Brown sugar, raw potato, peanut butter, garlic and white bread. Ingredients for an exotic cake or sandwich of some kind? Hardly. But you will find these items packed into the hamper of a well seasoned competition chili cook. Not exactly ingredients, these are more like first aid supplies.
First off, you have to understand that competition chili is not what you would feed your friends and family on a cold winter day. That would have wonderful morsels of onion, big chunks of tomato, lots of flavorful meat and, yes, beans. Competition chili is strictly meat and red gravy with plenty of spice. There has been a transition in thought when it comes to the meat selection, and instead of the labor-intensive one-eighth-inch cubed, hand-cut meat, these days many serious chili cooks are turning to coarsely ground chuck for ease and convenience.
The meat is seared, powdered spices liberally added, and then it is gently simmered in a broth laced with tomato sauce for a couple of hours to break down the meat fibers. Boiling or cooking at too high a temperature will cause the to meat contract and become too chewy. But, slow cooking, even under the most watchful eye does not guarantee a perfect pot of chili. Last minute corrections can save the day.
If the gravy is bitter from old spices (paprika, in particular) or has too much tomato, add a little brown sugar. Not to sweeten, but to smooth out the flavor. Too salty? Add a peeled raw potato and turn up the heat. As the potato cooks, the starch will draw in salt. Is the gravy too sharp in flavor? Add a teaspoon of creamy peanut butter, or a square of Mexican chocolate (called Molé) to temper the spices. Garlic is the secret ingredient for removing the industrial taste of a Styrofoam judging cup. Crush one clove and then rub it over all inside surfaces of the cup. White bread can be used to wick away grease that accumulates on the surface.
Come see how chili is done right, and taste for yourself at the 39th Annual Tolbert Ladies State Chili Championship of Texas, on Saturday, October 3, 2009, at Camp Ranger, 2778 Ranch Road 32, Blanco. This family-friendly, day-long event kicks off at 11:00am with the always hysterical Girly Man Beauty Contest. Chili samples will be ready at 1:00pm. There is an open barbeque competition as well. Admission is free. Music starts at 7 pm. All proceeds benefit breast cancer resources in the Hill Country.
The event is presented by KFAN radio, Pioneer Mills, and Republic Tequila.
For more information contact Susie Higgins at 512-558-1321 or visit the website at www.ladiesstate.org