You can expect to find some of the best chili in town this weekend during the ninth annual Firehouse Chili Cook-Off, but you'll find it on a different day and in a new venue.
The cook-off has for years been held on a Sunday at Chattanooga Market. This year, though, it will take place during Go!Fest from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Chattanooga Zoo. Admission to the festival is free, but tastings will cost you $7.50 for the first ticket and $5 for each one thereafter. It all goes to a good cause, though: the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
"We're very excited about our new location for the cook-off," Chief Randy Parker said in a news release. "If you haven't been to the Chattanooga Zoo in a while, you're in for a real treat."
This year's chili cook-off features four firefighter teams. Station 1's No Hesitation team returns to defend its People's Choice trophy with its High Rise chili. Another team from the Chattanooga Fire Department, the Chili Chiefs, will be back to defend its Chef's Choice award with its CHAOS chili.
The two challenging teams are the Cleveland Fire Department's team, Louie's Red Shirt Mafia, which won the Chef's Choice award in 2009 for its Hillbilly Chili, and the Chattanooga Fire Department's Combat Challenge team, which hopes to smash the competition with its Iron Man Chili. These are some of the same guys who strutted their stuff in the Firefighter Fashion Show at the recent She expo presented by the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
So who's going to win? Firefighter Josh Mowery, captain of the Cleveland Fire Department's team, is confident of his team's abilities.
"Our chili will win this year for the same reason that it won the first year: We have the best recipe he said.
The firefighters prefer to keep their recipes close to the vest, so a request for a winning recipe went up in smoke. But you may want to try to warm up to this recipe this winter. It's a winning chili from one of the International Chili Society competitions. If you go to Go!Fest, see if you think it compares to any of the entries.
1 tablespoon cooking oil
3 medium onions, finely chopped
2 bell peppers, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
8 pounds coarse ground round steak (lean chili grind)
2 (No. 2) cans tomato sauce (preferably Hunt's)
2 (No. 2) cans stewed tomatoes (preferably Hunt's)
2 (No. 2) cans water
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste (preferably Hunt's)
1 (4-ounce) can chile salsa
1 (3-inch) green canned hot pepper, finely chopped (only one chile from the can)
2 (3-ounce) bottles Gebhardt chili powder
1 (4-ounce) can green diced chilies
Dash of oregano
Salt, to taste (about 3 tablespoons)
Pepper (coarsely ground), to taste
Garlic salt, to taste
Put oil in a 10- to 12-quart pot. Add onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic cloves. Cook until onion is transparent. Add meat gradually, stirring until the redness disappears. Add the remaining ingredients, stirring after each addition.
Lower heat and simmer 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Stir frequently to prevent scorching.
Makes 12-16 servings.
On the restaurant front ... I ventured into the new location of Hillbilly's the other night and was blown away with the changes owner Dana Burrows made to the old Huddle House at the corner of Lupton Drive and Hixson Pike in Rivermont.
But even more impressive was the boneless chicken breast. It was one of the juiciest, crispiest pieces of fried chicken I've ever had. And he puts the wow factor in turnip greens.
I should say that I know Burrows, having bought our current house from him. Burrows told me he wished he'd never sold that house. I'm not yet willing to sell it back to him, but if he'd promise to cook meals like the dinner I had the other night, I'd sure consider renting him a room.