- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
So you're seeking a panel of judges for your chili contest.
It's a good idea to find a firefighter and a detective – a firefighter to extinguish any four-alarm fires, and a detective to scrutinize the ingredients.
And, of course, someone who absolutely loves those exquisitely hot – did I say hot? HOT! – jalapeno peppers.
That's exactly what happened at the 2011 Solano County 4-H Chili Cookoff, held Saturday, Jan. 22, at the Riverview School, Rio Vista. Toni Tucker of the Rio Vista 4-H Club pulled it all together.
The judges: Detective Vicki Rister of the Rio Vista Police Department, Assistant Fire Chief Dan Schindler of the Montezuma Fire Protection District in Rio Vista, and Chef Riccardo Bahena Antunez of the Taqueria Mexico Restaurant in Rio Vista.
They all know their way around a kitchen. They do, indeed. For instance, Detective Rister began preparing meals for her family when she was only 7. She worked her way through college (criminal justice, Sacramento State University) by waitressing and cooking.
The judges scored 10 dishes prepared by 4-H'ers in Dixon, Vacaville, Suisun, Rio Vista and Vallejo. This was not for the weak-hearted; the teams sported such monikers as "The Red Hot Chili Peppers," "Howlin' Hot Chilimakers," "Chili Banditos," "Super Awesome Chili" and "Cool Beans" (so hot the 4-H'ers had to cool down by wearing sunglasses).
The judges easily detected the subtle flavors: coffee here, cocoa there, and oh, yes, isn't that a touch of semi-sweet dark chocolate?
Less than an hour later, a winner. The Chili Five-O team from the newly formed Wolfskill 4-H Club in Dixon.
Five-Oh? Because they've been dreaming of vacationing in Hawaii.
“We can't afford to go to Hawaii, and besides, we don't have time – we’re too busy with 4-H projects,” said team member Hannah Crawford-Stewart. “So we thought, why not make a chili based on food from the tropics?”
They did. They created a chili chunked with pineapple and laced with coconut milk and named it “Chili Five-O.”
Hannah, 13, and her fellow cooks Kaylee Lindgren, 13, Madison Pitto, 9 and Spencer Currey, 15, wowed the judges with their tasty chili studded with ham, sausage, fried and diced pork, and two kinds of beans, kidney and pinto. "We tested it about 10 times before the contest." Hannah said.
They thought of every detail. They wore Hawaiian attire. They decorated their table in an island motif. They greeted the judges with “aloha!"
The crushed macadamia nut topping was optional. The smiles were not.
“The chili was awesome,” said Rister. “They tested it, tried it and came up with something different. It’s a great recipe.”
Schindler and Antunez agreed.
The judges praised the “nice kick” and “good finish” of the chili and the friendliness, enthusiasm and knowledge of the “aloha” team.
Here's the wining recipe:
By Hannah Crawford-Stewart, Kaylee Lindgren, Madison Pitto and Spencer Currey of Wolfskill 4-H Club, Dixon
2 cups ham, fried and diced
1 pound sausage, cooked
1 pound pork, fried and diced
2 cups diced onions, cooked to translucent
13.5 ounces coconut milk
15 ounces carrot juice
16 ounces crushed pineapple and juice
5 cups carrots, diced
1 cup celery, diced
5 cups dried pineapple, diced (small)
Two 16-ounce cans kidney beans
One 16-ounce can pinto beans
5 teaspoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon Worcester sauce
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
Cook meat and onions. Combine with liquids and mix well. Add spices, carrots, celery, pineapple and beans. Cook over medium heat to soft boil (5 minutes). Reduce heat and simmer for two hours, stirring occasionally. Serves 12. Optional topping: crushed macadamia nuts.
* * * *
You won't forget to eat your vegetables in this dish.
By “Howlin’ Hot Chilimakers” Kiara Madden, Riley Currey and Daniela Setka of the Wolfskill 4-H Club, Dixon
3 cups French onion soup
1-1/2 cups northern white beans
1-1/2 cups kidney beans
1 cup chickpeas
1 cup lentils
1 cup red, green and yellow bell pepper
1/2 cup carrots
2 cups summer squash (zucchini and crookneck squash)
1-1/2 cups eggplant
1/2 cup portabella mushrooms
1/2 cup onion
2 cans of diced tomatoes
1-1/2 tablespoons coriander
2-1/2 tablespoons cumin
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon paprika
6 ounces root beer
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup masa flour
5 strips of bacon, crisp
Broil eggplant and mushrooms. Dice all vegetables. Cook beans and lentils in French onion soup. Add all ingredients except bacon and cook for 45 minutes on high or crock pot for 4 hours. Crisp bacon and chop. Mix in right before serving. Serves 15.
Don't be surprised if Super Bowl Sunday turns into a "Souper Bowl of Chili."