I didn’t like chili as a child. I’m not sure many kids like it. Maybe it’s like beer and it becomes an acquired taste. I do recall the first time I remember liking it. I was in my twenties and I went to something called a chili dump. I know that sounds horrible but it was really a lot of fun. It was one of those parties where everyone stood in a garage, shivering on a cold November day while folks arrived and kept dumping their chili in a large vat to create one, big chili concoction. I don’t know if the bad dumps outweighed the good ones but I remember thinking, “I think I like chili. This really hits the spot.”
I haven’t attended another chili dump but this is the time of year when everyone seems to be chowing down chili. At the radio station recently, B104 hosts JD Justice and Faith Rinker decided to have their own little chili cook-off. It was a taste test done at the station with co-workers filling out sealed ballots without us knowing who cooked what.
Faith won by a hair (and not one found in her chili). Some joked that she rigged it by throwing in a side of home-made corn bread which is great for dealing with the heat. B104 Program Director Dan Westhoff emailed his vote which would have made it a tie but Faith refused to allow it noting, “You can’t vote for president by email so I’m not accepting this.”
Their showdown began when they started promoting the St. Mary's Chili Cook-off on the air and they decided to hold their own, in-house cook-off. "JD and I decided to ask our listeners for one ingredient that we both had to use in our recipes," according to Faith. "We had a lot of really great suggestions including grape jelly, coffee grounds, BBQ sauce, pickle relish and chocolate (which I already use) so we decided to go with someone's idea of peanut butter." She adds, "I was skeptical and had never heard of that 'secret ingredient' before, but used it anyway and honestly couldn't taste it at all. It was a very close race but I'm glad I won because nobody thinks I can cook!"
Scroll to the end of this column for Faith's winning recipe.
They did have some fun with their chili showdown as you can see here in this Youtube video.
By the way, I liked both of their creations so much I actually changed my vote because I had such a hard time making a decision. What I liked about both of them was the perfect amount of heat and great consistency—a perfect ratio of ingredients to liquid. There’s nothing worse than soupy chili and so it seemed appropriate that consistency was among the factors I had to weigh when I was asked to be a judge for the St. Mary’s Annual Chili Cook-off.
The St. Mary's Chili Cook-off
There were more than 20 chili entries. Holy heat I was already starting to sweat when I heard that! However, there were teams of three that judged seven chilis. The top-scorers from each team then went into the final heat along with a wildcard. My team included former Bloomington Alderman Dave Sage and Scott Milsteadt. We judged our chili samples on color, aroma, consistency, taste and aftertaste. For some reason, I became the Simon Cowell of the panel, proclaiming “This one tastes like punishment” as I gave it a score of 20 out of 50 while the others rated it much higher.
In the final heat, we all began laughing as we sampled an oil slick and all began wondering out loud how that particular selection made it into the finals. We found the culprits, the judging team that included council man Steve Purcell and former Red Cross-turned-Central-Catholic Spokesman Scott Vogel. Scott began back pedal saying, “Next year we need to give more weight to taste. This one had really great color.”
So what makes a good chili? The winner of this year’s St. Mary’s Chili Cook Off was15 year-old John and his dad Scott Rudebeck representing the Knights of Columbus. John says, “A cup of love.” They also use a lot of meat including steak, pork and hamburger along with tomato juice and here’s the surprise -- instant coffee.
The second place award went to Bryce McMoris and his team’s RootinTootin 5 Alarm Chili followed by Bryan Finn’s team from DryWall City. That team was really miffed with their finish but they were really upset about not getting the Best of Show Award because they had a home-made bar with smoke stacks that really shot out smoke! They joked maybe the judges thought there was drywall dust in their chili.
Chili is a popular item on restaurant menus this time of year. Our café at Heartland Community College offers a pretty good option but my go-to chili in town has to be, hands down, The Parkview Inn.
B104's Faith Rinker's Winning Chili Recipe
1 pound ground beef
1 pound bulk Italian sausage (sometimes spicy or mild...my winning chili had sweet and spicy)
2 (15 ounce) cans chili beans (1 in spicy sauce, 1 in medium sauce)
1 (28 ounce) can fire roasted or zesty chili diced tomatoes with juice
1/2 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup beer (last time I used berryweiss)
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 clove minced garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white sugar
2 blocks unsweetened bakers chocolate
1/4 cup BBQ sauce (more or less to taste)
1 can seeded and chopped green chili peppers (or fresh)
Sometimes I use bacon as an additional bonus
Looking for something easier? Scott Laughlin claims he has the easiest recipe and it tastes great. He makes it in a crock pot.
Scott's Laughlin's Super Easy Chili:
1 pound chicken chicken (about four breasts skinned and cubed)
12 oz of pepper jack cheese
64 can of white northern beans (kidney)
1 jar of medium salsa
1 tsp of cumin
Pour in crock pot, mix and let simmer.
To reach Colleen Reynolds email firstname.lastname@example.org