Chilifest: A fall favorite is on this Starkville JA fundraiser's menu


Junior Auxiliary of Starkville members Jane Anna Harris, Foley Holditch and Mamie Kosko whip up a simmering pot of chili Oct. 11. The JA chapter will host its first annual Chilifest in downtown Starkville Friday, Oct. 19.

Junior Auxiliary of Starkville members Jane Anna Harris, Foley Holditch and Mamie Kosko whip up a simmering pot of chili Oct. 11. The JA chapter will host its first annual Chilifest in downtown Starkville Friday, Oct. 19. Photo by: Lee Adams/Dispatch Staff


Jan Swoope



When the weather takes on the crisp mantle of autumn, our taste buds turn to fall's favorite foods. Chili often tops the list. (There's a reason October is National Chili Month.) Knowing that marriage of sweet and spicy flavors is the perfect complement to a weekend of Mississippi State homecoming festivities, Junior Auxiliary of Starkville will host the first annual Chilifest Friday, Oct. 19, from 5 to 8 p.m.


The fundraiser takes place under tents on Starkville's Main Street, between Lafayette and Jackson Streets, immediately following the MSU homecoming parade and pep rally in the Junction.


Chili teams from various businesses, civic groups and tailgating crews will prepare their A-game recipe, and the public reaps the rewards. For $5, anyone can enjoy the chili tasting and vote for their favorite. Prizes go to the top three vote-getters. Voting ends at 7:30 p.m., with winners announced before 8 p.m.



All proceeds benefit JA projects including Stuff the Sleigh, a toy drive for the needy; Safety Town, which increases children's safety awareness; and JA Pals, a one-on-one tutoring program.



New South celebration


Chilifest is part of Starkville's New South Weekend lineup for October. New South Weekends, spearheaded by the Greater Starkville Development Partnership, begin the Friday night before MSU home football games.


Event coordinator and JA member Mamie Kosko describes Chilifest as a "fun night geared towards families, foodies or anyone who wants to experience the local culture in downtown Starkville."


Organizers promise plenty of entertainment to add to the evening's excitement.


"Local musicians Bill Davis, Kallie North, and Honey Boy and Boots [Drew and Courtney Blackwell] will perform, and there will be a children's village with face-painting, games and a bounce house," Kosko said. The event is designed to provide something for everyone. Downtown businesses will even be open for after-hours shopping.


Starkville Alderman Jeremiah Dumas noted that "the city's largest holding of land is in our street rights of ways. Streets are great for moving people, but when you can diversify their use by using them for festival space on top of the benefit of encouraging people to come to our downtown, it is a win-win for all. I love chili, and I look forward to eating it, but I am more excited about the continued emphasis of growing our downtown and showcasing Starkville as part of the New South Weekend Program."


Chili tasting tickets are available for purchase from any Starkville JA member, at the Greater Starkville Development Partnership, Thyme, and Occasions in Starkville, or at the entrance to Chilifest. Chilifest T-shirts and other food such as hot dogs and snacks will be for sale. For additional information, email [email protected] or [email protected]


Even if you're not entering a chili contest this week, most home cooks will want to make a few pots of this hearty, satisfying comfort food in the months ahead. Two recipes from celebrity chefs today may give you a new idea or two. Paula Deen's chili in a biscuit bowl offers a fresh twist. And southwestern specialist Bobby Flay elevates chili to gourmet status with his "expert" beef chili recipe. They may inspire your own adaptations. After all, there's plenty of time to perfect your own version for next October's Chilifest.





Makes 6 servings


Prep time: 20 minutes


Total time: 1 hour, 20 minutes



Vegetable oil cooking spray


2 cups biscuit baking mix (recommended: Bisquick)


2/3 cup whole milk


1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper


Flour, for dusting the work surface


1 pound ground chuck


1 medium onion, chopped


1 medium green bell pepper, chopped


2 (14-ounce) cans Mexican-style stewed tomatoes


1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed


2 tablespoons chili powder


1 teaspoon salt





Shredded sharp Cheddar


Sour cream


Sliced green onions (white and green parts)


Corn chips



  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Invert a muffin tin and spray the underside with vegetable oil cooking spray.


  • Stir together the baking mix, milk, and cayenne. Shape into a ball. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead 3 or 4 times. Divide the ball into 6 pieces. Roll each piece into a 6-inch circle. Place a dough circle over the back of each muffin cup. Press around the cup to form a bowl shape. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until lightly browned. Let cool slightly. Remove the biscuit bowls and reserve.


  • Brown the ground chuck over medium heat in a Dutch oven. Add the onion and green pepper and continue to cook until the meat is completely browned and the vegetables are tender. Drain off any fat and discard. Stir in the tomatoes, beans, chili powder, and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 35 minutes.


  • When ready to serve, spoon the hot chili into the biscuit bowls. Garnish with shredded cheese, sour cream, sliced green onions, and corn chips.







    Makes 6 servings



    1/4 cup olive oil


    2 pounds beef, cut into 1/2-inch cubes


    Salt and freshly ground black pepper


    1 large red onion, finely diced


    4 cloves garlic, finely chopped


    3 tablespoons ancho chili powder


    1 tablespoon pasilla chili powder


    1 tablespoon ground cumin


    1 bottle dark beer


    5 cups homemade chicken stock, or canned low-sodium or water


    1 (16-ounce) can chopped tomatoes, drained and pureed


    1 tablespoon chipotle pepper puree


    1 tablespoon honey


    2 cups cooked or canned black beans, rinsed and drained


    2 tablespoons fresh lime juice


    Toasted Cumin Crema


    1 tablespoon cumin seed


    1 cup Mexican crema or creme fraiche


    Salt and freshly ground black pepper


    Avocado Relish


    2 ripe Hass avocados, peeled, pitted and diced


    1/2 small red onion, finely diced


    1 jalapeno or serrano chile, finely diced


    Lime juice


    Chopped cilantro leaves


    Salt and pepper



  • Make the toasted cumin crema: Place the cumin in a small sauté pan over medium heat. Toast until lightly golden brown. Place in a small bowl. Stir in the crema and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Place in a squeeze bottle.


  • Make the avocado relish: Combine all avocado relish ingredients in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper.


  • Make the beef and black bean chili: Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over high heat.


  • Season the beef with salt and pepper, and sauté until browned on all sides.


  • Transfer the meat to a plate and remove all but 3 tablespoons of the fat from the pan.


  • Add the onions to the pan and cook until soft. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add the ancho powder, pasilla powder, and cumin and cook an additional 2 minutes.


  • Add the beer and cook until completely reduced. Return the beef to the pot, add the chicken stock, tomatoes, chipotle puree, and honey, and bring to a boil.


  • Reduce the heat to medium, cover the pan, and simmer for 45 minutes.


  • Add the beans and continue cooking for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the lime juice and adjust seasonings.


  • Serve chili with a dollop of toasted cumin crema and avocado relish.





  • Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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