I like chili. For more than 15 years I have toyed with different recipe variations for chili, from the basic to the more "open" shall we say. All that remains the same is that my recipe always uses beans, beef, and tomatoes; I don't cook white chili or chicken chili or what have you. Way back in the early days someone asked me if my recipe had a name. I chose "Chili for Forty Humans," an oblique reference to the first Simpsons Treehouse of Horror. The recipe has evolved but the name has not.
My chili is a weekend chili. The kind that stays on the stove for three days as the liquid reduces down and the taste homogenizes between the ingredients. Only this past year have I had the opportunity to participate in chili cook-offs. I have not won. I have not even come close. Today was a good example. It got me thinking, what makes a good cook-off chili? These are the things I will be thinking about next year at my employer's cook-off.
- Thickness - since each person could not possibly take an entire bowl of every entry, you chili should be thick enough to have a small ladle full contain most of the key ingredients and hardly any liquid. My chili was way too soupy today, but after it simmers for another six hours it might be okay.
- Punch - the chili should have an immediate taste/heat effect upon eating. People are trying lots of chili, and if yours is mild or subtle it will come off as tasteless. Again, that's where mine was inferior. After tasting some of the other entries I could barely even taste mine, and I know what my chili tastes like.
- Quantity - this one is mostly smoke and mirrors. The photo above is a good example of an obvious incongruity in popularity. If you had to pick which two of the above three chilis would finish first and third, which one would you not pick. I filled that crock pot up practically to the top, and even though it got consumed a fair bit it still looked like someone had seen a fly floating in it and word got around. Granted, it wasn't exactly terrific but if it can't be popular it could at least look popular. By the way, congrats to Josh (left) and Brian (right) for their winning chilis.
There you have it. I'm not, by nature, a sore loser but I am a curious loser always looking for ways to improve. There, if someone ever needs to write something about me they can truthfully say "self described curious loser." That's just great.