Soooo we had our fourth annual chili cook-off at work today.
Sadly, I’ve participated each year without a victory (I believe each year we’ve averaged maybe ten submissions). The first two years I came in second; last year I don’t even know where I finished. I enjoy cooking and absolutely love cooking chili. But I also enjoy winning… and this wasn’t working out too well for me despite some above average efforts.
First a little background….
I have my own, classified, recipe though it wasn’t always mine… I didn’t just wake up one day and make chili. Years ago I worked with a guy, Todd, who had a catering business on the side. He was also a chef in a previous life, and a couple times a year he would make this fantastic chili and bring it in to work. Surprisingly, Todd wasn’t as protective of his recipe as I am with mine. I asked him for the recipe… and he just gave it to me. Maybe it’s because he’s a nice guy? Because I’m not a nice guy, so I really don’t hand out the recipe.
I couldn’t call it “my chili” for a couple years, because it was truly Todd’s Chili. So I started tweaking it. With every batch I’d change one or two ingredients and note the results. Some changes were bad and tossed out; others stuck. Over the years the recipe evolved enough that it no longer resembled Todd’s Chili. It became Greg’s Chili.
The current, highly classified, recipe hasn’t changed much at all since 2009. Too many people depend on it to be consistent. It’s highly sought after by friends throwing NFL draft parties, Fantasy Football parties, graduation parties, NASCAR parties, candle parties, sex toy parties…. I suppose it’s just a good party food.
A lengthy aside on ingredients…
And I’ll only mention one here; chili peppers. I like hot foods. Most of my friends enjoy hot foods so, with them in mind, my chili is hot. Not painfully hot; it has a nice zing to it that gets your attention, though. Having said that, a year or so ago, my friend Chad and I started ordering some frighteningly hot hot sauces; like these ones (Devil’s Revenge is my personal favorite). They are good sauces… great flavor and a nice burn…. but you gotta be careful because they are hot and will
kick burn your mouth ass if overused. By the way, I have never use any type of hot sauce to make my chili hot; only various chili peppers.
The sauces I’ve mentioned thus far are made with habanero chilies. Habaneros are hot freakin’ chilies! But Chad was looking for hotter and he found it.. in the form of the Bhut Jolokia chili pepper. It’s simply a beast of a chili. Just to put the hotness of chili peppers in perspective…. I’ll use Tabasco sauce as an example since most people are familiar with it. The chilies used in the traditional Tabasco sauce are, well, Tabasco chilies. They come in on the Scoville scale (which gauges hotness of chilies) at an average 40,000 units. Ghost chilies, however, average 1,159,350 units! THAT’S ALMOST TWENTY NINE TIMES HOTTER than Tabasco chilies. Chad bought seeds for these “ghost” chilies last year, gave me some, and the race was on to grow some of the hottest chilies in the world. And we did! I ended up with four of ‘em and with nothing to use them for in the fall, I froze ‘em!
Then along comes this years Foundation Software Chili Cook-off. I was frustrated about last years major fail and almost didn’t sign up. But I’m not one to accept failure as a learning experience and move to the sidelines while others compete. Failure drives me to become better! I signed up to participate on the last day of eligibility.
While picking up the 47 ingredients necessary for a kick ass batch of chili… I was thinking of those ghost chilies sleeping in my freezer. Do I use one, two…more? Hell I had no idea! I never tried one, so had no clue as to how hot they were and how much they’d change the complexion of my formerly consistent chili. So after all the normal ingredients began to simmer… I pulled the largest of my four ghost chilies out of the freezer.
I prepared it like all the other chilies in the recipe and figured I’d try a little bite… before throwing this thing into the pot and potentially assaulting my coworkers with burning lips and, ultimately, flaming assholes. Here’s how my taste test went (and I’m talking a very small piece… think pinky fingernail size):
- Down the hatch…
- This is an extremely sweet pepper…
- Is it not hot because I grew it in Ohio?
Then… maybe thirty seconds later…
- DEAR GOD WHY IS THIS THING SO HOT?
- HOLY CRAP THIS PAIN IS UNREAL!
I drink milk to chase away the very real pain…
- Milk works… Okay this isn’t so bad.
- Pain returns! WHAT DID I DO TO DESERVE THIS??? Make it stop! I feel like I want to puke, but if that sliver of pepper comes out my nose, I’m prolly GONNA DIE!
- I don’t puke.. and after maybe ten minutes the pain is just a dull buzz on my tongue and lips.
- Not too bad in the end!
I figure there’s no way this tiny little pepper can make my huge batch of chili that hot…. so I dump it in the pot. Heck, if the stuff ends up being unbearably hot, I’ll just say I was punishing those who didn’t vote for my stuff last year.
But it was, in my opinion, my best batch yet. The ghost chili creates a different sort of heat than other chilies do… I’ve been calling it a slow burn. Not too spicy the first bite… but the heat kicks in and stays for a few minutes. It’s rather delightful!
Today’s competition consisted of thirteen entries. Nine of which (including mine) were billed as “traditional” chili (ie. beef or pork based). Those were the ones I competed with.
The other four were “non-traditional,” meaning they had meats in them that were from dead animals other than cows or pigs…
They were all really, really good! I ate a bit of each one just to compare ‘em all… then finished off with extras of mine and Chad’s.
I ate far too much chili today and will probably poop half a dozen times tomorrow! Or even later tonight… No matter, though, because it was great food!
Ultimately…. I WON THE COMPETITION! I’m pretty excited about it, too! I’ve been calling my chili “award winning” because I have two second place trophies. They ARE trophies, right? But trophies pointing out that I wasn’t the best, but the first loser.. that’s weak!
Now I have the first place trophy…and the best chili! Woo hoo!!!
PS… I don’t give out my recipe… but if you’re really, REALLY nice… I just might!