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Make andouille-laced Cajun chili, and other Mark Twain Chili Cook-Off recipes

Neil Gallagher's Cajun-inflected chili, pumped up with andouille sausage, took first place at Sunday's Mark Twain Chili Cook-Off, part of the Buffalo Winterfest. It's a dark, smoky flavor bomb with plenty of heat.

Here's Gallagher's recipe, and those of the other winners - a chili based on local beef and tomatoes, and another, judged most creative, with chunks of butternut squash among its vegetarian delights. (More about the winners from organizer Christa Glennie Seychew at Buffalo Spree.)

Neil Gallagher (First place)
Too Sauced To Pork Cajun Chili

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 pound andouille sausage, chopped
1 pound cubed chicken
1/2 pound ground sirloin
1 1/2 pounds ground pork sausage (half hot, half mild)
3 ribs celery, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
6 pods okra, sliced thin
4 tablespoons hot sauce
2 sprigs thyme
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
3 cups chicken stock
1 can kidney bean, drained
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat oil in a large thick bottomed pot and cook the andouille sausage for about 2 minutes. Add the sirloin, chicken and pork in an even layer; do not overcrowd the pot. Break up the meat with the back of a wooden spoon and scrape up the bits at the bottom. Continue to cook until all the meat is super-duper brown.

To the pot, add the celery, onion, green bell pepper and garlic, and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add okra. Add the hot sauce, thyme, chili powder, cumin, paprika and cayenne, and continue cooking for another minute. Pour in the stock, beans, crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce, bring to a bubble and turn down to a simmer. Let cook for another 20 minutes or until reduced.

Season the chili with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

JR Ortiz (Second place)
JR's Home Grown Chili

2 pounds homegrown, local ground beef
2 quarts homegrown canned stewed tomatoes
1 can dark red kidney beans, undrained
1 can light red kidney beans, undrained
1 onion, minced
1 chili pepper, minced
1 green pepper, minced
1 package of taco seasoning
2 teaspoons cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon Italian herbs
3 teaspoons crushed red pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons thyme
1 teaspoon rubbed Dalmatian sage
1 tablespoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
16 ounces tomato sauce
6 ounces tomato paste
Salt and pepper, to taste

Fully cook 2 pounds of locally-raised ground beef. Drain.

In a separate pot, combine 2 quarts of home-canned stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste and both cans of kidney beans with their liquid. Simmer on low heat.

Mince your green pepper, onion and chili pepper, and add to the pot. Add the meat and stir, continuing to simmer. Add all of the spices and cook for 35 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Christopher Schaeffer (Most Creative)
Mexican Black Bean and Butternut Squash

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, chopped
8 garlic cloves, chopped
2 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 14.5-ounce cans fire-roasted tomatoes
1 pound dry beans
2 chipotle chiles from canned chipotle chiles in adobo, minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
1 2-1/4 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 3 cups)
1/2 cup quick-cooking bulgur
Coarse kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper and chili flakes, to taste

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until soft and beginning to brown, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Add garlic; stir 1 minute. Sprinkle chili powder and coriander and cumin over; stir 1 minute.

Stir in tomatoes with juice, beans, chipotles, and oregano. Add 8 cups water. Bring to boil, reduce heat to low, cover with lid slightly ajar, and simmer until beans are tender, stirring occasionally, about 2 hours (time will vary depending on freshness of beans). Season to taste with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper and chili flakes.

Stir squash and bulgur into chili. Add one more cup of water. Simmer uncovered over medium-low heat until squash and bulgur are tender, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Divide chili among bowls. Serve with sour cream, cheese, red onion, cilantro, and pickled jalapeƱo rings.

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