Crockpots will be simmering across America this week leading up to the big game, but where does your chili stack up against the rest?
If you’re one of those people that swears by a secret recipe that your great-great-grandpa learned from a wily canteen chef in some dusty frontier town, consider testing your mettle at the Town Hall Brewery chili cook-off, this Sunday morning at 11:00am (see specifics on entry and tasting on Town Hall’s Facebook event).
Otherwise, if you’re one of those people that likes to kick back and let other people do all the cooking for you, $10 gets you unlimited bowls of the competitors’ chili and a pint of Town Hall beer, beginning at 1pm.
And in case you’re still dialing in your recipe, we asked Town Hall chef Matt Lepisto for a few tips:
Know your style
“There are so many styles,” he says. “First, you’ve gotta pick what type you’re going for, there are so many regional differences.” You could go the meat-forward Texas route, or New Mexico green, or white chili with chicken and white beans. Either way, you have to pour the foundation before you can build a house, so figure out that guiding principle for organizing the rest of your masterpiece.
Then select your primary meat
“New Mexico usually uses pork shoulder, whereas Texas might be cubed or ground beef. Once you have the style, you’ll know which meat to go with.” And if you’re opting for veggie chili, what about tofu or tempeh? “My personal preference is to go with a variety of beans instead,” he says. “You can get a good mix of different flavors and textures.”
Pick your peppers
“Arbol, ancho, jalapeno, serrano, fresno. Your style of chili is going to influence the heat and flavor you need.” Lepisto prefers to mix and match—fresh, dried, roasted—to strike the right balance of earthy, sweet, and hot. “You can rehydrate them, or puree them into a rub for the meat. You can utilize chilis in so many different ways.”
Beans or no beans, that is the question
“Everyone uses beans, except in Texas. There it’s no beans, period. I myself enjoy beans. It gives it a different texture and flavor, also color. For my style chili, I like to use kidney beans, and a little black bean—but if it’s chicken chili it has to be navy beans.” There’s certainly nothing wrong with using canned red kidneys, but with a little forethought, the right mix of beans could be where you separate your chili from the pack.
“That’s the way to individualize your chili to set it apart from everyone else’s, there’s so many varieties of garnish.” Town Hall tops their chili with a ranch sour cream and cheddar cheese for some fat and richness. But if you build a sturdy, workmanlike chili, the garnish is where you should throw caution to the wind. Get creative, add some different flavor and texture, and make your chili memorable.