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2024 Chili Cookoff Winning Recipes

2024 Chili Cookoff Winning Recipes

cups of chili

If it's February, it's chili cook off time for the Falcons! Every year since a time long lost in a haze of chile fumes, the Falcons turn from beer to meaty (or sometimes vegan) stews that may or may not meet your definition of "chili"

This year, on a very, very wet and rainy winter day, 10 combatants entered the ring with small cups filled with aspirations. This year's lineup included an array that stretched from White Chicken Chili with Corn Muffins (cheater!), basic bowls of beef, beer and chiles and full blown "everything and then some" with all the fixings and parts. Each club member was given a plate of numbered small cups, a ballot for their favorite chili and a spoon to avoid the undiginified mess of chugging chili from cups.

It's not just a contest for bragging rights! It's for serious stakes. First place gets a year's free membership, plus a 12 pack of something nice like Sierra Nevada Bigfoot and this year, the"Spoon of Destiny". Second place, a 12 pack and Third place a 6 pack. Big prizes and honor on the line!

First place went to our new Burgermeister - Fallon Roberts with her "Basic Bowl Chili". (Seems like it should be against the rules to have the official club chef in the contest!) 3rd place wouldn't matter this year, but because once again I (Drew) split second place with Geoff Robertson - the funny thing, we both did completely different recipes. 

And actually, that's a common theme amongst the three recipes - and really most chili - improv and "trying something new"

Basic Bowl of Chili - Fallon Roberts

With nods to classic French techniques and thickening a chili with corn (in this case, a box of Jiffy Corn Muffin mix instead of masa harina), Fallon's chili comes packed to the gills with all the flavors and topped off with cheese, cilantro, oyster crackers and pickled red onions. 

Chili Ingredients

2 tablespoons canola oil
3 ½ pounds Chuck Beef, fully trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
5 teaspoons kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste
2 ½ teaspoons black pepper, divided, plus more to taste
1 medium-size red onion, finely chopped (about 2 1/4cups)
3 jalapeño chiles, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped (about 1/2cup)
10 garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ cup tomato paste
¼ cup ancho chile powder
2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, finely chopped
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
1 ½ teaspoons ground coriander
1 ½ cups dry red wine
1 (28-oz.) can crushed tomatoes
3 cup lower-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon Brown sugar
1 tablespoon of Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix

Pickled Red Onion Ingrediants

1 small red onion, thinly sliced lengthwise (about 2 1/2cups)
1 cup distilled white vinegar
1 cup water
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt

Additional Ingredients

oyster crackers

Make the chili:

Heat oil in a large enameled Dutch oven over medium-high. Toss together beef, 4 teaspoons salt, and 2 teaspoons black pepper in a large bowl. Working in 3 batches, add beef to hot oil, and cook, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes per batch. Using a slotted spoon, transfer beef to a medium bowl.

Add chopped onion, jalapeños, garlic, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon black pepper to drippings in Dutch oven. Cook over medium, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened and lightly browned, about 8 minutes.

Stir in tomato paste, chile powder, chipotles, oregano, cumin, and coriander; cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is fragrant and vegetables are evenly coated, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add wine; cook, scraping up browned bits from bottom of Dutch oven, until liquid is slightly reduced, about 2 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes and broth; bring mixture to a simmer over medium-high.

Add brown sugar. Stir in beef and any juices in bowl. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until beef is very tender, 2 hours and 30 minutes to 3 hours, uncovering during final 30 minutes of cook time. Take out a cup of chili liquid and blend with Jiffy Mix till there are no clumps and add it back to the dutch over and stir it in. Season with additional salt and black pepper to taste

Make the pickled red onion:

While chili cooks, place sliced red onion in a medium-size heatproof bowl; set aside. Combine vinegar, water, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high, stirring often to dissolve sugar. Pour hot vinegar mixture over onion, pressing onion pieces with a spoon to keep submerged. Let stand at room temperature 10 minutes. Cover and chill at least 1 hour or up to 3 days.

Serve chili topped with cheese, cilantro, oyster crackers, and drained pickled onion (if you choose).


Geoff Riffs on The Food Lab Chili

Geoff Robertson turned, as many home cooks do, to the expertise of J Kenji Lopez-Alt, author of The Food Lab amongst other things. (Drew - Seriously, when I start thinking about trying something new I search to see if Kenji has done a version of the dish. Seriously, his YouTube Channel is wonderful as is his writing for Serious Eats and the NY Times) The techniques that Geoff emphasized with his riff on Kenji's recipe is the creation of a chile paste (Drew's recipe does the same) and a low slow braise with the even heat of the oven. Oh and Kenji's love of umami boosting ingredients like anchovies, soy sauce and marmite. (You never taste them directly, but they crank up the savory factor)

Chili Ingredients

3 lbs chuck roast, trimmed of extra fat and chopped to 1/4-1/2" pieces
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely diced
1 jalapeno, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon oregano
1 cup Chile Paste (see below)
4 cups chicken broth
4 fillets anchovy, smashed
1 teaspoon Marmite
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons cumin seeds, toasted and ground
2 teaspoons coriander seeds, toasted and ground
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
2-3 tablespoons instant cornmeal (e.g. Maseca)
2 bay leaves
2 cans of kidney beans, drained
28 oz canned crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup cider vinegar (homemade in Geoff's case)
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Chile Paste Ingredients

2 dried New Mexico chiles
2 dried California chiles
3 dried Guajillo chiles
1 dried Chipotle
2 cups chicken broth


Make the chili:

Toss the meat pieces with salt and pepper and sear in your dutch oven with smoking hot oil. Remove the pieces from the pot

Reduce heat to medium, add the onion, scrapping the bottom of the pot for the fond (aka brown goodness). Cook until softened but not brown 6-8 minutes. Add fresh chiles, garlic and oregano and cook, stirring, until fragrant. Add the chile paste and cook, stirring and scraping constantly, until it leaves a coating on the bottom of the pot, 2-4 minutes. Add the chicken stock and scrape up the brown bits. Add the anchovies, Marmite, soy sauce, tomato paste, ground spices, cocoa and cornmeal and whisk to combine. Keep warm over low heat.

Preheat the oven to 225°F with the rack in the lower middle. Add the beef, accumulated beef juices and bay leaves to the pot and bring to a simmer. Cover and place in the oven for 1 hour.

Add the beans, tomatoes and vinegar to the Dutch oven and return to the oven with the lid slightly ajar. Cook for 1.5-2 hours or until the beef is tender and the stock is rich and slightly thickened. 

Remove the bay leaves. Add brown sugar and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

Make the chile paste:

Deseed the dried chiles and cut roughly. Toast the chile pieces in a dry pan.

Rehydrate the chiles with hot chicken broth.

Blend the rehydrated chile mix and reserve.


Drew's Bare Bones "What's On Sale" Chili

Frugal is to Chili as expensive is to fine dining. Any stew (which chili is) can bring deliciousness out of the flintest of ingredients. For me, like Geoff, my chili always rotates around what's in the clearance section of the butcher. No sense in using silk when a sow's ear will do just fine. In this case, there was eye of round steaks, tri-tip steaks and boneless short ribs all on 30% discount! And it's a good time to know what your cuts need/do - eye of round is a tough cut that never goes tender, but tastes like what people think beef should taste like. Short rib is unctuous beefy goodness that falls apart into beef candy. Tri-tip is one of my favorite cuts that delivers good fat, great texture and some outstanding earthy beef flavor. Where Geoff used a few ingredients to bump the umami flavor, I used a heaping spoon of Better Than Bouillon paste - stuff is magic and much better than store bought stocks

This time through the gauntlet I decided to simplify the recipe and strip it back to primary components. No tomatoes, no beans - just chili, cumin, onion, garlic, broth and beef. And time! I cooked this on Friday and let it "meld" until Sunday in my fridge. The extra time also let me adjust the meat texture when it wasn't quite right (my chunks of eye were too big)

Chili Ingredients

2-4 tablespoons vegetable oil
Salt & Pepper
1 lb. Eye of Round, cubed fine
1 lb. Tri-tip steaks, cubed medium
1 lb. boneless short ribs, cubed medium
1 bag New Mexican dried chiles, cleaned of seeds and snipped with scissors into coarse rings
1 handful chile de arbol, cleaned of seeds and snipped with scissors into coarse rings
1 large yellow onion, diced fine
1/2 head of garlic, minced
1.5 tablesppons cumin seeds, ground
2 tsps smoked paprika
16 oz pilsner style beer (used Dil's Pils from Schlob)
1 tablespoon Better Than Bouillon Reduced Sodium Beef Base
1 bunch cilantro stems, chopped fine
2 tablespoons chopped chipotle with adobo sauce
1 minced serrano pepper
1 tablespoon "hot honey"
Water to cover (see instructions)
Finely chopped cilantro leaves

Make the chili: 

In a heavy dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoon of oil over high heat. While waiting, sprinkle the cubed meet generously with salt and toss to combine. When the oil is shimmering sear the beef on two sides in batches. Reserve beef.

At the same time, in a small sauce pan toast the dried chiles over medium heat until fragant and toasted/oily looking. Cover with water and bring to the boil. Turn off the heat and let soak for 10 minutes. Pour off most of the liquid (saving it separately) - blend the paste and reserve off heat.

Reduce heat on the Dutch Oven to medium and add the remaining oil. Add the onion with a generous pinch of salt. Stir until golden and translucent. Add garlic and toss quickly for 30 seconds or so. Add the cumin and paprika to the pot and allow to toast slightly before adding the beer, bring to a boil. (General tip - do this for any dried spices to really pop their flavor)

Return the beef to the pot along with the chile paste, boullin base, cilantro steams, chipotles and serrano. Stir to combine and season lightly with salt. Cover the beef with water that's a blend of the chile soaking liquor and fresh cold water. Add hot honey to taste to remove any metallic bitterness apparent from the pepper seeds that will have gotten into the mix.

Simmer for 3 hours or until the beef is tender and the liquid is reduced to a thick glossy stew like consistency. Check for seasoning and then allow to cool before fridging for at least overnight. Reheat, add cilantro leaves and then serve.

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