PKMKII wrote:I like to use pickled mild green peppers at least. You can get cans of diced tomatoes with the peppers already in, or just buy a tin of them in the mexican food section. If you want things spicier, you can also throw in one adobo pepper (just make sure to take it out before serving). Hot sauces can work as well.
Pickled green peppers . . . hmmm . . . I never tried that in my chili before, but I'll give it a shot.
PKMKII wrote:On meat thing: if your office is full of Texas ex-pats, they would see ground meat as blasphemy. If it's just Jerseyites, then they'd probably be confused by cubes.
Yeah, you are probably right about that, so I think I may have to do the ground meat so nobody wonders why I made a "stew." Personally, I prefer the chunks of meat.
Arkaeon wrote:The crock will tend to give you a mushy texture with ubiquitously indistinct flavor, and may come off with a generally "canned food" outcome.
A good point, in the end it will have to be in the crock pot though . . . rules of the contest. We can't bring in anything else to keep our food warm. However, nothing says that I have to make the entire dish in it, but I can use it to reheat.
Arkaeon wrote:The best chilis I've had involved starting by braising the meat (cubed!) with about 1/2 of the spices and the oil on high heat. This drives extra spice into the meat and tenderizes it, making for extra-zingy meat chunks. By searing the outside of the meat chunks on high heat, you help keep them from dissolving during the simmer stage at the end.
Yes, I agree! Cubed meat is so much better, but I'm going to have to defer to PK's advice about Jersey-ites (especially this backwoods part of Jersey that I work in). So we're going to stick with the ground meat - a bummer for the taste buds, but we're looking to win one for the FSM!
Arkaeon wrote:...then adding skillet-toasted cornmeal for thickener and adding/braising the vegetables that are intended to dissolve mostly into the stock, including most of the hotter fresh raw chili peppers (most or all of the onion, garlic, and chili peppers like pasilla, anaheim, jalepeno, bird, serrano, cayenne). You can add some worcestershire sauce or reduced red wine/juice at this point if you want some dark-roasty or fruity undertones. You have to stir/scrape vigorously at high heat to get this stage to work right without burning, until the vegetable juices stabilize the cornmeal. There will be a lot of spicy steam.
...if you are using dried/crumbled chilis or basil, they can go in now to soften a bit in the high heat. You can also add some beef stock base if you want to pump up the meat flavor.
...then adding whatever other raw vegetables (including perhaps some strip-cut onion) and the rest of the spices that are intended to remain as chunks and top-flavor in the final bowl, including the milder bell-, california-, and poblano-type peppers that should make up a large portion of the bulk, and adding some liquid beef stock (or water) for the chili's stock-making.
...then add softened beans and/or diced tomato if you are using them.
...then allowing the whole thing to simmer as low as possible, stirring occasionally, until tender with thick stock, but not mushy. Total cooking time with this method is probably around 2 hours if you're organized about it.
I like a lot of the ideas in here, especially using Worcestershire sauce - my secret hamburger ingredient (shhhh... don't tell anyone, they're still trying to figure that one out). Cornmeal and fresh peppers are definitely in.
Thinking this over, I almost think that I want to caramelize the onions. I've done that for quesadillas in the past and it always tastes awesome with the spiciness.
-Toasted cornmeal is an effective thickener when it has time to work, and darker toasting will give a richer coffee-like affect with a slight bitter that sets off the spicy, sweet whole. (You can even throw in a little instant coffee to get some mysterious dark flavor undertones, or brew some coffee grounds in a saucepan with your water/stock and strain it off before adding the stock to the chili.)
Hmmm . . . coffee . . . hmmm . . . . I like that.
Arkaeon wrote:-Dry beans that are softened at home will give better texture than canned beans, if you choose to use them at all, but it isn't such a big deal that it's always worth the extra time.
I'll think about it, but I've never had the patience for the dry bean route.
Arkaeon wrote:-Whether or not to use tomato is one of those arguments that chili fanatics will never agree upon, so pick your own ground on that one. I am against using much tomato, personally, but that's just my taste. Fresh, thick-diced tomato without seeds is infinitely favorable to canned in any case. Canned tomato is abomination.
I've always used tomato in my chili, and basing on the people who will be tasting this chili, I think I'll be adding that in.
Arkaeon wrote:-For dried/ground spices, I like stuff like chipotle and ancho powders, paprika for richness, granulated garlic and onion as boosters, basil, coriander, some black pepper -- even a little touch of cinnamon and/or turmeric if I want to get exotic. I add a little sugar and/or honey to most stews like this to bring out the flavors and smooth the texture.
Yes, definitely those spices. What about a little cumin?
Arkaeon wrote:-A variety of bell pepper colors add to both the appearance and flavor of your chili. If you go cheap and just use green bell peppers, you can get a sour overtone. Adding a mix of red, yellow, and orange bells really help.
Yes! Definitely a mix of peppers! I love mixing them up.
Arkaeon wrote:-Shredded cheese and sour cream at the table can add tasty richness and help cut some of the burn of a really spicy chili.
That's being supplied by the company, so we're good there!
Arkaeon wrote:I know this isn't an exact recipe (I pretty much cook by "throw" at this point), but I hope that helps you in some way :)
I hear ya. That's pretty much how I cook too. Usually I start out not having any idea what I'm going to make and next thing you know I've created a something awesome with no clue how it even got started. Chili was never something I made on a regular basis, so a "recipe" has never really formed itself.
Tangent -- The other day I wanted to make a spicy chicken and pepper dish. Although it came out scrumptious (I can list ingredients if you want for this simple one pan meal), I bought the wrong peppers while I was at the store. so my spicy chicken wasn't so spicy. Really it's a crap shoot with me when it comes to making spicy dishes. I either overkill it for most people (because I like my spicy stuff to be really, Really, REALLY spicy) or I under do it because I'm cooking for others.
PKMKII wrote:Okay, this is true if you're getting local, farm fresh tomatoes when they're in season. However, most tomatoes in the grocery store (ESPECIALLY this time of year) are hothouse monstrosities that are picked when they're unripe and then artificially ripened with ethylene, have horribly thick skin, and tasteless, pale flesh. They're bred for transit and shelf life, not flavor. Whereas the canned tomatoes, because they're not getting shipped, can be made with better tomatoes.
I think when it comes to the final chili, I'll head over to the farm for the veggies. They always have an awesome selection of fresh stuff that beats any grocery store, even this time of year. I know that they are importing the off season stuff, but their buyer is really good.
Thanks for your help! Keep the advice coming and as I try out things and the day gets closer, I'll keep everyone up to date on our chili.
Speaking of which, the cook off will be on February 13th.