Our Favorite Fall Tradition is Back: The Chili Cook-Off! Plus Our Top Chili Tips
Chili is the perfect dish to make as the weather get coolers. It’s hearty, full of rich flavor, relatively easy to make, and as it simmers its rich aroma fills the kitchen. But most of all, we love chili for its versatility. There are so many variations of this delicious dish we can’t seem to stop experimenting with new ones. In our opinion, chili is good for most any occasion, from a football watch party, to a cozy weeknight dinner, to a simple, hearty lunch, and with about just any protein, from beans to veggies, chicken, beef, or even pork.
As things are starting to cool down here in Chicago, where the Rumi Spice team is located, we decided to heat things up by bringing back our favorite fall tradition - the Rumi Chili Cook-off!
The rules were simple - cook a chili (any kind of your liking) with your randomly assigned Rumi Spice.
And so begins, The Team Rumi Chili Cook-Off:
Five of our very own team members drew names out of a hat to determine which spice they would be cooking with:
Liza C. (our Marketing Director) was assigned Harissa Spice and cooked a delicious spicy vegetarian chili with rich fall flavors. Her Spicy Butternut Squash Lentil Chili with Chickpeas was a hit among the meat-eaters and vegetarians alike.
Elissa C. (our Head of Operations) was assigned the warming Baharat Spice Blend and made a cozy (non-dairy) Baharat Chicken and Bean Chili with coconut milk.
The chilis this year were as unique as they were delicious. Some spicy, some sweet, some vegetarian, and some loaded with shredded chicken, ground beef, and even pork, which made the judging especially difficult.
But, eventually we did determine there was one chili we kept reaching for more of. The WINNER of the 2022 chili cook-off was our new product development inter, Jack!
He was assigned the difficult Ras el Hanout blend and rose to this challenge. His uniquely bright and vibrant yet earthy and comforting Pork & Poblano chili was a truly unique take on this classic dish. It wasn’t too heavy and the warming, earthy Ras el Hanout worked especially well to bring out the rich flavor of the pork.
Try the winning recipe here.
As you get cooking in the kitchen creating your own unique concoctions to keep warm this winter, check out some of our top tips for crafting the ultimate bowl of chili:
Rumi Spices Top Chili Tips:
#1 Build flavors around your spice of choice
Start with one central spice blend and build your chili around that blend. That was the only rule in this cook-off and it made creating a uniquely delicious dish so easy and fun. When you start with one core spice blend your chili will inherently be loaded with each of the rich flavors that make up that blend.
For example, the winning Pork & Poblano chili had subtle hints of cinnamon, clove, and saffron from the Ras el Hanout blend that really brought the flavor up a notch.
#2 Season as you go
Spices and seasonings are key to bringing out the bold flavors in your chili, but many cooks make the mistake of waiting until the end to start seasoning. Instead, make sure you season throughout the entire cooking process so the flavor can continue to build as your chili cooks. The easiest way to do this is by adding salt, and your other favorite spices, a little at a time throughout the cooking process. Season your veggies as they saute, your meat as it browns, your broth as it simmers, and again before serving. The amount of seasonings preferred isn’t the same for everyone, so make sure to taste your chili throughout and adjust accordingly.
#3 Combine your favorite spices for an added level of flavor
We already mentioned the tip of building your chili around one core spice blend, which already accomplishes the step of combining multiple spices. But, you don’t have to stop there. Like in Jack’s Poblano & Pork chili, don’t be afraid to combine multiple spice blends. Or, mix in additional rich, sweet flavors like cocoa powder, bacon, cinnamon, or even ground coffee to bring out the sweeter notes in many of our blends.
#4 Finish with freshness
While we love chili for its hearty richness, these bold flavors instantly get enhanced with a pop of acid or sprinkle of fresh veggies or herbs. Perk up your pot of chili by adding in a dash of apple cider vinegar, sherry vinegar, or fresh lime juice before serving.
Or, top with fresh herbs or veggies like cilantro, scallions, mint, chives or diced red onion. This bright pop of freshness at the end will help to bring out all the layered flavors you worked so hard to achieve. Just make sure to wait until the end to add your acid or fresh herbs. If they’re added too early in the cooking process they will likely get diluted by the other bold flavors.
#5 Make a double batch
Chili is one of those dishes that fares especially well in the freezer. And, since chili takes a bit longer to cook, we recommended whipping up a double batch whenever possible. Freeze half and enjoy the rest throughout the week. So next time you spontaneously decide to host a football watch party or have the family over for dinner you’re only a few minutes (and no prep) away from a crockpot full of your favorite chili.
#6 Mix up your leftovers
Chili also makes a great base for so many other delicious meals. If you don’t want to eat a simple bowl of chili on night two, serve it over pasta as a delicious meat sauce, as a topping on baked potatoes, or on slider buns as sloppy joes. The possibilities are endless. How do you like to doctor up your leftovers? Let us know @rumi_spice.
Now time to get cooking!