Things you need to know about me:
- I am frequently accused of having an “addictive” personality. According to Kristen, this means I am prone to thrusting myself into learning everything about something I find interesting. I like to think it just means people can’t get enough of my charming personality and are, thus, addicted to it. See what I did there?
- I like to win.
- I do not like to lose.
A little over a year ago, my office hosted a chili cook-off to raise money for a local charity. I’d never really made chili before, but I like to experiment in the kitchen, so I went home and decided to create something truly original. I made a couple of batches, brought some into work for my coworkers to taste and provide feedback, and finally felt like I had perfected something interesting and different. I call it: White Hot Chicken Chili.
For those of you who don’t know, Nashville has become somewhat famous for a local creation: “hot chicken.” The name seems to imply there’s some sort of sauce involved, but there’s not; instead, this chicken is fried with an extremely hot dry rub.
Back to the story. I show up on the day of the chili cook-off taking this way more seriously than all the other contestants. The average batch was around four quarts; mine was seven. The average age of the participants was 58; I was 27. I asked how exactly the judging was going to work and couldn’t really get a straight answer. Turns out they were still trying to nail that down. Oh no. Remember how I like to win? How will I know if I win if there’s no organization? This is madness.
The judging was conducted prior to any of the attendees being able to purchase a bowl for charity, and the judges were the esteemed cooks from our office cafeteria. Don’t get me wrong, these are great people, and the food in our cafeteria is quite good. However, I just didn’t know if I could trust them to experience my chili for what it was. After all, I was in uncharted territory. Not everyone understands this chili’s majesty.
Long story long, the verdict arrived after a couple of volunteers tallied up the score sheets turned in by the judges, each complete with its own unique scoring system ranging from the tried-and-true scale of 1-10 method all the way to my personal favorite–the smiley face/frowny face system. I came in last place. Last place.
I thought everything was over. I’d put so much time and effort into something that was clearly not appreciated. But then–something special happened. When the event opened and people started turning up to buy the chili, mine was the first one gone! And remember–I had actually made nearly twice the amount as the other participants.
In the wake of such a disheartening experience, one thing became clear–I had to share my chili with the world.
Fast-forward to one year later. The folks running the competition this time around are serious. They play off of the election season with a theme involving “buying” votes (aka donating to charity in the name of one of the “candidates”). They encourage shameless campaigning. And the real kicker–there’s a trophy made out of a cutting board and wooden spoon and it’s engraved. I WANT THAT.
I immediately organize my campaign staff, and we hit the ground running garnering “celebrity endorsements” (in the corporate world, that just means folks with “VP” in their title) and publishing fake news articles covering various campaign events that never happened. I enter the same chili with no modifications thinking this is my chance at redemption. And it was…almost.
When all the “votes” were cast, one thing was clear–we had raised a lot of money for this charity. When all was said and done, over $6,000 was raised (compared to roughly $600 the year before), and my chili alone raised just shy of $1,000. Unfortunately, one of my competitors had a large, secret donor come through at the last minute, thus edging me out of first place. As such, I’ve determined my chili is cursed to remain slightly underappreciated in terms of critical acclaim while still capturing the hearts of true chili fans the world over. Or at least, like, in my office building.
This post is a long way of saying, “Here’s my chili recipe if you want to try it for yourself.”
- 2 cans chili beans
- 2 cans black beans
- 1 can Rotel
- 1 small can tomato paste
- 1 can chicken broth
- 2 packages cream cheese
- 1 small container sour cream
- 1 bag shredded cheese (Mexican)
- 1 half onion (diced)
- 1 package hot chili seasoning mix
- Finely chopped cilantro to liking
- Finely chopped chives to liking
- 2 pounds pan-fried chicken (seasoned to liking–I use a little salt, pepper, and garlic powder and a whole lot of cayenne pepper)
- 1 half bottle Yazoo Dos Perros
If you decide to give it a shot, please let me know how it goes. Obviously, I care. Maybe too much.