some garlic powder and salt. I let them sit to soak in the flavor.

2. I browned the meat in oil in a cast-iron skillet and transferred it to a big soup pot.

3. I put one-and-a-half chopped onions and one-and-a-half chopped green bell peppers into the grease left in the skillet, ground on some black pepper, and sprinkled them with salt. When they were cooked, I added them to the pot.

4. I added to the pot these ingredients:

  • one-and-one-third cup of beef stock
  • one-and-one-third cup of chicken stock
  • one-third cup V8
  • one small can tomato paste
  • three cans of stewed tomatoes, drained
  • two cans red beans and one can pinto beans, drained and rinsed well (sorry, Cabeza)
  • four tablespoons chili powder
  • one tablespoon cajun seasoning
  • one tablespoon paprika
  • two teaspoons powdered chipotle
  • two teaspoons cumin
  • two teaspoons oregano
  • one stick of cinnamon
  • 3 bay leaves
  • one-third cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (or, I bet a few squares of dark chocolate would be good)
  • 2 teaspoons crushed rosemary
4. Then I covered the pot, put it in the fridge, and went to bed.

5. The next day, I put the pot on the stove and turned the burner on to medium. As soon as the chili started to bubble, I turned the heat down to low and let it simmer.

6. After about 20-30 minutes of simmering, I fished out the cinnamon and let it continue to simmer for another three hours.

7. Just before it was time to serve, I put a heavy grid-iron on the stove, set the burner on high, and got it smoking hot. I put a few jalapenos on it, and grilled them until they had the nice black grill lines and blistered skin. Then I seeded them, chopped them up, and put them in a serving bowl as a garnish.

The bishopric, the primary president, the relief society president, and the Elders' Quorum president judged the chili. I knew it was a lock when I saw the bishopric go straight to my pot after the judging was done and the chili was open for pot-luck.

The winner for presentation was a regular chili in a regular crock pot, but with three brightly colored peppers floating on top. The spiciest winner was fairly mild, I thought. It was a ground turkey based chili. In my opinion, the salient strengths of my chili are 1) meat quality, and 2) the earthy mole-esque flavor of chocolate and cinnamon. The cinnamon and chocolate can be overdone, though. You don't want it to taste like Big Red or like chocolate. It's a deep, subtle undertone that you're going for.

I also have an idea about how I can win presentation next year, but I'm not putting that one on the web.


Cabeza said...

I have just a few comments:

1) I'll allow your bean-blasphemy. The more I read up on chili, the more I realize that the bean versus no-bean debate runs deep, and both sides have valid points when citing the history of chili. Plus some people just prefer beans. I prefer to leave them out when I cook my own for a few reasons: a) Beanless chili is thought of as different, especially back east here, so it makes it stand out b) A lot of people I know who say they don't like chili end up loving the beanless variety--apparently they just didn't like the beans c) The combination of vegetables and spices already lends itself enough to flatulence without adding fiber-rich beans.

2) I like the idea of setting the whole thing in the refrigerator overnight before cooking. Chili is always better the next day because of how the flavors mix and intensify, but if it's already cooked it can take on a definite reheated feel. Letting the raw ingredients mix helps solve that problem. Bravo, JKC.

3)I concur with the idea of using dark chocolate rather than using semi-sweet chocolate chips. It has a bold flavor that creates a wonderful undertone in the chili, and it doesn't come off as being too chocolatey, especially since most Americans associate chocolate with being sweet and more milky.

4) I really like how you incorporated the jalapeƱos that my recipe calls for. Not only did you give them a smokey flavor, you allowed your consumers to turn up or down the picoso factor. You made interactive chili!

I'm excited to make this myself. I probably won't incorporate all of your variations, but I'll definitely try the cinnamon thing. It sounds delicious. Maybe I'll host a chili dinner after Shark and I get our place more settled and moved-in.

The Shark said...

JKC, you're a freakin' genius. That's all I can say about all of these crazy accomplishments of yours.