We have the best neighbours. I’m not just saying that because I know a few read Hot Pink Apron (which in itself is awesome) but we really did land in an ideal circle of neighbours and friends when we moved to Whitby, ON last year. We are four unique families, sharing a love for our young families, our community, good food and the art of adult conversation over a cocktail while our children wear one another out. It’s a wonderful life. Weeks ago, during another impromptu Sunday afternoon drive-way-pow-wow, the idea of the 1st Annual Los Toscana Chili Cook-Off was born. Four unique chilies under scrutiny, from four competing households, each with talent and knowledge for good food. As you can imagine, there was plenty of smack talk and “hot air” leading up to and certainly following the first of, I’m sure, many neighbourhood food competitions.
We gathered our families at Chris and Paige’s house, with dutch ovens hot and beer cold. I printed some ‘chili scorecards’ and we coincided place cards (a, b, c, d) beside each dish. The evaluation was based on Colour, Aroma, Texture and Flavour & Heat, with the score ranging from 0 to 5 for each category. We’re an honest group so we decided that everyone will judge, whether they prepared a dish or not.
For weeks leading up to the event Brett and I kept asking one another, so what should we do? What makes a WINNING chili? How do you produce the perfect chili when there are so many personal opinions to consider? Meaty, chunky, mild, spicy, with beans, without? In Texas, chili doesn’t include beans. A traditional Italian chili often includes many vegetables, ground beef, with a focus on the tomato sauce base. As usual, Mexicans love to put the emphasis on SPICE, most often chipotle and jalapeno. What arrived to the “judging table” was an excellent assortment of each. We had 4 unique approaches to the ultimate in comfort food to critique.
Armed with a plate, a fork, pencil and scorecard, the eight of us paced the kitchen island, collecting our tastings. It was far more challenging than you would think. So much to consider; I could of smelled, tasted and talked chili techniques and flavours in that dining room for hours but decisions needed to be made (and kids fed). Once all the scores were in, one of our gracious hosts, Paige, tallied them up and announced the winner….. drum roll please… Chili C: Sandra’s Hearty Slow-Cooker Chili! Our approach was excellent, and lost only by a point, but Sandra’s chili had it all: dimension, just the right amount of heat, tons of flavour, excellent texture and a very classic, comforting, down-home quality to it. It absolutely deserved to take the silver ladle this year. Fortunately, Brett and I have 364 days to perfect our approach for the 2nd Annual Los Toscana Chili Cook-Off 🙂 Then again, I’ll always have my desserts…
We really do LOVE this Pressure Cooker Chili recipe and highly recommend to all with a pressure cooker. It’s originally an Alton Brown recipe and excellent as stated but I find with each time it’s prepared, we fine tune the heat and texture to exactly how WE like it – if there’s anything I learned from our 1st Annual Neighbourhood Chili Cook-Off, it’s that EVERYONE has a personal approach to a delicious bowl of chili. Feel free to post your own preference(s) in the comment section below and give our Texas-style meaty chili a try – I’m certain you won’t be disappointed.
Note: The pressure cooker is a remarkable device that will take your raw cubes of meat and turn them into fall-apart, flavour-infused, tender chili chunks in under 30 minutes but don’t fret if you’re without, you can reach a similar effect with this recipe using the slow cooker on high for approximately 6 hours.
Pressure Cooker Chili
Recipe by Alton Brown, Food Network
Serves about 6 healthy servings
- 3 pounds stew meat (beef, pork, and/or lamb)
- 2 teaspoons peanut oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 (12-ounce) bottle of beer, preferably a medium ale
- 1 (16-ounce) container salsa
- 30 tortilla chips
- 2 chipotle peppers canned in adobo sauce, chopped
- 1 tablespoon adobo sauce (from the chipotle peppers in adobo)
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- Place the meat in a large mixing bowl and toss with the peanut oil and salt. Set aside.
- Heat a 6-quart heavy-bottomed pressure cooker over high heat until hot. Add the meat in 3 or 4 batches and brown on all sides, approximately 2 minutes per batch. Once each batch is browned, place the meat in a clean large bowl.
- Once all of the meat is browned, add the beer to the cooker to deglaze the pot.
- Scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the meat back to the pressure cooker along with the salsa, tortilla chips, chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, tomato paste, chili powder, and ground cumin and stir to combine. Lock the lid in place according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When the steam begins to hiss out of the cooker, reduce the heat to low, just enough to maintain a very weak whistle. Cook for 25 minutes. Remove from the heat and carefully release the steam. Serve immediately.