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Championship recipes guaranteed to make people dig your chili

The Oklahoman's Food Dude shares his championship chili recipes and an award-winning amateur version of Cajun chili.
by Dave Cathey Published: October 30, 2013

It's the time of year when I extol the virtues of chili as a buffer between your soul and the frosty breezes that have begun racing over the plains.

But this year, I'm doing it from a loftier perch than usual. That's right, I took my chili-making skills downtown last Friday for the VI Marketing and Branding Carne Diem Chili Cookoff and came home with top honors in the professional division.

In the amateur division, VI designer David Hinds, a native of Tuttle, used a recipe he adapted from former chef Andy Marlette.

Hinds, 25, told me Marlette grew up in Louisiana and suggested a Cajun chili would allow him to stand out.

Hinds said Marlette was kind enough to share the original recipe, which he used as the foundation.

“I basically figured out how to put my own spin on it and see how I could improve on the recipe. This was only my fourth time cooking chili ever, so I was pretty excited that it won.”

And the crowd was obviously thrilled Hinds switched out ground turkey and hot links as the meats for ground beef and Mexican chorizo. They were further happy Hinds kept the andouille sausage from Marlette's original recipe. Hinds also stayed with slices of whole smoked andouille for added texture and some fresh sliced jalapeno for a last kick to the palate.

Clearly, the judges agreed.

I was one of 12 in the professional division that included entries from Ludivine, CoolGreens, Kitchen No. 324, LT's Deli, Empire Slice House, The Mule, Packard's, The Range Cafe, Ground Floor Cafe, Cafe 7 and Deep Fork Grill.

With ingredients donated from the good folks at Buy For Less as sponsors for my efforts, my plan was simple. Seriously, simplicity was what I sought after a sound beating at the hands of Bruce Rinehart, a known Yankee, in last year's competition.

Last year's losing recipe included wisps of Mexican cocoa and a garnish of dehydrated corn kernels, which were clearly too fussy for the chili world. So, this year I went to the very roots of chili, which is the Mexican dish chile con carne.

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by Dave Cathey
Food Editor
The Oklahoman's food editor, Dave Cathey, keeps his eye on culinary arts and serves up news and reviews from Oklahoma’s booming food scene.
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Bucket List Championship Chili

1 pound coarse-grind ground beef

¾ pound tri-tip roast, cut into ½-inch cubes

3 slices thick-cut bacon

2-3 cups homemade chicken stock, recipe below

½ cup homemade Mexican tomato sauce, recipe below

1 cup homemade chile paste, or more if you like

1 roasted sweet red pepper, pureed

2 teaspoons ground cumin seeds, toasted

Salt and pepper to taste

In a skillet, cook bacon over medium flame until cooked through but not too crispy. Set rendered grease aside to use for your Mexican tomato sauce.

Drain bacon on paper towels and allow to cool. When cooled, place bacon slices in a food processor and grind into meaty bits. Set aside until needed.

Roast the red peppers either on a hot grill or on a gas stovetop, turning often and removing when all sides are blistered and charred. Place roasted peppers in a resealable bag immediately and let steam for 20 minutes.

Begin making the chile paste, see below. While the dried chilies are steeping, make the tomato sauce.

Brown the meats in batches and strain.

In a large soup pot, combine the bacon bits, tomato sauce and two cups of stock, and bring to a boil. Season generously with salt, stir and lower heat to medium or medium low so you maintain a gentle simmer, cooking until the tri-tip has softened, an hour to two hours.

Ten minutes before serving, add the cumin and test for salt and pepper.

Serve with grated cheese, chopped onions and hot peppers, corn chips or fried tortilla ribbons.

CHILE PASTE

6 dried New Mexico red chilies

4 dried ancho chilies

4 dried chipotle chilies

4 dried chilies de arbol

2 dried guajillo chilies

¼ cup chicken stock

¼ cup chile tea, see instructions

2 tablespoons salt

Hint: Wear kitchen gloves for this project.

Remove stems and seeds from the chilies. For the chilies de arbol, snip off the top and roll the chile between your palms until the seeds have all tumbled out.

Fill a medium-size pot halfway with water and bring it to a low boil. Once the water begins to boil, remove it from the heat. Submerge the chilies in the hot water — top with something heavy enough to keep them submerged if needed — and allow to steep 20 to 30 minutes.

Shake free residual liquid and place rehydrated chilies in blender. Add ¼ cup of chicken broth, ¼ cup of the steeping liquid and salt to the blender and puree.

Homemade Mexican Tomato Sauce for Chili

1 onion, fine diced

4 to 6 garlic cloves

4 Roma tomatoes, skinned

4 to 6 serranos, minced

1 tablespoon salt

Ice and water

Bacon fat rendered from 3 slices of bacon

Fill a medium pot 2/3 with water and bring to a boil.

Slice a small “x” on the bottom of each tomato. Add the tomatoes and blanch until skins begin to loosen, 5 to 7 minutes.

While tomatoes are blanching, prepare an ice bath by filling a metal bowl large enough to contain the tomatoes halfway with water and enough ice to nearly fill the bowl.

Remove tomatoes once skins have loosened, and move immediately into the ice bath. The skins will come free right away.

Put the garlic in the food processor and pulse two or three times. Add tomatoes and salt and pulse until garlic and tomatoes are broken down and well combined. Strain tomatoes, reserving strained tomato juice, and add to the cooking liquid for the beans.

Heat bacon grease over medium heat and add onions. Once onions start to simmer, drop flame to low and sweat the onions until they've turned golden brown and softened considerably, between 20 and 30 minutes.

Add tomato-garlic concentrate and minced serranos and combine thoroughly and continue simmering until onions and tomato paste have absorbed most of the liquid, making sure the onions don't burn, at least 20 more minutes.

Source: Dave Cathey

CHICKEN STOCK

Here is chef Kurt Fleischfresser's basic chicken stock recipe. He said you can follow the same technique using a roasted chicken carcass, which I later did and was thrilled with the result.

3 chicken carcasses (or about 3 pounds of meaty chicken bones)

3 carrots

3 stalks of celery

1 large onion

1 bay leaf

3 tablespoons kosher salt

A dozen or so black peppercorns

Several sprigs fresh thyme

1 whole head of garlic

¼ cup olive oil

Water to cover

Dice the vegetables into ½-inch pieces. Heat oil in a stock pot. Saute vegetables until tender and add remaining ingredients.

Cover with water, bring to a light boil and quickly reduce to a simmer. Skim fat and scum frequently.

When the carcass falls apart on its own weight when lifted out of the water, the stock is finished. Strain and chill; remove any remaining fat. Store until ready to use.

Source: Chef Kurt Fleischfresser

Basic Pinto Beans for Chili

2 cups dried pinto beans, sorted and any stones removed

1 gallon water

2 cups chicken stock

2 cups liquid used to rehydrate chilies or water

Liquid from strained Mexican tomato sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

Bring the water to a boil, add beans. Lower heat so water is at a low boil. Top with lid, leaving slightly ajar. Cook beans until they're completely soft, 90 minutes to two hours.

Drain off all liquid, return beans to pot and top with chicken stock, liquid used to steep chilies and tomato juice strained from Mexican tomato sauce.

Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer another hour.

Serve as a side to mix in with chili.

Source: Dave Cathey

Dave's Cajun Chili

1/3 pound Louisiana hot link sausages, sliced

¾ tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 pound ground beef

1 pound Mexican chorizo sausage

1 pound andouille sausage

2 celery ribs, chopped

1/3 yellow onion, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 jalapeno, chopped (seeds included)

2 scant tablespoons garlic, minced

2 tablespoons cup Frank's red hot sauce

¾ tablespoon chili powder

¾ tablespoon cumin

1¼ teaspoon paprika

1¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

3/8 tablespoon Creole seasoning (I used Tony Chachere's)

1½ cups chicken stock

2 (15-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes

¾ cup spicy hot V-8 juice

½ (15-ounce) can red kidney beans, drained

½ (15-ounce) can black beans, drained

Salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste

Cooking oil

Brown the ground beef and chorizo in a medium to medium-hot skillet and drain.

Cook the andouille on a hot skillet, remove, allow to cool, slice and set aside.

Combine the spices in a bowl and set aside.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat, add enough cooking oil to coat the bottom then add the vegetables and simmer. Add the spices to the vegetables, mix thoroughly, and lower heat to medium and sweat 10 minutes.

Combine all ingredients in a slow-cooker and bring to a boil on high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer up to 3 or so hours.

Serve with chopped green onions.

Source: David Hinds

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