Posts tagged: chili

Chili Cook-Off

chiliOn Sunday I attended the 3rd Annual Fireplace Chili Cook-Off at the Squantz Engine Company, the fire department in New Fairfield, CT. The proceeds from the event will not contribute towards the company’s goal of purchasing a new engine to replace an engine they have now, but that?s not why I went specifically. My friend, Matt Lucero, A firefighter in Darien CT who is known all over Fairfield County for his cooking skills was a participant in the event. While it seems unfair to all the other firefighters that he be allowed to participate, he nevertheless agreed to attend as it is for a great cause. I?m thinking she allowed himself some sort of handicap to keep things fair.

If there one thing that firefighters are known for (other than fighting fires and rescuing cats from trees) it is their cooking. In fact, they are a competitive lot, fiercely proud of their cooking (with good reason), and love to show off their culinary skills with events like this one. You could probably find a firefighter cook-off every weekend of the year near you if you wanted. And you should, the food is amazing. Am I biased because Matt is a friend of mine? Of course not. When the laws of the universe say that Matt?s chili is the best in the world, there is no bias, it is just a simple fact, and you can?t argue against universal laws.

Chili master Matt Lucero

Chili master Matt Lucero

There were a fair amount of entrants, and to be honest, all the chili was pretty good, with styles ranging from the smokey and savory, to the sweet and tangy. While my taste leans towards the savory, there wasn?t a chili there that I didn?t enjoy tasting. With meats ranging from venison to beef, tastes from barbecue sweet to robust and savory, even traditional and off the wall, the turn out was very good and the chili better. As much as I tried, I couldn’t pry Matt’s recipe from him, but I have to say that I was quite impressed with his as it had a nice meaty flavor, and, above all, the best texture I have found in a chili… It held together without being too watery, a fault I saw in every other entrant.

While Matt didn’t win, and I didn’t expect the non-local to win anyway, I felt that his chili was the best simply due to it’s meeting all the classic ‘chili’ standards while holding together in a great chili way. I may have to resort to darker measures to find his recipe. But whether I do or don’t, it was a fun day at the Squantz Engine Company, and we left there quite content. We’re on to find one more local now, hopefully one in our own backyard.

Mild or Wild Chili con Carne

chili con carne

Chili con carne

This is my favorite chili as it is simple to make yet has a varied mix of flavors that keep my brain busy. Prodigious use of tomatoes makes this a subtly sweet chili, though not so much as to overwhelm, and the combination of peppers adds layers of complexity to the dish. Personally, I prefer chili without beans, but they are easily added to this chili if you so choose. The same applies to the hot peppers, some prefer a milder chili and some a spicier, I like mine in the middle, hence just the few chili peppers. Whatever your choice, this is a rich, meaty chili with a lot of flavor, and I usually serve over rice with some grated cheddar and sour cream on top. Every day is a chili day for me.

1 1/4 pounds hamburger (give or take)
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 medium onion
3 chili peppers (e.g.  jalapeno peppers for light heat, habanero for heavy heat) – optional
4 garlic cloves
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 6 oz can tomato paste
5 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons oil (olive or vegetable)


peppers and onion

Peppers and onion

1. Roughly chop the peppers, onion, and garlic and heat in a large pot with the oil. If you want a little heat (spicy heat) include the chili/jalapeno peppers with the white pith (the ribs inside the pepper).  Choose your chili peppers wisely, as jalapenos will give a moderate heat, while some types, such as habanero or scotch bonnet will make your chili very spicy. Did you know that botanically, peppers are berries? Yep, they are, although for culinary use they are considered vegetables. I’ll stop that kind of talk now.

2. When the vegetables have softened a little and the onions are translucent, add the ground beef. Break apart the beef while it is cooking to ensure it falls apart into pieces.

3. When the beef has cooked, add the tomatoes and tomato paste and thoroughly stir in. Once the tomatoes are incorporated add the chili powder and stir.



4. Reduce the heat to a simmer and stir occasionally to prevent anything from sticking to the bottom of the pot. The key is to allow the chili to simmer for as long as you can to bring out the flavor of the chili powder. I cook my chili for a few hours, but if you are in a hurry, you may cook for as short a period of time as 30 minutes.

Serve with anything you like, grated cheese, sour cream, chopped parsley or cilantro.