Blue Ribbon Chili

September 21, 2010

Our guest blogger Michelle tastes the sweet smell of success:

I can’t believe I won my first cooking contest!

I am officially the first Chili Cook-Off Champion at our pool and tennis club – I have a trophy and name on a plaque in the clubhouse to prove it. 😉

I won fair and square…kind of…

There were three judges – the club’s head chef, a chef from Mexico City, and a board member of the club who also happens to be a very good friend of mine.  He is a foodie, so I may have implied that if he voted for me he would come home one day to find a fine slab of prosciutto on his back steps.  I was also the only contestant to serve my award-winning chili with a bottle of cold Corona beer.   And finally, I feel the need to confess that there were only four other contestants, all of whom (like me) are primarily Irish (as a “people,” we aren’t exactly known for culinary talents).

Honestly, I thought all of the chilis served were delicious and very different, which is one of the wonderful things about chili.  One was a vegetarian chili, which normally wouldn’t be my first choice, but this one was very tasty and had a nice texture.  Another was made from meat smoked for 3 days.  I thought it was very good, but I heard a lot of people mention that they didn’t like the smoky taste.

Chili is never the same twice.  In fact, I’ve never made the same recipe twice.  I’ll tweak a recipe based on a guest’s preferences, what is in my pantry, or which meat is on sale at the grocery store.  As well, each chili will taste different depending on how long it’s been cooked.

When I have the time, I use my slow-cooker — below is the recipe I made for last Sunday’s Championship, and which is now, officially, “award winning.”

Award-Winning Chili

A little Olive Oil

½ Vidalia onion, chopped

1 medium sized carrot, grated

2 jalapeños, seeds removed and chopped

4 garlic cloves chopped

2 ½ – 3 pounds of ground turkey thigh meat

3 tablespoons of chili powder

3 teaspoons of cumin

14.5 oz can of organic diced tomatoes, no salt

14.5 oz can of Muir Glen organic fire roasted diced tomatoes with chipotle peppers

15 oz can of low sodium black beans, drained and rinsed well

½ of a can of low sodium Red Kidney beans, drained and rinsed well

1 ½ cups of Trader Joes frozen roasted corn, microwaved according to the package directions

Heat olive oil in large fry pan that has a top.  (Mine is 12 inches by 3 inches high.)  Add onion, carrots, jalapenos and garlic.  Cook for a minute or two.  Add ground turkey, a little kosher salt, and black pepper.  Cook until browned.  Mix in chili powder and cumin.  Cook for 1 minute.  Add both cans of tomatoes, a can of water, beans and corn.  Cover and simmer on low heat for at least 1 hour.  Add more water if it gets dry.  You can serve the chili at this point in time.

For the contest, I made the chili on a Friday and reheated it in a slow-cooker on warm for about three hours.  It’s best when made at least one day in advance.  The longer you cook it the better it tastes.  Serve with grated cheddar cheese, chopped fresh cilantro, sour cream, and tortilla chips.  Oh yea, and plenty of Mexican beer.

Enjoy!

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