So what makes a good bowl of red? Well, that depends on whom you ask. All chili cooks have a secret or two that sets their recipe apart from the rest. Some swear by fresh peppers while others use only powders. Some don’t include beans while others don’t consider it chili without them.
The meats used can range from chili-grind beef to sausage to turkey to tri-tip to … elk. So where do you start? Even competition chili organizations such as the International Chili Society (ICS) and the Chili Appreciation Society International (CASI) differ on what they expect a winning bowl to include.
Chiliheads who compete in the ICS cook-offs use cubed tri-tip and bold, spicy flavors to produce a beanless chili. For Texas-style chili (such as CASI), chili-grind beef and lots of quality spices are used to cook up a winning batch. In these competitions, the judges might take only one or two bites, so the flavor should be intense and memorable. These hot chilis lend themselves more to competition tasting, not tailgating.
Peoples’ Choice chili (PC) varies with each cook. Recipes are unique and custom to what cooks enjoy – perhaps a regional style or something they remember from their youth. In general, the PC chili should be flavorful and appeal to a broad range of tastes.
Chunks of meat, mild and spicy peppers, beans, tomatoes and some beer are all popular ingredients in PC chili, accompanied by hot sauce and garnish such as cheese, plus corn bread on the side – and not too mild or hot. When folks return for seconds, you know you’ve done your job as a chilihead.
The challenge for Super Bowl Sunday will be to produce a flavorful chili that appeals to all the judges. So whether you’re contestant, a judge or coming out to sample the food, better start getting ready to taste the best bowls of red in the county.
For more information about entering the competition, call Bill Harris at 925-513-0595 or Jim Wangeman at 925-382-5010.
– Contributed by Gina D’Arcangelo, Big Shot BBQ, Discovery Bay