October 16, 2013 10:02:03 AM
Jan Swoope - [email protected]
What's not to love about autumn? Lap blankets on game day, hayrides, pumpkins on the porch -- and chili. Hot, mild, beef, chicken, sausage, beans, bean-less, vegetarian. However you prefer yours, it's about time to stock up on ingredients and pull out that big pot.
More than 700 chili tasters turned out Friday at the Mississippi State Amphitheater to sample recipes served up by 18 teams participating in the Starkville Junior Auxiliary's second annual Chilifest. Team themes and names ranged from a "Duck Dynasty" spin-off to First Baptist Church's WILD bunch (Walking in Love Daily).
The Chilifest idea originated with JA member Mamie Kosko, who had attended a similar event in Galveston, Texas, a few years ago.
"It was so much fun! I really wanted to start one in Starkville," said Kosko. "I thought it would be the perfect family event and a great fundraiser for JA." Proceeds from Chilifest support the organization's many services to the children of Oktibbeha County, including the Backpack Program, Girl Talk, Stuff the Bus, JA Pals and assistance to teachers in providing enrichment activities at the T.K. Martin Center.
Team spirit and spices
Once Marc McGee and Zach Rowland got good-naturedly "volunteered" as chili chefs for the Starkville Rotary Club team, they decided that if they were going to do it, they were going to do it right. That meant starting four nights in advance of Chilifest, grinding meats and customizing a blend of spices, giving the flavors plenty of time to come together. Exact ingredients and measurements will remain a closely-guarded secret.
"I will tell you this, our base was sausage and stew meat and we had three different kinds of beans -- baked beans, pinto beans and kidney beans," revealed McGee, who, when not in a chef's apron, is director of MSU's Research and Technology Corp. and Thad Cochran Research, Technology and Economic Development Park.
A fortunate miscalculation in multiplying recipe ingredients in order to produce 5 gallons of chili turned out to be a good thing. Instead, the team had enough to make 10 gallons, and they still very nearly ran out Friday. All their efforts paid off. Starkville Rotary Club took first place in the People's Choice Awards, and won the Flavor Savor Award (best aftertaste) from a panel of three judges.
Both McGee and Rowland are experienced cooks but are "newbies" to the world of chili cook-offs, admitted Rowland, deputy director for MSU's Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems.
"But it was a lot of fun and it's for the very worthwhile efforts JA is doing -- and like any similar competition, it's an opportunity to do a little trash talking with those who are near and dear to you," said Rowland, predicting he'll participate again next year.
All signs indicate the crowd-pleasing fundraiser, with its Kids Village and Little Chili Pepper 1-mile fun run, is on track to grow even bigger next year, a win-win for chili fans and the children served by JA as well.
Kosko said, "We cannot thank everyone enough for the support we have in our community which allows us to give back."
Chilifest 2013 award winners were People's Choice first place, Starkville Rotary Club; second place, Starkville Young Professionals; third place, George Sherman's. The Judges' Favorite and overall best decor winners were the Hometown Boys. The Aroma Coma award went to WILD (First Baptist Church). Starkville Young Professionals took home the Bully's Bite award (best kick).
Add spice to your fall with the chili recipes in today's food section. The Tarantula Jack's chili won $25,000 for first place in the International Chili Society's cookoff in 1989. An oldie-but-goodie.
TARANTULA JACK'S THUNDERING HERD BUFFALO TAIL CHILI
Makes 6-8 servings
3 pounds cubed beef
2 medium Walla Walla Sweet Onions (chopped fine)
3 large cloves garlic (finely minced)
2 10-ounce cans chicken broth
2 12-ounce cans Hunts Tomato Sauce
7 tablespoons Gebhardt Chili Powder
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco Pepper Sauce
Add the Hunts Tomato Sauce, Gebhardt Chili Powder and the ground cumin. Stir.
(Source: Philip M. Walter; chilicookoff.com)
BEEF AND BEER CHILI
Makes 4 servings
1 1/2 cups red onion (chopped, medium)
1 cup red bell pepper (chopped, small)
8 ounces ground beef (extra lean)
2 garlic cloves (minced)
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 (19 ounce) can red kidney beans (drained)
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes (undrained)
1 (14 ounce) can low sodium beef broth
1 (12 ounce) bottle of beer
1 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
(Source: Jackie Mills, Cooking Light)
JIMMY FALLON'S CROCKPOT CHILI
Makes 8 servings
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 1/2 pounds ground chuck beef, ground for chili
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large white onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 habanero chile, seeded and very finely chopped
1/4 cup chile powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes, coarsely chopped with their juices
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for serving
1 (12-ounce) bottle amber beer
2 (15-ounce) cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Tortilla chips, for serving
Shredded cheddar cheese, for serving
Chopped tomatoes, for serving
Sour cream, for serving
Lime wedges, for serving
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.