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My favourite “holiday” of the year has come and gone again. Chili fest is the “Thanksgiving of Chili” where you can try an assortment of chilies prepared by family. Last night, I sampled 6 different chilies, ate some good guac, and had a delicious piece of pie (though, at that time I was ready to pop from eating multiple bowls of my favourites). 

So lets talk chili shall we?

Essentially, here’s what you need to know:

  • Six of us made some chili.
  • People made cornbread
  • My aunt Jess makes THE BEST guacamole in existence

And I’ll do my absolute best to explain the chilies we had this year.

Left: Cornbread. The muffins to the left are Raegan's muffins with a touch of bacon in them. The muffins to the right are my sister Syd's Jiffy muffins. Right: My Grandmother's chili.

Left: Cornbread. The muffins to the left are Raegan’s muffins with a touch of bacon in them. The muffins to the right are my sister Syd’s Jiffy muffins.
Right: My Grandmother’s chili.

My Grandmother made this chili that was pretty boss. It was unlike the rest of the chili that we had in that it had nothing spicy in it. To quote one of the wise people last night “It’s like a chili that you could get from a diner.” If it had been a little thicker, it would have been even better, but she had some pretty great flavours going on.

Top Left: The cornbread to the left was seriously good. Made with beer and bacon by Megan, it was the perfect pairing to her chili. The cornbread to the right is just another cornbread, this one your run of the mill cornbread. Top Right: These two cornbreads were in the middle of the table and even despite that, I cannot for the life of me remember what's in them. 
Bottom: Aunt Jess's chili.

Top Left: The cornbread to the left was seriously good. Made with beer and bacon by Megan, it was the perfect pairing to her chili. The cornbread to the right is just another cornbread, this one your run of the mill cornbread.
Top Right: These two cornbreads were in the middle of the table and even despite that, I cannot for the life of me remember what’s in them.
Bottom: Aunt Jess’s chili.

So the chili in the crockpot above was an absolute kick you in the teeth chili. I described my my aunt’s guacamole that way and the chili is the same way. Her chicken marinated in a rub of cumin, garlic, onion, and chili powder for two days, there were a few of different chilies in them, Anaheim and Thai to name a couple. Over all, I enjoyed it lots, but it made me sweat more than anything and while the flavour was good, the heat was a touch overwhelming.

Left: My aunt Raegan's chiliRight: Cornbread! Unless I'm mistaken, the cornbread on the left would be a friend of the family's with nuts in it. And the one on the right is made with buttermilk

Left: My aunt Raegan’s chili
Right: Cornbread! Unless I’m mistaken, the cornbread on the left would be a friend of the family’s with nuts in it. And the one on the right is made with buttermilk

My aunt Raegan always has a pretty awesome chili. There’s really no other way to put it. In years past, she’s kicked our teeth in with ghost chili peppers and made a wonderfully balanced chili. This year, she went a little different with a pork based chili and I’m not even going to try and tell you what else is in it. All I know is, it was good in a bowl, but even better on a corn tortilla with lime juice.

Top: My chiliBottom left: Megan's Chili
Bottom Right: My grandfather's chili

Top: My chili
Bottom left: Megan’s Chili
Bottom Right: My grandfather’s chili

I’m going to start with the chili on the bottom left and go counter clockwise.

The chili in the bottom left frame, though it was the last to be heated all the way through, had some seriously good flavour going on. In occasion’s past, Megan has always shown off her wonderful cooking skills with a brie and nut cheese spread, and there was that time she made brunch on Easter. But her chili? Probably one of my favourites from this year. When she was walking me through the chili, she mentioned sirloin, some peppers, onions, garlic, both crushed and diced tomatoes… oh and bacon, chocolate and beer. Those last three ingredients are perfectly delicious by themselves, but in a chili, they’re fantastic. That’s why it was so hard to choose between her and Raegan’s chili when the time came later to choose.

The chili in the bottom right frame is a completely different make than how my Grandfather usually goes. This year his chili was self described as more “southwest” with black beans in addition to sirloin and your other typical chili fixings. Where some people just just kicked you in the teeth with heat, and others had really good flavour but minimal heat, my grandfather’s chili was incredibly balanced and I was definitely going back for a second bowl of it.

Finally, in the top frame, you have my chili. Being a rookie in chili making, I wasn’t expecting my chili to turn out as good as it did. I can honestly say if must have simmered for sixteen hours total and bites were full of lamb that melted in your mouth, hominy (for those of you don’t know, that’s corn) and spicy chorizo. Pair that with a base made of blended chipotle chilies in adobo sauce and chicken broth and you get the end result as pictured above. It certainly didn’t smell like your regular run of the mill chili, my aunt described it as “earthy”, and it’s no surprise that my sister wasn’t a big fan. Lamb is a little bit out there.

So, who ended up winning the bragging rights for Chili Fest ’13?

At first, as we all sat around the table with our chili delegations, we came to a three way tie between my aunt Jess’s, Grandfather’s and my chili (which was a huge surprise to me). But after a second round of voting, somebody switched from Jess’s chili and gave me the vote.

Surprised?

I was.

But at the end of the day, I didn’t really care that I had won. I do owe my victory to my aunt Raegan seeing as she practically brow beat me into entering and then had helpful advice along the way. But I digress; to me, Chili Fest was more about being with family we don’t get to see as often as we’d like and eating some damn good food.

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