Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Try Number Six...WINS!!

Ok, so I ham it up every year with the other guys in order to stir up the competitive spirit in the MANday Night guys for the Chili cook-off. The way to do this is to be purposely and jocularly braggadocious! It’s fun, and everyone loves giving me a hard time when I fail to win. The very first cook-off (of sorts) that we had was between three of our elders, and ended in a three-way tie. I know. That’s what I thought too. What a lame result. A tie for first was the same as a tie for last! A few years later we resurrected the chili contest idea for MANday Night. I boasted shamelessly to work up some competition and it worked! A huge crowd of guys showed up, and the meal was good and cheap. We were on to something. I got 5th place out of 10 entries.

But deep down inside, I determined to really try to win the next year. When it came, I got 5th place again! Now I was mad. The next year I went all out and spent way too much money and half a day cooking. I went with grilled and diced sirloin steak instead of mere hamburger, dried (not canned) beans, several kinds of fresh peppers, other fresh vegetables, and some Italian sausage. I got 3rd out of 15 contestants. That’s better, yet not good enough. But I had gotten way too serious. So the next year (last year) I “simplified” and went with what I liked. It resulted in a second place finish (which is another way of saying first loser!). So this year I stuck with it and just made a couple of small changes. I cooked it on Sunday night, and ate it for lunch Monday to test it. Bingo. I emailed all the guys bragging that I thought I had a winner.

The competition came. What’s funny? When they called out my number, I first thought it was a joke and they were pulling my leg. Then I saw Larry’s face and knew I really won. Awesome! I don’t know what could be better: Super Bowl, Olympic Gold, World Series, Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes, the Heisman, what could compare?!

All joking aside, while the judges were doing their thing in the office area, like everyone else I was trying out all the chili. For my first helping, I got a little of mine and some of Pat Davis’. His was so good, mine tasted dull by comparison. “I’ve lost,” I thought. But while complementing Pat, he told me his was in the “non-traditional” category. I had a chance, but I was convinced that my entry didn’t have what it took. I tried some of John White’s, Phil Breedlove’s, Adzima’s, Ben Sparks’, and some others. Dadgum...they were all great.

Truth is, we have some really good cooks among the men in our church! Past winners of the contest will forever be remembered in the hall of chili fame! Some of these are “Two Time” Andy Adzima (who has been a great sport and participant with me in the playful boasting), Chris Owens (who’s wife, Katie gave birth to their first child on the very day of the Chili cook-off! Coincidence?...I don’t think so! They should have named her “Pepper” or something more appropriate), and Todd Branson (who I talked in to entering the contest last year...who then showed up LATE...and then BEAT me!). And now I get the privilege of joining their exalted ranks!!!

So I now make this announcement: I am retiring as MANday Night Traditional Chili Cook-off Champion. I will go out like John Elway at the top of my game, not Brett Favre. And (for those of you who have asked) here’s my recipe—what I had called “6th Try Chili” has just been renamed, “Chad’s Championship Chili.” :)

Chad’s Championship Chili

3 lbs ground beef
1/2 tsp tiger seasoning
1 jar Tobasco chili starter (original medium)
1 can Bush’s chili hot beans
1 can Bush’s chili medium beans
1 can Bush’s black beans
1 can Bush’s dark red kidney beans
1 can Rotel (regular original)
1 heaping teaspoon jarred garlic
1 heaping tsp dried minced onions
1 tsp cocoa powder
3 tbls cooking sherry
2 heaping tbls brown sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 tbls Texas Pete hot sauce
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
a healthy dash cumin
2 tbls chili powder
1 bayleaf
3 green Serrano peppers, de-seeded and diced

Brown ground beef in Tiger seasoning and drain the fat. Add all other ingredients (except the peppers). Then de-seed and dice 3 green Serrano peppers. Sauté them in extra virgin olive oil until slightly blackened. Add to the rest of the chili.
Add water as needed, bring to a boil, then turn low and simmer for 12 hours (it’s good after just two hours, but if you can simmer longer, it’s worth the time!).


Anonymous said...

Chad that is funny! I wish I could have been there. So how many people entered chili. who were the judges? Were there different "categories"? Did you all have a big crowd?
I am going to try the chili recipe. but it sounds like it is a little sweet for my taste. What is with the maple syrup.
Hahaa...just kidding. Talk to ya later buddy.
Mark Fletcher

Chad Sparks said...

Yeah, you missed a good time!

Great questions! There were over 100 guys there last night.

We had true professionals from outside our church as judges. We usually get some of the very qualified men in our church to be judges. You know, restaurateurs, chefs, or just great cooks. The result has been that we have perhaps lowered the bar a little since some of our own best talent is judging and aren't able to enter their own chili recipes. So this year we had Nashuan Natour, owner of Nick & J's Restaurant; Edward Oliwa, owner of We're Cooking Restaurant; and Chef Pat Peterson, Ruby Tuesday's Director of quality food and service. Larry Smith was a pinch hitter judge since his fellow Food Network associate was unable to make it.

We had over 20 chili entries in all, about half were traditional (red chili, most of the meat is beef), and half were non-traditional (all others: venison, chicken, whatever).

Haha, yeah, the guys are giving me a hard time about the brown sugar and maple syrup. The maple syrup really is a key ingredient. I've tried molasses, but the syrup is better!