We love a good chili cookoff, and have loved to attend the bigger ones where you get a plethora of chili cooks working their simmerin’ mojo. Here’s a press release from the ConAgra Foods website about just such an event:
Chiliheads Unite and Compete for Title of World’s Best Chili
International Chili Society & ConAgra Foods Award Top Chili Cook $30,000 for Best Red Chili of 2006
OMAHA, Neb.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–J.R. Knudson of Granite Bay, Calif., whose flavorful red chili won the praise (and taste buds) of judges this weekend, received the award for the “World’s Best Chili” at the 40th annual World’s Championship Chili Cookoff™ sanctioned by the International Chili Society (ICS) and presented by ConAgra Foods.
Held Oct. 6-8, the event drew more than 400 award-winning chefs to Omaha to compete for the title of “World’s Best Chili” in three categories: Red, Green (“Verde”) and Salsa.
For most dedicated “chiliheads,” the purest form of chili is traditional red, also known as “Texas red.” Competition cooks spent countless hours adjusting and agonizing over seasonings and ingredients in their quest for the winning formula – that perfect blend of meat, spices and sauce that would grab the judges’ attention and not let go. Most red chili recipes included finely chopped meat, diced vegetables, tomato sauce or paste, garlic, chili powder and other spices. Official ICS rules prohibit the use of beans and other fillers.
Cookoff winners earned more than bragging rights – first-prize awards included $30,000 to J.R. Knudson, of Granite Bay, Calif., for winning the red chili cookoff with his recipe, “J.R.’s Rough and Ready Chili.” ConAgra Foods contributed $5,000 of the award because Knudson’s winning recipe included Hunt’s® tomato sauce and Gebhardt® chili powder, both quality products made by ConAgra Foods.
Winning Recipe Praised for Perfect Combination of Flavor and Zing
This year’s judges – who ranked each recipe based on taste, texture, consistency, spice blend, aroma and color – praised J.R. Knudson’s winning red chili recipe for its distinct flavor and texture.
“The cookoff was a great experience, and to have my chili named World’s Best is truly an honor,” said Knudson. “I take great pride in my chili recipe and its ingredients, and couldn’t be happier that the judges enjoyed it, too.”
“What could be more all-American than a chili cookoff?” asked Carol Hancock, CEO of the International Chili Society. “After all, chili is the ultimate all-American dish. America’s top chili cooks competed for the winning recipe and the results couldn’t have tasted better. We are so pleased with the turnout and extremely proud of our winners. Special thanks to ConAgra Foods, the city of Omaha, and all of our other sponsors.”
“ConAgra Foods is thrilled to honor the best of the best at the World’s Championship Chili Cookoff,” said Michael Hargrave, the company’s vice president of Sponsorships. “For chili enthusiasts who want to compete with the likes of this year’s champion, J.R. Knudson, using quality brands and products — such as Hunt’s tomatoes and Gebhardt chili powder — is a great start.”
About The International Chili Society
The International Chili Society is a nonprofit organization that sanctions chili cookoffs with judging, cooking rules and regulations. ICS events are conducted worldwide and benefit charities and nonprofit organizations. All winners of ICS-sanctioned cookoffs qualify to compete for cash prizes and awards at the World’s Championship Chili Cookoff held each year in October. The ICS is the largest food contest festival organization in the world. For more information, visit www.chilicookoff.com.
Origins of Chili – the All-American Food
While no one knows for sure exactly where chili originated, some historians have concluded that the first bowl of chili was made by the group of Spanish colonists who founded San Antonio in the early 18th century. But in 1976, Rufus Valdez, a full-blooded Ute Indian and Utah native, won the World’s Chili Championship using what he claimed to be a 2,000-year-old Ute recipe that had been passed down to the Utes by Pueblo cliff dwellers in Mesa Verde, Ariz. It took the advent of the cattle drive, however, to spread the popularity of chili as an all-American food with the persistence of a fine habanero. By the early 20th century, chili had become a national dish and chili parlors emerged around the country.
About the International Chili Society and World’s Championship Chili Cookoff
The ICS is a not-for-profit organization that sanctions chili cookoffs around the world to benefit charities and nonprofit organizations. Winners of ICS-sanctioned cookoffs qualify to compete for cash prizes and awards at the World’s Championship Chili Cookoff, which has been held annually since 1967. The ICS is the largest food contest festival organization in the world. It currently reaches more than 750,000 attendees a year through 180 plus events annually. Its sole purpose is to promote, develop and improve the preparation and appreciation of true chili and to determine each year the World’s Champion Chili through officially sanctioned and regulated competitive cookoffs. ICS- sanctioned cookoffs promote competition in three categories: Red (traditional red chili), Green (Verde) and Salsa, with a World Champion crowned annually in each category. The society aims to further the camaraderie of chiliheads on behalf of charitable and non-profit organizations in the world. For more information, visit www.chilicookoff.com.
About ConAgra Foods
ConAgra Foods, Inc. (NYSE:CAG), is one of North America’s leading packaged food companies, serving consumer grocery retailers, as well as restaurants and other foodservice establishments. Popular ConAgra Foods consumer brands include: Banquet, Chef Boyardee, Egg Beaters, Gebhardt, Gilroy Foods, Healthy Choice, Hebrew National, Hunt’s, Marie Callender’s, Orville Redenbacher’s, PAM, Ro*Tel, Wesson Oil and many others. For more information, visit www.conagrafoods.com.
Top Tips for Making the World’s Best Chili
1. Know Your Chile Peppers: There’s Hot… HOT, HOT… and REALLY HOT!
* The source of chili’s flavor is the chile pepper, and there are more than 150 varieties – including chipotle, poblano, jalapeño, habanero and more. Most grow in the United States, Mexico, Europe and South America. The HOT in chile peppers comes from capsaicin, a naturally occurring chemical that often survives cooking and freezing.
* Just how hot varies dramatically by degree and by pepper. Remember these tips to stay cool while handling hot chilies:
o Drying chilies increases the heat – never substitute dried chilies equally for fresh. You can reduce the heat of fresh chilies by carefully removing the white membrane and the seeds before cooking.
o Always wear gloves when working with chilies to help prevent the oils from touching your skin.
2. Good Chili Prep Turns up the Flavor, Not Just the Heat
* Store your chili overnight and serve the next day – the more time you give the flavors to marry, the better the taste.
* Use fresh and dry chilies when cooking – fresh has a clean, citrus vegetable flavor; dried gives a rich, roasted flavor.
* Grind your own chilies by heating pods in a dry sauté pan to release flavorful oils; grind with an old coffee grinder.
* Use chipotle in your chili – it not only offers heat, but also adds a great smoky flavor.
* To add a new level of flavor and “depth” to your chili or tomato sauces, try adding red wine or beer when cooking.
* Habanero isn’t just for main dishes – its sweet citrus undertone boosts flavor in desserts, fruits and chocolate.
3. When Meat Meets Heat.
* In the old days when home was on the range, you roped and tied the meat you put in your chili. Today, beef and pork remain chili staples – ground, pulled or cubed. But many chili fans also use ground turkey, turkey sausage or chicken for a leaner alternative that tastes great.
* For vegetarian chili, use lots of tomatoes, garlic and spices for the heartiness that meat provides non-veggie chili. Though hotly disputed among pros, beans remain a popular part of chili’s flavorful punch for many (canned beans are much simpler to use than dried, and taste just as good).
4. For World-Class Chili, Quality Ingredients Make a World of Difference.
* Quality ingredients … tomatoes, onions, green and red chili peppers, even chocolate, are important for award-winning chili. For the best chili, use canned tomatoes – such as Hunt’s tomato paste or Hunt’s diced tomatoes. They’re packed at the peak of freshness, offer a more consistent solids-to-juice ratio and add richness and depth of flavor. Mix canned diced and petite diced tomatoes for a better-looking chili. For variety, try Ro*Tel diced tomatoes and green chilies.
* To give your chili more body, use Hunt’s tomato purée or paste to help it thicken and reduce cooking time.
* Increase the flavor of your tomato paste by frying it briefly in a little olive oil before adding it to your recipe.
5. How to BEAT the Heat, When it’s TOO (DARN) HOT!
* Add some canned tomato sauce to cut the heat in your chili to a survivable level while retaining its rich flavor.
* If you have a five-alarm fire in your mouth, try milk, yogurt or sour cream to beat the heat (it’s what the chili judges use). Avocados, tomatoes or a splash of beer or wine also help. Don’t even think about water – it’s like gas on a fire!
* When the fire is out and you can feel your tongue again, dive back in. Whether you’re a part-time chili fan or full-blown chilihead/committed future world champion – the heat is part of this beat. And some really do like it hot!
World’s Championship Chili Cookoff
Traditional Red Chili Competition
J.R.’s Rough and Ready Chili By J.R. Knudson, Granite Bay, California
3 pounds beef tri-tip, chopped
2 ounces sausage
1 ounce rendered beef fat
1 medium onion, diced
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 green Ortega pepper, remove seeds and dice fine
1/2 ounce salt
1/4 teaspoon fine black pepper
2 ounces Gebhardt(R) chili powder
1/2 ounce California chili powder
1/2 ounce New Mexico powder
1/2 ounce cumin
1/2 teaspoon pequin powder
1 – 2 14 ounce cans chicken broth
1 six ounce can Hunt’s(R) Tomato Sauce
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Tabasco sauce to taste
Saute onion and green pepper in rendered beef fat in a 3 quart pot.
Add garlic powder and half of chili powder. Add half a can of chicken
broth, mix well and set aside. Brown sausage and beef in a skillet
about one pound at a time. Drain and add meat to onion mix. Add
remaining chili powder and remaining can of chicken broth. Cook for
30 minutes on low heat. Add tomato sauce, cumin, cayenne pepper and
pequin powder. Add more broth as needed and cook until meat is
tender, about two to three hours. Add a dash of Tabasco sauce if
needed for heat.