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Countdown to Super Bowl: I’m Rooting for the Chili

A New Mexican Style chili with lots of beans at last weekend's Chili Fest in NYC.

Most Sunday afternoons, I’m happy to watch football with a bag of chips, but this Sunday is the Super Bowl and my team isn’t playing — sigh — so I’ll be paying a lot more attention to what’s on the menu.

When it comes to game-day eats, I’m usually partial to wings, but after attending NYC’s first annual Chili Fest last weekend, I can’t stop thinking about those hearty meat stews. It’s always a special occasion when twenty four well-known restaurants from around NYC get together to compete in an old fashioned chili cook-off, but with the big game coming up this weekend, I went looking for some inspiration. 

Like pizza, styles and ingredients vary by region, and each region thinks it has the best recipe. Some swear by beans, some swear by pork — others use neither. You’ll find lots of beans in New Mexican chili, for example, but in Texas absolutely none.

In total, I tried eighteen different takes on the classic comfort food this past weekend. What did I learn from all that chili? Here, have a taste.

Traditional-style chilis are a big crowd-pleaser. This meat-heavy stew from Northern Spy Food Co. tasted a lot like those found in Texas. It had the classic consistency of ground beef and simmered vegetables. If I wanted to make something similar, I would make Tyler’s Texas Chili, but without the chocolate. Like Northern Spy Food Co’s, Tyler’s has lots of meat and chilies, and no beans.

Northern Spy Food Co. took home the first place prize with their rendition of good old, bare bones chili.

Tomatillos give a wonderfully unique, bright green chili flavor. Telepan’s rendition of chili verde was made by cooking down tomatillos with beef, pork, beans and several types of chilies. It was hearty and spicy, and tasted best when topped off with some creamy Oaxacan cheese. Make something similar by adding pinto beans to Jerry Simmons’ Chili Verde, and then sprinkling Oaxacan cheese over the top.

Telepan was the only restaurant to enter the competition with a green chili verde.

Ancho chilies and brown sugar help make for darker stews. Fette Sau brought both to the table, but also stayed true to their smoke-house roots. The Brooklyn barbecue joint made theirs with lots of beans and plenty of smoked meat. The result was quite flavorful — think tasty intersection of sweet baked beans and smoked beef, with a slight heat that came on after each mouthful.

Fette Sau's chili used Ancho chilies to impart a deep, reddish brown color. Very Spicy!

But my favorite chili came from well-known Brooklyn pizza purveyor, Roberta’s. Admittedly more like beef stew, there was so much to love about what they stirred up that I actually asked for more, which is saying a lot after tasting twenty four chilis. Brimming with big chunks of sirloin, their chili wasn’t shy with its celebration of the meat, but it also had plenty of vegetables and loads of chilies, and just right amount of heat to balance it all out.

Roberta's chili had large chunks of pork fat soaking at the bottom just to ensure that no flavor was going to waste.

Find your perfect chili recipe right here.

Get your chili fix sans meat, with Rachael’s Meaty, Meatless Chili.

Plan the rest of your Super Bowl party with The Big Game Kick Off.

Fette Sau added brown sugar, tamarind and smoked meat to their pot.

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