Yesterday was our fourth annual Chili Cook-Off here at PopCap, so we all gathered around to sample the offerings (I know that is the right word because I watch Iron Chef). Seven PopCappers brought their crockpots and their A-game to battle it out for spicy supremacy (okay, I possibly have watched a bit too much Iron Chef).
As a recent vegetarian, I couldn’t take part in the tastings, so I watched, listened, and only slightly envied those indulging in the meaty feast. Two chilis emerged as the clear front-runners, and it became a debate between judges which to vote for as they tasted them over and over.
Ed Miller, whose own chili was referred to as “the spicy one,” tells me about Chris Sampson’s winning recipe, “As soon as I tasted it, all that went through my mind was the line from Devil Went Down To Georgia that summed up my immediate reaction: ‘The devil bowed his head because he knew that he’d been beat…’.”
I did beg Chris for his winning recipe so that I could share it with you, faithful BlogRiders, but you know chefs and their secrets! He was willing to at least share some of his philosophy and offer valuable tips:
1. Taste your chili as you’re making it. That way you can adjust it before you serve it and have it be exactly what you want it to be. I can’t stress this point enough. My chili takes 2-3 days to make with hours simmering on the stove each day. If it doesn’t taste how I want it to, I adjust it by adding a little more of this or that until it does.
2. Chili should be simple, but that doesn’t mean it can’t have complex flavor. When you find a recipe you like, play with it. Try new things, like combining different cuts or types of meat, or different chili powders. Different “grind” sizes for ground meat. Make your chili your own.
3. Chili is almost always thought of as “hearty,” and in my opinion, should be.
4. If you’re making chili for a competition, don’t be afraid to make exactly what you want to make. Bear in mind though, it’s not a bad idea to tailor it to appeal to judges as well. Not every judge will like chili that sets their mouth on fire, as an example. (What I made for the cook-off today wasn’t as hot as I generally make for myself at home. I tend to make it hot enough that my forehead perspires a bit and delivers a bit of pepper euphoria.)
Chris won a snazzy trophy for his desk and more importantly, the bragging rights as the newly crowned champion of chili. Everyone else got a full belly and tingling tongue. Happy PopCappers all around.