My Award-Winning Chili & A Chili Cook Off

Every year, the Rustbelt Farmer's family throws a chili cook off for Mama Pattison's birthday. My award-winning chili entry is an in-depth recipe, to say the least, but go big or go home, right? 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?


Beet & Beef Burgers w/ Blue Cheese and Roasted Peach & Mint Salsa

Large, umbrella-like lights filled the space where waitstaff would normally scurry, the cords creating their fair share of death traps. Cooking wine filled glasses that would normally contain a fine vintage. An eclectic group of “friends” and “family” gathered around a reclaimed-wood table and awaited instruction on how to hold their forks, glasses and napkins “naturally.”

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The photographer and camera dangled precariously above the table. Meanwhile, I tweezered and plucked at the plates, fluffing, spritzing and making them ready for their moment in the spotlight. It was the makings of a restaurant ad.

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That restaurant featured in the ad is one of my favorites. The chef, long before “local” was the trendy buzz word to list on a menu, sourced as locally as possible. Yet his octogenarian clientele showed more appreciation for the granite floors and decadent details passed down from restaurant past. The goal of the ad was to outstretch arms and welcome everyone to the restaurant, everyone including kids.

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The child “actor/model” [ie: the art director’s son] was an astute nine-year-old with a palate for fine dining and artisan fermentation. Together, the nine-year-old and I stared at the shelves of house-made pickles in awe. The budding food critic extolled the virtues of that pickle wall and the restaurant’s menu. Being a loyal fan of the menu’s “fancy burger,” I asked for his review.

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“Oh, I haven’t had their burger. It’s good?” he asked sincerely.

“Yeah, it’s one of my favorites in the city, and they rotate the toppings quite a bit,” I responded as if speaking to any foodie in my peer group.

His eyes lit up, and he had an epiphany, “Oooh, I know! What if instead of the ham in the hamburger, you used peaches?”

“Like, peaches in the burger, or grilled on top?”

“Yeah, in it. Instead of the ham.”

“I’m into it,” I said.

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Despite eating a smoked blue fish pâté, pickled scapes and picking at a tartare, the kid had a ways to go in his understanding of hamburgers. However, he was onto something with his peach idea. I really was into it.

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Hamburgers are practically a food group in my own personal pyramid. My stacks of ingredients never make it to the light of day, when photographing and recipe sharing come into play, but for this burger combo, I exercised forethought and willpower. I veered from the petite foodie’s idea of replacing “ham” with peaches. Instead, I opted to stretch the meat further by adding a coarse beet puree or beat meal because although I believe in eating meat from humanely-raised animals, I may still be guilty of eating too much meat.

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The peaches still came into play, but in the form of a roasted peach and mint salsa topping, making this burger the main course in my Mint Themed Dinner on the Farm. Paired with blue cheese for a salty, creamy contrast, I dare say even the nine-year-old would be impressed!

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I might still toy with the miniature foodie’s ham/hamburger idea. I laugh now, but who knows? That kid could be the next Dan Barber or Peter Meehan. He may be onto something huge!



p.s: Blue or Bleu? You decide.

Beet & Beef Burgers w/ Blue Cheese and Roasted Peach & Mint Salsa

About This Recipe: Adding beets to your burgers is a way to stretch the meat, eat more seasonal produce, and add a subtle sweetness. The texture is a little closer to a sloppy joe than a beef patty, so use foil when grilling to avoid any loss, or experiment with adding a binder such as eggs and breadcrumbs.