Sunday, December 5, 2010

Chilicrown - better than a trophy.

Dunno if I've told you guys some key things about me:

I like to Yelp stuff. Fits into my whole "small businesses rule" paradigm.
I went to art school. Thus, I make a lot of odd things.
I get a little competitive about cookoffs.

So when a Yelpbud decided to have a Chili Cookoff a couple months back, wheels started turning. Not about what I was going to cook, mind you, but about what I could make, for cheap, to award to the winners. Cuz yeah, I claimed that responsibility early and gleefully.

Since our Latino markets are SO AWESOME here, I knew I could get dried chilis for cheeeeeeap. And a certain sister o' mine brought me some kickass gold spray paint, so some lucky peppers were going to get goldfingered. And the others would get varnished, so no one would fry their eyeballs out after putting on their Chilimedal.

So we ended up with several ridiculous chili wearables:

Obviously a crown was essential. Ah, hot glue and cheap christmas tinsel, I love yee.

"Medals" for 2nd and 3rd place. These I like alright, but wasn't super happy with. They were fragile, as well. Must have been Italian.

My fav had to be the honorable mention boutonnieres - they were rad. So cute, in fact, I took multiple shots of them.

I'd recently made a TON of boutonnieres for our wedding, so I had all kinds of floral tape, millenary flowers, etc, with which to craft these babies. Add some tinsel and chilis, and ya, they were awesome.

Less than 15 bucks, the whole shebang. And to be honest, I spent more time on the "trophies" than I did my chili. But onto the important part of this post:

This is one of my classic recipes. I've been making chili this way for a long time (although I did experiment a little bit this time, see below), and have tweaked the flavors 'till it sings (to us, that is). One difference - I really wanted to try some different beans this chili go-round, so I bought Canarys and Central American Reds to go with the ubiquitous Blacks. They were gorgeous dried.

I also used fresh tomatoes, which, I'm pretty sure, I'd never done before. Honestly, I don't think it was worth it in the end - there tends to be soooo much else going on in a good bowl of chili that the fresh, tart, green taste of fresh tomatoes gets lost. But in case you want to give it a whirl, I'm including them in the recipe below.

3 Bean and Vegetable Chili
serves 10

For the chili:
8 pounds fresh roma tomatoes (or 3 28oz cans chopped tomatoes)
2 tablespoons sundried tomatoes in oil
6 chipotle chilis in adobo, deseeded
2 tablespoons adobo from chipotles 
4 dried ancho chilis, deseeded
2 stalks celery, diced
2 green peppers, diced
20 cloves garlic, minced
1 large red onion, diced
1 bottle dark beer or stout
2 ozs dark chocolate
3 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons rich vegetable stock concentrate
1 small can tomato paste
2 tablespoons cumin
1 tablespoon Mexican oregano, rubbed

For the beans:
1/2 cup each dried Central American Red, Black, and Canary Beans, rinsed
1/2 onion, sliced
3 bay leaves
6 cloves garlic, whole
6 cups water
2 tablespoons rich vegetable stock concentrate

Additional ingredients:
 4 tablespoons strong-tasting olive oil
4 tablespoons butter
3 medium calabaza squash, quartered and chopped
1 pound mushrooms, destemmed and quartered
1 cup TVP (optional)

Let's do this, shall we?

This recipe happens both on the stove and in the Crock Pot. To begin, rinse your beans well and put them and all of the other "bean" ingredients in your pot and stew, on high, for 2 hours. They'll soften a bit, but will still be crumbly when you break their skin. this is what we want. Remove bay leaves and whole garlic cloves. Keep them warm in the Crock.

Boil 3 cups of water in a small sauce pot. Add your Anchos and let steep 20 minutes.

Peel and seed your tomatoes, but when seeding, do it in a strainer over a bowl so you don't miss out on any of the nummy tomato juice. Roughly chop and set aside.

In a blender, puree your garlic with 1 tablespoon of your olive oil.

In a large stew pot, melt your butter over medium-high heat and add the additional olive oil. Add your garlic, pepper, onion, and saute over medium heat 8-10 minutes. Add your mushrooms and calabaza and cook 8 minutes more.

Meanwhile, without cleaning the blender, put your soaked Anchos, your deseeded Chipotles, the 6 stewed  garlic cloves, and your sun dried tomatoes - puree until they're a thick paste.

In a dry skillet, toast your cumin over low heat until it browns slightly and is aromatic as all hell.

Pour the beer into the peppers/garlic/onion and turn heat to high - simmer 2 minutes to mellow. Add tomatoes, cumin, chili paste, vegetable stock, chocolate, reserved tomato juice, molasses and oregano. Simmer 20 minutes, until calabaza is softish and tomatoes start to break down.

Move the operation to your Crock Pot with the beans at this point - just empty the contents of your pot into the Crock. If it looks like it won't all fit, ladle some beans out and fill to about 1 cm beneath the ridge.

Add your TVP and mix well. Cook 4-6 hours on low heat until beans are soft but still have a slight bite. Adjust heat by adding more adobo (from the chipotles) if necessary, and adjust salt by stirring in a small amount of stock concentrate, if needed. I also like to add a last tablespoon of pureed garlic during the last hour to punch it up a bit.

Robust, smokey, sweet but salty. And spicy. Perfect topped by sharp cheddar and a little sour cream.

Other delish chilis were sampled with relish and abandon:

There were only 3 us veggies could munch there, but I dispatched multiple bowls with dexterity and determination.

Thanks to poprock photography for this nerdy shot.

And hey, guess what? I got to take home the crown. Hehe.


  1. You crack me up!!! I loved the crown and the runner up and 3rd place medals! You are so talented. Your chili definitely sounds like it was a winner. Congratulations on taking home the chili crown! Your hard work paid off.

  2. Thanks hon! I feel a little better, now, about how much nerd I showed in this post :)

  3. Amazing! Me and Sean were just wondering if you had a recipe for chili. We'll be trying you're award winning recipe shortly.

  4. Awesome, let me know how it goes. And you don't need a crock pot, but the process'll change a bit if you do stove-top - so let me know if ya need advice!

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