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.

Kosher Foodie Nirvana

This Kosher Foodie has been out and about fressing, sampling, tasting, and munching on the wide varieties of chili. Nearly full, just from trying the sample cups. I didn’t quite get to every table…yet. They still haven’t run out so I’ll be out for one last round. Hey, you try eating 52 varieties of chili!

And there’s more if you want to purchase a non-chili item (kid’s admission includes a hot dog or chicken nuggets) – falafel, burgers, etc.

Vendors are busy with sales and the kids activities are operating non-stop. The music is great, weather is windy but nice, the crowd has been exciting. I’d have to say that this the closest Dallas has to a Kosher street food festival – it is such an awesome event.

My favorite part? Besides eating, catching up with so many friends from across the Jewish community all in one place!

A Good Source for Chile Powder

ChipotlePowderFor several years our team (the Hebrew Men’s Poker Association) used dried chiles that I pulverized in a coffee mill. The first time around, I did the grinding inside the shul, but I realized the fumes caused passers-by to gasp and cough. In later years I moved the grinding outside, using a 100-foot extension cord I brought from home. But the last two years we’ve been using chile powder from Chipotle Texas, which sells a variety of chiles in various forms and is supervised by the Dallas Va’ad Ha Kashrut. They deliver at reasonable rates, their powder is less expensive than the small containers you see at the grocery store, and you don’t need to worry about grinding anything (and thereby incommoding the passers-by). Something to keep in mind for next year.

Slow Burn

Trinidad Moruga ScorpionOur chili this year at the Hebrew Men’s Poker Association booth is a bit milder than last year but still hotter than anything else I’ve tried so far at the cook-off. The other day I said I like my chili hot but not so hot that I achieve an altered state of consciousness. The next day, Keggan Luskey, another member of the HMPA team, sent me a link to this Time story about the world’s hottest pepper: the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, which clocks in at 1.2 million Scoville units, compared to about 5,000 for a jalapeno. Regarding the psychoactive effects of hot peppers, one expert told Time: “People actually get a crack-like rush. I know the people who will eat the hottest stuff to get this rush, but they’ve got to go through the pain.” That is not the effect we are going for, although Keggan plans to plant the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion in his garden this spring, so maybe we’ll have them in our chili next year. This year we made do with the Ghost Pepper (a.k.a. Naga Bhut Jolokia), which is rated at 855,000 Scoville units, in addition to our usual blend of hot and mild chiles. Come check it out and give us your gold coin.

Beer & Tequila

Seems like beer is a very popular ingredient in the chili this year…even the vegetarian chilis.. And the tequila? Not in the chili so much.. but used as bribery for the aforementioned coins.

It’s all about the coins

Everyone who enters gets a coin. Use your coin wisely, as you only get one…. you place that coin in the plastic container of the chili that you like best. After tasting all of the chilis here, i had to do a rematch of my top three. I like a chili with flavor, not too hot (few of them here are  that hot), but with flavors that hit at different points on the palate.  My favorite? You’ll have to find me. look for the chili pepper socks.