In my former life, some friends of mine had a big chili cookoff at their house every year in which they pitted their friends' culinary skills against one another. So, this year I decided to steal their idea...and see just how talented my foodie friends are.
I invited people to bring their best chili recipe in a crock pot. I set all the pots on the dining room table (connected with extension cords & power strips). Each pot was numbered & given a stack of corresponding numbered tasting cups. After everyone tasted the chilies, they were given 3 beans with which to vote for their favorite dish(es) by putting beans in numbered cups set up along the fireplace mantle.
There was one rule for the night: No white chili. This wasn't a best chicken-and-bean soup cookoff.
My friends came through and produced some really good food. All 13 of the chilies earned votes. There was many different variations, of course. Some used beef; others used pork. I think Ashby tried to sway my vote by adding bacon to his. One featured corn; another featured hominy. A few were very spicy (Simon!). Overall, they were all good!
There was a tie for third-place: Jerad (his was a slightly sweet concoction with caramelized onions & Italian seasonings) and Janice Neuwirth (hers was made with all local ingredients). Andy Sweeney won second place. The first place prize went to Mike Sweeney. Fucking Sweeney! That man wins everything, all the time. No joke. Here's the kicker: He doesn't even like chili! He made a pot, but he didn't taste any of the others and he didn't vote!
|First place winner & lucky recipient of this lovely apron: Mike Sweeney
|Second place winner: Andy Sweeney. Yes, ANOTHER Sweeney.
|Third place winners: Jerad Gardner & Janice Neuwirth
But, I have to admit that I gave one of my votes to Mike's chili as well. I also voted for Jerad (I actually really did like his...I swear it wasn't nepotism) and Nicole & Kyle Harsha, who used a sweet sausage from Salume Beddu which gave their chili a hint of cinnamon & nutmeg.
*BREAKING NEWS* I've just learned that Michael Sweeney of St. Louis cheated and used the recipe for "The Best Chili Ever" from Serious Eats.
Damn that Sweeney! I knew it! Nevertheless, it was a mighty fine chili. It's made with whole dried chiles, short ribs and a seasoning mixture of anchovy, marmite, soy sauce, cumin, coriander, cloves, star anise, ground coffee, unsweetened chocolate, and bourbon. Intense, complex flavor...it really was quite good. Now I wish I'd had another bowl of it.
I tried a new recipe for my entry. Yes, Jerad and I made separate dishes. We are way too competitive like that. I adapted mine from a recipe I saw over at Average Jane.
I thought my dish was really good, although maybe not traditional enough for some people. In fact, one of my guests even commented that while it tasted good, it wasn't what he considered to be "chili."
This version ended up being a little soupier than I usually like my chili. And, I forgot to chop up the pulled pork before adding it. (It was, however, better--less soupier--the next day, as chili often is.) Overall, though, I thought the flavor was good. The pulled pork itself was really moist & tasty; I'll make that again for sure.
Carolina Pulled Pork
2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons peppercorns, crushed
1/2 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 tablespoon mustard powder
6-pound pork shoulder roast
- Mix vinegar, sugar, peppercorns, salt & mustard.
- Place meat fat side up in a crockpot. Pour the sauce over the top. Cook on low for 10 hours. (Alternately, you can bake the roast: Place meat in a large casserole dish. Pour the sauce over & cover with foil. Bake @ 250 for 7 hours or to 190 degrees F.)
- Transfer the meat to another pan, pull apart. Set aside or chill until ready to use.
- Pour the juice from the crockpot or pan into bowl & set aside to cool. Chill until ready to make chili or ready to serve the meat. *
Pulled Pork Chili
2 pounds of Carolina-style pulled pork, chopped
2 whole onions, diced
1 green pepper, chopped
4 cans black beans, drained & rinsed
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes with green chilies
2 15-ounce cans tomato sauce
4 cups reduced-sodium chicken stock **
2 ounces Mexican chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons Kosher salt
- Saute the onion & green pepper in 2 tablespoons of the reserved pork fat (take off the top of the juice reserved from cooking the meat) just until softened.
- Put the pulled pork in a large pot and add all other ingredients. Stir and simmer for at least an hour.