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Monday, January 28, 2013

Chili Cookoff




Yesterday was great fun as I sat in booth 208 at the Chili Cook-off at from 5:30 AM to 5:30 PM.As I watched the moon grow dark yellow and set in the west, the sun crept up in the east burning off the morning dew and creating a chill. I started the day in a T-shirt covered by a long sleeved sweater, covered by a fleece jacket and ended the day in just T. There were many vendors giving away free stuff, my favorite. Throngs of people waited outside the gate, and even camped out overnight, to get into the concert venue. Lots of partying and drinking was going on, of course, and I'm nursing the results of my own participation in that, today.
But the greatest thing about the day was the chili. Cooking it, or, rather, watching it be cooked and prepped by my fiancé and his friends from the Fort Lauderdale Fire Department and eating it. And eating it. And eating it.
We were honored to have an opportunity to speak with the chief chili judge who informed us that there were 123 red chili contestants (and "red" is a specific kind of chili, in case you didn't know) and 73 salsa contestants plus a competition for booth and showmanship. The picture above is a chili booth. 
 As a contestant, you're up against some fierce competition including both circuit cooks who make their rounds about the chili cook-off contests throughout the country and professional chefs as well. The chili is judged based on five elements: taste, consistency, aroma, color (appearance) and bite. Taste, being the most important factor, should consist of the combination of the meat, peppers, spices, with no particular ingredient being dominant, but rather a blend of the flavors. The content can be any kind of meat, vegetables and chilies. For the consistency, chili must have a good ratio between sauce and meat. It should not be dry, watery, grainy, lumpy, or greasy. For aroma, obviously chili should smell good but also give an indication of what is in store for you when you taste it. The color or appearance should be appetizing. Reddish brown is generally accepted as good. Chili is not yellow or green. The key to the appearance is to have the vegetables disappear in the mixture. I recommended blending the veggies ... but, then again, I'm not the chef. Finally, bite or after taste, that’s the heat created by the various type of chili peppers and chili spices. The heat could start immediately or have a delayed effect.
Interesting enough, there are no beans in the red chili. Chili with beans is considered a home-style chili and that's judged in a separate contest.
For more information on chili cook-offs check out the official website and maybe dare to enter yourself http://www.chilicookoff.com.

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