A Chili Cookoff...The Blog Techs Take On It, Then Mine

This is the finished chili having been smoked for 4 hours. First the Blog Tech will tell his view on the contest.

BT: A month or so ago, I wrote about a chili cook-off I had attended in Syracuse, New York. I expressed my feelings on why certain chili is no good-strange aftertaste, bad consistency, absence or excess of heat-and what makes certain chili superior to other chilies.
Recently, another chili challenge came into our lives. My sister's boyfriend's workplace sponsored a chili cook off of its own. He enlisted my mother to make the best chili she could.
My mother has always made good chili, mind you. At the time of the Syracuse chili cook off, I remember thinking that her usual chili recipe was as good as any of the chili made that day, if not better.
However, once you receive a chili challenge, you cannot simply make the typical chili. One must consider one's chili recipe and figure out how to improve on its strengths.
The most important aspect of chili is its depth of flavor. Chili contains meat, tomatoes, spices, and peppers as its main ingredients. If their ratios are correct, every taste bud should be activated: sweet, savory, salty, bitter.
The fun thing about really good chili is the way that its flavor will change as you eat it. It will start sweet, then turn savory, at which point the salt and slight bitterness of the spices will present themselves.
The way the spiciness manifests itself can vary greatly, however. In my opinion, this is what separates the good chili from the great chili.
Lots of chili will forgo spiciness altogether. This is a mistake. It's chili. It is meant to be somewhat spicy.
Some chili will be immediately spicy. It'll attack the tip of your tongue, which makes it difficult to taste the rest of the chili. This defeats much of the potential of a chili eating experience.
The best kind of spiciness presents itself last, at the edges of the back of your tongue.
At the same time, there can be a kind of spiciness that results from using too many spices. This can be kind of gross, and tastes like you emptied a packet of chili powder on your tongue.
My mother got the spiciness just right, which is impressive seeing as how she does not particularly like spicy things. She also used various other atypical ingredients, such as various parts of a pig, and a whole cup of coffee.
At the chili cook-off, we ultimately came in third. The guy whose chili came in first apparently enters lots of these things, and we got a sample to try.
I realize I am biased, but I think the contest was fixed! The winner's chili was actually too spicy for me, which is really saying quite a bit. It would seem that most people don't like food that's too spicy. At this point the Blog Tech has finished and I will pick up.
JAZ: I don't particularly like chili. But it is a wonderful dish to make using my favorite cooking skills. Layering, or depths of flavor. In the above picture you can see that I have added unsweetened cocoa powder and beef demi glace'.

I have never entered any sort of cooking contest but I couldn't say no to my daughter's boyfriend and god knows I love to cook for the masses.

This chili was a 3 day process.

I used pigs feet and ham hocks. Pigs feet add so much flavor and they are also used as a thickening agent. Much better and more flavorful than thickening with cornmeal as most recipes call for. Ham hocks also add lots of flavor and a bit of smokiness too.

I used 4 different peppers removing the seeds and ribs from the hottest ones. This allows the heat and flavor from hot peppers to permeate the chili but it mellows the heat which allows you to taste the depth of flavor. As in good Indian cooking, you want dishes like this to awaken all your taste buds to the same level. That is the ultimate goal in achieving the best flavor in these layered dishes.

I was very excited to compare the winners chili side by side to my own. I don't care about contests and I am always looking to improve my recipes so this was a good opportunity. The winners is on the left above and mine is on the right. They look pretty similar. I never use chili powder in my chili. It is just a mix of spices made up by a spice company. I like to use my own combination plus I toast them first to give them more flavor. The winner used chili powder which gave his a bitter aftertaste. It was not bad. He also used cayenne which made it far to spicy and quite difficult to get to the other flavors. To each his own but we all liked mine better. The winner has a reputation for entering these contests all the time plus I think no one believed that my daughter's boyfriend so much as stirred our chili!!! We all had fun and our chili won the crowds vote. The 5 judges picked the winner. Not a spoonful of ours was left. I wish I had a chance to sample #2!

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I agree with Bt here, a chili should not be to spicy. But I´m afraid that most people (at least over here) thinks really spicy when they think of chili.

I don´t think I ever met anyone that used pigs feet to make a chili either :-) :-)
I´m happy that You won the crowds vote :-)
Have a great day!
I learned more about the ingredients of and making chili today than I ever knew. I must say I enjoyed it!

Making chili without chili powder and using spicy peppers for the heat is an amazing concept!

Using different meats was also new. When chili comes to mind againg I will surely be excited to try something new and exciting.

I love chili and your chili creation looks so good. I would split and toast kaiser rolls with garlic butter to assist in sopping up my chili. Iced tea and possibly a salad could side. Oh me, I'm hungry...

Love to Teddy!
Melodie said…
Perfect timing ! It has definitely turned back into chili weather around here.
I'm impressed with the Blog Tech's sophisticated depth of knowledge about chili! And I'm positive that your chili must have been the best there! Your daughter's boyfriend was smart to enlist you as his "ringer."
Laura said…
I agree with Melodie today is feeling like Chili weather again.
Oh my goodness that looks so good, but what a process indeed. Made me hungry!
SeeThroughGreen said…
ohhh! man that looks good! I can never resist a good chili! My mom loves it hot, and once in a while I enjoy a good nose drippin chili... but my grampy...oh man....can he ever make a good chili! (maybe its cause he southern :P
He uses about 5 or 6 different types of beans, bell pepers, hot pepers, celery, and for meat he likes to use turkey and beef. By the time the beans are cooked, the chili dosnt need to be thickened all that much and I think he uses a bit of cornmeal in there... gives it an interesting consistency and subtle flavors!
no spice mixes for him either!
We eat it with home made honey cornbread biscuts and cheese on top!
mmmm good!
Autumnforest said…
I love chili and chili recipes! I use a little bit of cocoa powder in mine and it adds a fullness that's amazing. Oh, now I want a pot of chili! (tummy grumbling)
Bridgett said…
I actually think yours looks better.

His looks too dark....it almost *looks* bitter.

But congrats on your third place finish! :)
Sharlene T. said…
Congratulations on your win. I'm not fond of over-spicy chilis, either. If the spice stuns the palate, then it's just another 'watch-me-I-can-handle-hotter-than-you' contest, as far as I'm concerned. A true marriage of flavors gives each spice and herb it's own place and support. Yours is also far more attractive and tempting. You're number one in my corner!
I'm sure yours was better- looked better too! :)
After reading this post, I want some chili so badly that I would have eaten it out of a can if I'd had any. Yours sounds wonderful and my money would be on you anytime. Third?? Come on!!!
Suzie said…
Chili turned into an art form! I'm truly impressed that BT knows so much about the complexities of chili. Not because he's a guy, but because most people don't take the time to study it. They only eat it, without savoring the moment. Mom has taught him well.

I never eat chili in a restaurant because around here,chili translates to "how hot can we make this?", so much so, that you never taste anything because your taste buds have third degree burns after the first bite.

A friend recently sent me a jar of Mango Chutney with Jalapenos Peppers, and it is a wonderful delight! Just the teeniest amount of heat and spice but it never overwhelms the flavor of the mangos. Perfect! That is also how I like my chili!

Jaz, you add some very interesting ingredients to chili that I had never associated with using in chili, but when you think about it, they do make sense. You are beyond what people refer to as a chef. .you are an artist in the kitchen!

It doesn't surprise me that you were the People's Choice! They should have given an award for that!!
Pricilla said…
I don't eat chili because I don't like beans but I would think the crowd vote would be most satisfying anyway.
Sharon Lovejoy said…
I am a chili aficionado and try many recipes. I'm a sucker for it.

Obviously the contest was rigged. Mom's chili is always the BEST.

Sharon Lovejoy Writes from Sunflower House and a Little Green Island
Rue said…
I like spicy things - but not so spicy you can't taste the ingredients! Knowing how much time and effort you put into your dishes, I have no doubt yours was the best chili! But still - third place is okay too!