Recipe: Spicy, Sweet ‘n Smokey Cowboy Chili

It’s that time of year that this owner of a spice company looks forward to the most:  the annual Chili Contest at Catamount Ski Resort!


This great event brings together chili competitors from all over — home cooks, caterers, chefs, restaurants. It’s great fun but also a great cause, as both the competitor registration fee and the tasters’ entrance fees are donated to the Roe Jan Food Pantry.Chili cookoff image

According to Heather White, Communications Manager for Catamount,

“A total of $676 for the Roe Jan Food Pantry during the event, so please give yourselves a hand!  We had 95 people as taste testers, who voted for the winners.”




19 bubbling pots of chili were available for tasting this year. I didn’t get to many of them, but I heard the tasters talk about a white chicken chili, one with moose, and a recipe doused with tequila. I saw one gentleman walk away from contestant #4 with sweat streaming down his face, as he futilely dabbed at it with a napkin.

Across from me, there was an impressive display: the eventual winner, Stephen Fray, with this self-titled “Tasty Chili” surrounded by fixins:  sour cream, diced red onion, cheddar cheese, and a basket of mini-sized cornbread muffins.

IMAG0077Next to him,  Steele Andrews of the fabulous Silvanus Lodge was making a strong showing with his Cajun-inspired chili  (I tasted it, and loved it).

Moving one more to left, Jack Peele of Jacuterie — the eventual 3rd place winner — was dishing out a fragrant Chocolate Chipotle Chili featuring some of his own tasty sausages. IMAG0073

My entry was quite a departure from what we call chili, here in the Northeast: I concocted a version that had no beans at all, and used beef shoulder that was simmered down until it could be pulled apart with a fork.

chili entry sheet

Why do something so different?  Because last year, I went the semi-traditional route with my Don’t Be A Turkey chili,   and I wanted to shake it up.  Besides,  what better way to highlight the pure flavor of SPICES than a straight-up chili like this?

Last year, the voting and judging was done differently, and it resulted in names from 1st to 5th place.  This year, only the top 3 choices were recorded, so I don’t know where I placed. But people seemed to enjoy it! I got lots of compliments, including 2 people who came back for more, nice words from fellow contestants, and a fellow who approached me at the end and asked if I’d be willing to share the recipe.

I’d be delighted!


1 small dried chili
1 T dried oregano
1 T paprika
1 T smoked paprika
1 T coriander seeds
1 T cumin seed
1 T chili powder
1 T cinnamon
2 T raw cacao powder
1 T smoked sea salt
3 T olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
3 pounds beef chuck, well trimmed and cut into 1″ cubes
6 cloves garlic, grated (I use a micro-planer for this)
1 small can of chipotle chile in adobo
1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped (for extra heat, keep the seeds in)
2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes
1 tsp brown sugar
1/4 c molasses
1 T cider vinegar
3 T masa harina (Mexican corn meal)
Grated white cheddar, for garnish
Diced chives, for garnish



Put all of the spices, dried chilis, cacao powder and sea salt into a spice grinder and grind until they are powdered and well-mixed. Set aside.
Heat a large heavy bottomed pot over medium heat; add olive oil and the onions. Cook until the onions are soft, about 10 minutes. Add 4 T of the spice mixture and cook for 2 minutes, stirring.
Raise heat to medium-high. Make sure the beef is dry, then add it to the pot with the onion mixture. Cook, stirring frequently, until it has browned on all sides.  Add the garlic, chipotle with the adobo sauce, diced jalapeno, canned tomatoes, molasses, vinegar and sugar.  Add water until the meat is covered with liquid.
Return to the boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Cover, and cook until the meat can easily be pulled apart with a fork. Using a potato masher, shred the meat in the pot.
Stir in the masa harina, and cook for another 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more sea salt or spice mixture to taste.
Serve with the cheddar and chopped chives for garnish.


Posted on February 27, 2014, in Events, Main dish, Mixed spices, Recipes and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Reblogged this on Anything and Everything and commented:
    Looks yummy!

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