I'm going to a chili cook-off next month and I'm looking for some ideas that'll set mine apart. I've only made chili a couple times and both times they were pretty traditional - ground beef, chili powder, canned tomatoes etc. One idea I had was to do a mix of meats - some ground chuck, and also braise some whole beef short ribs on the bone in the chili and shred the meat at the end. I'm not sure how this would work texture-wise in a chili so I'd be curious to find out if someone else has tried this. My other idea was to add in some veal demiglace at the end, just to up the meaty factor a little bit more.
Any other chili tips?
Based on my experience, albeit quite limited, in making chili.
Don't use ground beef. Get a chuck roast and cube it into 1/2 inch pieces. Brown the pieces a few a handful a time first.
Don't use pre-made chile powder. I use around 4-5 different types of ground chiles, anchos, chipotles, guajillo, cayenne, and also a few dried habaneros. All the different chiles bring a different flavor to the chili. Some are upfront spicy and some are back of the throat spicy and others just have good background flavor. I also add in mexican oregano, toasted/crushed cumin seeds, paprika and garlic (sometimes an onion too) . Occasionally I'll add some bottled hot sauce too.
I personally don't use tomatoes. Just beef, broth/water, and spices. If it needs to be thickened at the end, I stir on alittle bit of masa harina. Enough to thicken it but careful not to add too much or it will get a gritty texture.
My cooking goes like this. Brown beef. Then saute onion and garlic till soft. Add in 2/3 of total chile mixture and saute for a minute or two. Add beef to pot and cover with broth. Simmer for an hour partially covered. Add second dose of spices and simmer till tender, maybe another hour. Then add some masa harina to thicken.
I toast my chilis and then soak. When they have completely softened put them in to a jar of a blender with a little of the soaking liquid and puree. Strain in to the pot with the meat. Rinse out the blender jar with some more of the soaking liquid and finish straining. This removes any of the skin that might bring a bitter element to the pot. I do this when making posole and some salsas too. I like to give my Mexican oregano a little toasting in the skillet and crumble it into the chili. It brings out a bit more flavor.
On the dried chilis, if you have never cooked with them before, stem them and split open and remove the seeds and veins. Toast in a dry cst iron skillet flipping to toast the inside and out before doing the soak. Another flavor element is to fry the chili puree in some hot oil before adding to the pot.
For red chili I have been experimenting with adding chorizo - gives a nice red color and adds depth to the beef flavor. About 1/8 - 1/4 of your total meat weight seems about right to me.
Pork green chili may be unusual depending on which part of the country you are from. I love it with lots of cilantro added right at the end.
I always used braised meat, my favorite is brisket. I will also start with some type of spicy sausage, usually Italian but that's because that's what I usually have around. For a contest that would probably be enough, but for home, I like to use all the leftover ends of roasts that I freeze just for this purpose. I like the meat shredded; the pressure cooker is good to do just the meat beforehand. Then I add all kinds of weird things, like beer, tequila, lime juice, horseradish, cocoa, you name it.
My best chili includes splitting open a couple spicy sausages (chorizo, usually) and including the sausage meat in with the ground beef.