Fast and Hot

20140313_161649This year our chili was ready by the official opening time of 10:30 a.m., possibly because we started drinking tequila earlier than usual, which helped ease conflicts between me and my friend Keggan Luskey. I like to measure all the ingredients precisely, while Keggan tends to eyeball everything. This year I let him add the chile powder, and he let me fix our off-center banner.

We used eight different kinds of chiles, including the Trinidad Meruga Scorpion, currently the worlds’s hottest pepper. Keggan found a bag of Scorpion peppers at Whole Foods (I think), and we ended up using the whole bag, which I was afraid would make the chili too hot. But we were all quite happy with the results, having long ago adopted the philosophy summed up in Rick Nelson’s song “Garden Party.”

I was happy to notice this year that several other teams were producing hotter chilis of the sort that my teammates and I enjoy, showcasing the key ingredient. I was also gratified that the two major political parties produced equally awful chili, which validated my worldview.

Chili Shopping Tips

scorpion-pepper2This year, as usual, I did the grocery shopping for my team, the Hebrew Men’s Poker Association. At this point we have all of our supplies, but anyone who is doing some last-minute shopping for the cook-off may find this information useful:

Tomato products. Walmart’s house brand, Great Value, has an O-U certification, and you generally can find kosher chopped tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, and tomato paste there after Tom Thumb has been cleaned out. (Yes, that has been known to happen during chili cook-off season.) Plus Walmart’s stuff is super cheap, and I have not noticed any corresponding reduction in quality.

Chiles. According to Dallas Kosher, which supervises the cook-off, whole fresh or dried chiles do not need a hechsher, since they are basically produce with no added ingredients. Walmart is also a good source for these. They generally have fresh jalapeno, serrano, habanero, and poblano peppers, plus dried ancho, New Mexico, guajillo, and chile de arbol. If you are looking for something more obscure, such as the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion (currently the world’s hottest pepper), and do not need too much of it, try Whole Foods, Central Market, or Amazon. As I mentioned last year, Chipotle Texas, which is certified by Dallas Kosher, is a great local source for ground chiles, and they deliver.

Onions. If you do not want to go to the trouble of chopping 20 onions early on a Sunday morning, you can buy fresh or frozen pre-chopped onions. Dallas Kosher says these are OK without a hechsher as long as they are sealed.

Masa harina. Some people like to use corn flour to thicken their chile. But given how much is left over from even a small bag, one would probably be enough for all of the teams at the cook-off. If you use masa and have not bought a bag yet, don’t bother. You can have some of ours.