It's Chili and Its Hot

It's chili and it's hot! 
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No beans about the Utah State Chili Cook-Off

By Valerie Phillips
Deseret News food editor

      For some folks, chili isn't a food, it's a lifestyle. On a summer day approaching 90 degrees, stirring up a hot pot of chili is about the last thing on most cooks' mind. But that didn't stop some 20 contestants from traveling hundreds of miles to compete at the Utah State Chili Cook-Off at the Ogden Street Festival July 14.

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Mike Roberts of Bountiful adds spices to his chili at the Utah State Chili Cook-Off.
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Michael Brandy, Deseret News
      With nearly $2,000 in prize money at stake, these folks take chili-cooking seriously €” no beans about it.
      And according to the International Chili Society, which sanctioned the event, there literally are no beans about it. According to the rules, "chili" is defined as meat, or a combination of meats, cooked with chilies and a variety of spices. Chili Verde should have a green chili sauce ("verde" means "green" in Spanish). Beans, spaghetti or other "filler" aren't allowed, except in the "People's Choice" category, where festivalgoers can sample the chili and vote for their favorites.
      The aroma of garlic and onions wafted around that side of the festival as contestants, in wildly decorated booths, sporting names like "Billy's Belly Buster Chili" and "No Name Gourmet," chatted with onlookers about their passion for chili-cooking. But when it came to recipes €” well, no one was eager to share their trade secrets.
      Contestants are only required to divulge their recipes if they win the World Championship, explained Mary Renfrow of Lancaster, Calif., who served as an officiator with her husband, Rocky. The two have cooked and won many ICS events over the years, including the Utah championship two years ago.
      Chili Verde winner was Darol Wetzel of Manhattan, Mont., who also won first place last year. Her husband, Bob Wetzel, won the People's Choice competition. Each won $200, as did Barbara Ward of Newhall, Calif., who took the salsa category. She's in good company, as her son, Mark Ward, was last year's World Champion salsa-maker. The top winner for Red Chili was Mark Sweeney of Los Angeles, who won $600. By winning the competition, all three earned spots at the World Championship in Reno, Nev. (One doesn't have to be a resident of the state represented at the championship competition.)
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Jeff Ray of Salt Lake City chops onions for his chili cook-off entry.
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Michael Brandy, Deseret News
      After the announcements were made, Sweeney immediately whipped out his cell phone to share the good news. After well-wishers were able to pry him away from his phone, Sweeney said he felt his success was in his timing. "I've been adding my ingredients a little earlier and letting the chili cook a little longer."
      Sweeney, part of the "The Bar T Bathwater Chili" booth, was cooking with Jeff Ray of Salt Lake City. His advice for home cooks making chili: "Use good ingredients, good chili powder and good meat. And persevere."
      Judges weren't allowed to chat while tasting €” "It might influence another judge's opinion about that chili, warned Rocky Renfrow. Bottled water, wedges of tortilla, grapes and carrots were on the table so judges could "cleanse the palate" in between spoonfuls. (The chili itself had already cleansed the sinuses).
      A good chili's consistency shouldn't be too thick or too thin, advised Renfrow. The spices should have permeated the meat well. The meat's texture should be tender but not chewy or mushy. The winning entries seemed to have a flavorful kick, not a searing burn.
      What sets each bowl of chili apart is your blend of spices, said Marilyn Allen of Dayton, Nev., who took fourth place in last year's World Championship for Red Chili (and fourth place in this year's Utah competition as well.) "It makes a difference if you use California chili powder or New Mexico, or the pasilla chilies, and how much cumin you add," Allen said. "That's where you get to become a scientist. You take a teaspoon of this, a tablespoon of that €” whatever, then you go out on the circuit €” and cook it. Then see what the judges say. Then you might add more salt or garlic or whatever."
      Contestants don't use ground meat; the beef or pork is finely diced by hand. The best way to cube it is to partially freeze the meat first, Allen said. She and her husband, Sonny, compete in 50 to 60 chili cook-offs a year, sometimes attending two competitions in a weekend.
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Festival visitor Bill Stewart of Layton samples chili for the People's Choice Award at the Utah State Chili Cook-Off in Ogden.
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Michael Brandy, Deseret News
            "I don't cook against anybody, I cook with them, and whoever gets the most points wins," she said. Allen cooks Red Chili and her husband cooks Chili Verde and salsa. "We don't compete against each other because the prize money all goes into the same pot."
      Two local contestants were "Dos Hermanos Locos" (translation: "Two Crazy Brothers"), Matt Roberts of Layton and Mike Roberts of Bountiful. They didn't just cook. They also had an educational display of different chilies and a "heat scale" listing chilies from mildest to hottest.
      Here are last year's World Championship-winning recipes.

 

 


JIM WELLER'S MACKTOWN CHILI

      3 pounds tri-tip beef, cubed
      1 14-ounce can beef broth
      1 14-ounce can chicken broth
      1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
      1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

      Spice Mix:
      8 tablespoons mild California chili powder
      2 tablespoons hot New Mexico chili powder
      3 tablespoons cumin
      1 tablespoon garlic granules
      1 tablespoon onion granules
      1/2 tablespoon arrowroot

      Brown meat, drain and add to chili pot with broths and tomato sauce. Add 75 percent of spice mix, bring to boil and simmer for 2 hours. Add Tabasco and remaining spices. Thin gravy with water, if necessary. Cook additional half hour or until meat is tender. Add salt to taste. This recipe makes about 3 quarts.

 


MARK WARD'S WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP SALSA

      2 8-ounce cans tomato sauce
      8 ripe tomatoes, chopped
      6 green onions, chopped
      1 medium red onion, chopped
      1 teaspoon of garlic
      1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
      2 to 3 fresh jalape€“o peppers
      5-8 fresh serrano peppers
      1 medium avocado
      1 teaspoon ground cumin
      Salt to taste
      Cayenne pepper to taste
      1 tablespoon lime juice

      Chop peppers, cilantro, onions and tomatoes. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Add salt and cayenne pepper to taste. Let sit 30 minutes. Makes 3 pints.

 


JERRY SIMMONS' WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP CHILI VERDE

      2 pounds lean pork (cubed 3/8 to 1/2 inch)
      2 tablespoons pork suet
      1 cup chopped onions
      1 can chicken broth

      Premixed Spices:
      1 1/2 teaspoons granulated garlic
      2 tablespoons Kraft chicken base
      1 teaspoon celery salt
      1 teaspoon oregano
      2 teaspoons cornstarch
      1 tablespoon cumin

      With 30 Minutes To Go:
      6 ounces hot green chilies
      2 tablespoons powdered green chili

      With 10 Minutes To Go:
      13 ounces green chilies, diced in 3/8 inch cubes
      1/4 teaspoon powdered green jalape€“o
      8 ounces Herdez Salsa Verde
      8 ounces Green Mexican Sauce
      1 teaspoon cumin
      1/4 cup cilantro

      Brown pork in suet. Add onions to the pot and chicken broth. Simmer for one hour.
      Add premixed spices. Cook until meat is tender. Add water as needed to keep meat covered. With 30 minutes to go, add blended hot chili and powdered green chili. With 10 minutes to go, add green chilies, cumin, powdered green jalape€“o, Salsa Verde, cilantro and Green Mexican Sauce.
      Adjust, making sure it's thick enough. Must be HOT! and salty.

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