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Great Chili Cookoff

I am often asked to judge chili cookoffs and have tasted some of the best chili Kentuckians have to offer. I no longer have a favorite chili since learning that all versions have their own unique ingredients and offer a variety of taste and texture. Fall is an ideal time to break out the chilies and make your own pot of heat.

DE ’ARBOL AND ORANGE ZEST CHILI
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 lbs. chuck, coarsely ground
2 dried de ’arbol chilies
2 cups chopped onions
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 (28-oz.) can whole peeled tomatoes, coarsely chopped and undrained
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup water (may substitute tequila)
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 Tablespoon grated orange peel
Lime wedges and cilantro sprigs for garnish

Heat oil in a deep 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until very hot. Crumble beef into the skillet and brown 6 to 8 minutes, stirring often. Reduce heat to medium and add onions. Cook and stir 5 minutes until onions are softened.

Crush chilies into fine flakes with a mortar and pestle (or cut up very finely on a cutting board). Add garlic, cumin, salt, and cloves along with chili flakes to skillet of beef. Cook and stir constantly for one minute. Stir in tomatoes, orange juice, water or tequila, tomato paste, and orange peel. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 1-1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Uncover skillet and cook chili over medium-low heat about 10 to 15 minutes until thickened slightly, stirring frequently. Ladle into bowls and garnish with cilantro and lime wedges. Serves 6.

BLACK BEAN CHILI WITH CILANTRO & SERRANO SALSA
1 lb. dried black beans, soaked overnight and drained
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 Serrano chilies, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
4 medium tomatoes, diced
1/2 medium cucumber, diced
1 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped
1 medium red onion, diced
2 Serrano chilies, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup fresh lime juice

Place beans in a large stockpot. Add enough water to cover beans. Add onions, garlic, and chilies. Turn heat to high and skim foam off top as beans heat up. When beans come to a boil, turn heat to low and simmer until tender, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Combine all remaining ingredients in a glass bowl and cover. Place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes for flavors to combine. Serve chili in bowls with a large spoonful of the salsa. Serves 8.

COWTOWN VENISON CHILI
3-1/2 pounds venison, cubed
1-1/2 cups chopped onions
2 cups beer (may substitute water)
1 (16-oz.) can tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2/3 cup chili powder
1/4 to 1/3 cup margarine (do not use butter)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (4-oz.) can green chilies, chopped
1 teaspoon monosodium glutamate (MSG)
1 teaspoon ground oregano
2 teaspoons celery salt
Cilantro and sour cream to garnish

In a large Dutch oven, cook meat in margarine over medium heat until gray in color. Add onions and garlic and cook until onions are wilted. Add beer (or water) and cook, covered, for 30 minutes. Pureé chilies and tomato sauce together in food processor until blended. Add tomato mixture, salt, and MSG to meat and cover. Cook over medium heat until meat is tender. Stir often and add more liquid if necessary. After 15 minutes, mix all seasonings together and add to chili. Continue cooking until very thick and tender. Garnish with cilantro and sour cream if desired. Serves 8.

WHITE CHILI
1-1/2 lbs. of chicken breast
2 (14-oz.) cans chicken broth
3 (14-oz.) cans Great Northern beans
1 (4-oz.) can chopped green chilies
2 cups chopped onions
3 cloves chopped garlic
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground oregano
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon red pepper
2 Tablespoons olive oil
3–4 dashes of hot sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Bake chicken breasts in a 350° oven for 30 minutes. Cool and cut into bite-size pieces. In large skillet, cook onions in olive oil until wilted. Add all other ingredients and cook over medium heat for one hour. Ladle into bowls. You can serve with nacho chips, cheese, jalapeño peppers, sour cream, or your favorite toppings. Serves 8.

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