Recently we entered our very first chili cook off competition. There were six others in the competition and hundreds of audience members tasting and voting on the different chilis. After all was said and done; however, we took the award for best chili in the audience vote.
To me this was a huge honor because there were somegreat competitors including an outstanding local caterer, the local rodeo association and several others who really, really put their best foot forward. After exchanging samples we wouldn't have minded losing to any of these people - their chili was outstanding. So here's the recipe that we used.
There was a lot of "some of this some of that" adjustment as the chili was being prepared.
The inspiration for this chili came from one of the wonderful people who stay with us, our friend Tom. Thank you, Tom! We thought the idea of PB&J chili was nuts 'till we tried it and now we love it, too! Apparently so do several hundred people in Lake County who helped judge the chili competition.
The same is true of spices. The stuff in most grocery stores doesn't have that punch - it's there because it's cheap. Instead, let me recommend a taste bud changing experience in Savory Spice Shop in Santa Rosa. Fortunately, you can also buy on line.
So, here's how it works:
- 1 lb Italian pork sausage - ours comes from a local butcher shop
- 1 lb ground beef - ours comes from a local butcher shop and 'real' ground beef tastes so terrific as opposed to the mystery meat they hide in packages you can't see through.
- 2 lbs flat iron steak cut into small pieces
- 2 14oz cans of tomatoes finely cut - your choice of brand or style
- 1 14oz can of tomato paste
- 2 onions coarsely chopped
- 1/8 bell pepper finely chopped
- 1 fresh jalapeño finely chopped
- Chili Powder - they have mild, medium and hot - your choice - add this to taste
- Himalayan Sea Salt - fine
- freshly ground pepper
- fresh crushed garlic.
- smooth peanut butter - Laura Scudders is best
- cheap grape jelly
Butterfly your jalapeño and bell pepper, removing all the innards and seeds. Coat them with olive oil and grill them lightly on a hot bbq grill so that they've got nice grill marks on them. Then finely chop these guys as they've got a date with a pot of chili.
We're back to the big pot so in that pot:
Cook your flat iron steak first - when it starts to heat-up throw in the first chopped onion, the bell pepper and some garlic.
lightly cover your flat irons and onion with some chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper
Once the flat irons and onions are beginning to get done stir in the raw sausage.
When the sausage is starting to get browned, throw on your ground beef. This is the time for the other onion and some more garlic. You can't go wrong with too much onion and garlic, at least not to me.
Cover and mix only occasionally until the meat is close to done. Over mixing will destroy the meat's texture and that's part of the equation here.
When all the meat's done nicely drain off most of the fat. You'll have enough fat left over to grease the entire Pacific fleet for a while.
Then throw in the tomatoes and the jalapeño and another round of all the spices to taste. This is why there's no real recipe, you just have to adjust to taste.
Once everything's hot it's time for a nice big spoon of that cheap grape jelly. Trust me, this cuts the acidity of the tomatoes. Also, you can put in a spoon of the peanut butter. Mix these in well.
Lower the heat and just let it sit there - the longer the better. When it's fantastic, you're ready to please some taste buds.