I think I may just become a "professional eater". Seems that I'm well on my way to this new position, having now been a judge at four tasting contests in Collinsgwood this season. Three at the Collingswood Farmers' Market: Salsa, Peach and Apple Pie contests, and the Chili Contest at the Fall Festival in Knight Park. The Fall Festival is an event sponsored by the Collingswood Borough Elementary, Middle and High School PTA's. Held in our large park, called Knight Park, schools gather together to showcase their PTA and to raise money for them. There is food for sale, games and entertainment for kids and adults and it's a way to come together outside as a community.
My friend, Kate Thomas-Arter, asked me to step in and be a judge for the Borough's annual Chili contest at the Fall Festival this past weekend, Rather than be a contestant and try to figure out when I was going to have time to make a crock pot full of chili, I jumped at the chance to be a taster instead of a contributor. I knew this contest would be a good one and it wouldn't make me have a sugar melt-down like I experienced from the last two pie contests. If one paces oneself, sampling chili might not be such a bad way to spend a lunch hour.
Our picture perfect autumn afternoon was an idyllic day, crisp air, beautiful light, several hundred people from the community enjoying music and hay rides. I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't watching some Hallmark Television program, that what I was experiencing was truly real. The video posted above was a quick scene I shot and tweaked in the editing to cut out a few seconds of blank movement. The performer's song and the moment were so in sync with each other that it would have been a waste to not capture the moment. If only I hadn't been quite so shakey with my hand-held movements. No matter, the feelings are visible.
The judges handed in their votes quickly, except for me. I was too busy taking notes, sniffing ingredients and savoring bites. I ate slowly and I took small samples. The votes were counted in private so I don't know if we had a tie in any category. Unlike the Farmers' Market contests, there weren't various categories to judge. This was a straightforward affair, 1st, 2nd and 3rd place.
3rd Place was awarded to - Chili #5, Denise Gregorio. Denise, is the mother of one of my son's classmates, so we know her and the family well. I made sure I didn't know who made the chilis before I tasted them, so that I wouldn't be biased. I'm glad I was sure to be a "blind-taster", Denise's chili, along with a few others were cooked by friends. Denise's chili had a bite that lingered on the tongue, giving it a kick that kept on kicking! Thick, ground meat and lots of beans, this too was another chili that I noted i my top five favorites.
Kate Thomas-Arter's Chili Recipe:
- 2 lbs. Stew beef - cut into small cubes
- 1 large onion - small dice
- 1 green bell pepper - small dice
- 1 red bell pepper - small dice
- 2 Tbsp Chili powder (McCormick Hot Mexican-Style)
- 2 tsp Ground Cumin
- 1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
- 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
- 2 tsp Salt
- Pinch Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- 1 Can (14-16 ounces) Kidney Beans - mostly drained
- 1 Can (14-16 ounces) Black Beans - drained and rinsed
- 1 Can Mexican-Style Rotel Tomatoes (about 15 ounces)
- 1 Large Can (29oz.) Tomato Sauce
- 1/4 Cup Frank's Red Hot Sauce
- 1 Square Ghiradelli 72% Cacao (must be dark chocolate, at least 72% dark)
- Sauté onion and peppers in oil, set aside.
- Salt and pepper beef, and sear beef in batches in small amount of vegetable oil. Cut into small pieces, deglaze pan.
- Add meat (and its juices) and vegetables back in and add seasonings.
- Add all other ingredients.
- After coming to a boil, simmer for 2 hours, best the next day.
Per Kate's notes to me, she told me,
"I needed to add a little more chili powder and garlic powder, and I also did a cornstarch slurry, because it was a little too liquidy."
A cornstarch slurry is a teaspoon of cornstarch added to a quarter cup of cold water and stirred. You then pour a bit of the slurry into the chili and stir. As the chili heats up, the cornstarch acts as a thickener. Only use a bit at a time, otherwise you may end up with something too thick or like paste!