My award-winning chili is an in-depth recipe, to say the least, but go big or go home, right? The slow-cook style of this yields chunks of beef that will fall off your fork, so get the cornbread, cheddar and cilantro ready.
It was time for the Pattison Family’s Third Annual Chili Cook Off, a festivity that started as a way to commemorate Mama Pattison’s birthday and her noteworthy chili (but then she veered from her classic recipe and ended up losing what should have been a shoo-in). For the first two years, I took an impartial backseat. I doled out the chilis, made sure the competitive clan didn’t cheat, tallied the stats and announced the winners and the loser (it always seems to be the Rustbelt Farmer… poor guy). BUT this year, I decided enough was enough, and I entered the ring!
Fun Fact #1: I’m SUPER competitive.
This little tidbit might not be apparent in my writing, but spend five minutes with me, and I’m sure you’ll get the drift. Play Taboo or Clue with me, and you’ll definitely get the drift! I’m also super into food, so food + competition is a recipe for “stay the f*$k out of my way!” I took my self-declared competition entry all too seriously. I began researching the roots of chili, regional varieties, what technically makes chili chili while revisiting more classic French techniques behind peasant foods like my favorite boeuf bourguignon. Then I spent way too much money on ingredients and created a long recipe which I expect none of you will actually make, but I will nonetheless immortalize it here.
Fun Fact #2: We take this competition pretty seriously.
The chili is served anonymously by someone who isn’t competing, so there’s no bias. We tally points so there’s an overall winner and categoric winners: flavor, texture, etc. The debates get as heated as the chili because there’s a coveted spoon to be earned. I did argue for adding a “Most Improved” award because I will hand it to the Rustbelt Farmer. After two years of throwing almost every ingredient from our pantry into a pot, burning all those ingredients until the scent of scorching tomatoes and spices reminded him of the pot on the stovetop, and then landing himself in last place (rightfully so), he really upped his game this year. Though, I will say, he did have a stellar role model in yours truly.
Fun Fact #3: I’m not that into chili.
More often than not, chili feels like eating gruel- just spoonful after spoonful of a hot spice blend masking any and all subtleties. It starts to feel like work to eat it, like I simply have to shovel spoonfuls of spice into my mouth for sustenance. So as I dove into my recipe, my main goal was nuance. I wanted layers of spices and flavors, so eating wouldn’t feel like a chore that results in stomach rumblings and regret.
The Not-So-Fun Fact: I didn’t win!
AND THAT’S OUTRAGEOUS! The beef was so tender, it fell off the fork. The lentils and split peas were crisp and added a crunch. The dark chocolate added a subtle bitter contrast to the spices. Split peas really threw this crowd, so I did walk away with “Most Unique” chili, which is cool and all, but it’s not first place.
THEY WEREN’T READY FOR THIS!!!
However, since you readers probably have a more discerning palate when it comes to chili, I will share with you my painstaking, should-have-been, award-winning chili, and I will even give a little kudos to my fellow, which I only do when deserved. This year, I fully admit, he got jipped! (But in past years, he definitely deserved to lose!)
Next year, I’m throwing two jars of salsa and a chicken in a crockpot and calling it done. So here you have it… quite possibly the only chili recipe you’ll ever find on this blog. Where do you stand? Are you pro chili? Do you have any award-winning chili secrets?
Quelcy’s Award-Winning Chili
About this Recipe: This recipe is in-depth to say the least, but it actually made me like chili a little more. I relied heavily on this guide from the New York Times, as well as techniques used in my Boeuf Bourguignon. The recipe calls for both fresh toasted whole cumin and coriander, as well as the ground varieties you probably have in your pantry. Fresh toasting and grinding of the whole spices yields such a rich aroma while cooking. I prepared the split peas and lentils separately to maintain an extra crunch and add more texture. I highly recommend a trip to the co-op bulk bins to gather spices for this recipe, and freezing some mason jars because this recipe makes one big batch of chili.