So, Did Our Indian-Spiced Chili Win The Neighborhood Chili Cook-Off?

Last week, I told you all about my friend Leah's annual chili cook-off competition, as we prepared for our ninth go-around this past weekend. I truly loved all the chili cook-off suggestions in the comments, so am already planning my entry for next year. But I promised the exciting final update for this year, so here it is:

Sadly, no, we did not win. But we did place fourth out of the 16 entries, so I for one am counting that as a win.

I found that many of my chili rules still stand. The white chili did not rank. My husband Brian's fourth-place chili, Sacred Cow, and my friend Jeanne's third-place chili, Mississippi Beaning, both had the stand-out-in-a-good-way element. Brian's was Indian-leaning, starting out with a jalfrezi (Indian curry) spice mix, bringing a distinctly flavored entry to the crowded chili field. I helpfully taste-tested it all afternoon, so I was a little sick of chili by the time the party started, to be honest. It was so good though, I couldn't help myself. I even burned my tongue! "Sacred Cow" was my idea when we couldn't get a good name that went along with "jalfrezi." Brian used those $60/pound French white beans he ordered for Christmas, which also helped his entry. Jeanne's third-place entry was a green chili, with green bell pepper and a green salsa, which also was straight-up delicious.

The second place winner was The Truck Stops Here (right), which had rich, nicely braised meat, and a helpful side of Fritos, which everyone appreciated. But none of these could stand up against the winning chili, Magic Man (so named by Leah when her friends showed up with the chili and didn't have a name for it). I don't have a picture of because it was so good there wasn't any left.

Remember when I said to never underestimate the power of a great, straightforward chili? This is one of those times. I tried to pry the recipe out of the winning couple (no luck), but here's the story of how it was created: The wife made the chili, then went in the shower, and then the husband doctored it up with chilis and spices. So neither of them knew what the other one put in there, but it turned out perfect. The only possible "secret ingredient" I could extract from them was Campbell's tomato soup, which certainly helped make it a winner. It's like the "Gift Of The Magi" of chili. Congratulations, Magic Man!

Honestly, out of 16 entrees (45 voters), even placing fourth is commendable. But since the winners didn't really have a winning recipe, Brian wrote up his Sacred Cow recipe for you all in case you are hankering for an Indian-spiced chili. He says, "It's funny, because writing it down, the recipe seems like a huge drag to cook. It's really not that difficult, but it does assume you have a fair amount of Indian spices on your shelf." Which as you know, we definitely do. Anyway, try it out for your next chili Sunday, or maybe for your own neighborhood chili cook-off. And let us know how it goes!

Sacred Cow Chili

Brian says: "Basically breaks down into two parts: the jalfrezi base and the meat."

For the jalfrezi:

  • 2 Tbsp. ghee
  • 1 large red onion, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. cilantro stalks, minced
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. coriander seeds toasted and ground
  • 1 Tbsp. cumin seed, toasted and ground
  • 2 Tbsp. garam masala
  • 1 Tbsp. turmeric
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Kashmiri chili powder
  • 4 plum tomatoes
  • 2 large pinches fenugreek leaves
  • Heat a pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add ghee. Heat ghee and add red onions, garlic, and a pinch of salt, stirring occasionally.


    Once onions are soft, turn down heat to medium and continue to sauté until onions are beginning to brown. Add cilantro stalks and powdered spices except for fenugreek leaves.

    Once powdered spices are added, stir until mixture is completely coated and thick. Add tomatoes. Reduce heat to low and cover, stirring occasionally and cover

    Check mixture occasionally and add a bit of water to keep it wet. Cooking will be done when tomatoes lose most of their form and melt into the sauce.

    Once the suace is where you want it, add fenugreek by breaking it between two fingers while sprinkling over sauce. Mix well. Salt to taste. Set aside.

    For rest of chili:

    • 2 Tbsp. ghee
    • 3 shallots
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 link of Spanish chorizo (mild or hot depending on your tastes): half minced, half sliced thinly
    • 1 lb. lean ground beef
    • 1 Tbsp. smoked paprika
    • 1 Tbsp. dried oregano
    • 1 large tsp. ginger
    • Salt
    • 1 can (15.8-oz.) of Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained (Brian soaked his Tarbais beans overnight)
    • 1 tsp. rose water
    • Heat a pan over med-high heat. Add ghee. When ghee has melted and is hot, add shallots and garlic. When shallots are soft, add chorizo and sauté, stirring often, making sure that the oils coming out of chorizo coat the shallots.


      When mixture is fairly red-looking (about 3-4 minutes), add ground beef, oregano and ginger paste. Sauté until ground beef is browned completely.

      Once done, sprinkle smoked paprika over mixture and stir. Turn off heat.

      Then in a large casserole pan or slow cooked combine the jalfrezi base, beef mixture, and beans.

      Cook on low heat for 2 hours or so, right before serving, add rose water and a pinch of fenugreek leaves and mix thoroughly. Serve to the thunderous applause of your peers.