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Chili With Coonrod: District 9 gathering produces many variations of pot-scraping recipes

It's always a good sign when the people you're cooking for scrape the bottom of the pot for the very last morsels.

That's how popular Bob Edwards' White Bean Chili With Chicken was at the recent Chili With Coonrod gathering for District 9 residents represented by Chattanooga City Councilwoman Demetrus Coonrod.

Coonrod wanted to create an environment of fellowship and fun for the 12 neighborhood associations attending her first districtwide meeting earlier this year, so she asked each association to bring a pot of chili. She wanted to do more than inform residents, she said. She wanted to connect the various communities.

"I was trying to think of things to get people active and want to come out," she said.

Edwards' pot-scraping recipe, a twist on traditional chili, was so well-received that event organizers had to unplug the empty crockpot so it wouldn't burn, said Jesse Igou of the Eastdale Neighborhood Association.

Coonrod said the event was so much fun that she plans to make Chili With Coonrod a tradition. She wants to increase attendance next year and use the meal as a fundraiser. It could help residents who need assistance paying a bill or who need help purchasing books for school, she said.

Seven neighborhood associations brought chili. Variations included chili with chicken, beef and sausage as well as a vegetarian option.

Edwards' recipe won first place for the Missionary Ridge Neighborhood Association. Edwards' wife, Jan, found the basic recipe online and customized it with a few spices from her homeland, China.

Igou's chili took second place. It's nothing fancy, she said. She uses seasoning from the dollar store and nothing but pinto beans and fried pinto beans.

The good taste comes from the preparation, she said. She lets her beans cook for about four hours. And she sautés beef sausage with mushrooms, diced onions and peppers.

"It's all in letting things cook a certain time and not just throwing mixed stuff in," said Igou.

The Boyce Station Neighborhood Association took third place. Cora Lanier, who represented the neighborhood, said their victory is a story within itself.

It had been less than a month before the meeting that Coonrod's daughter died of lupus. But instead of sitting home grieving, Coonrod worked to unite her district and she wanted no neighborhood to be left out, said Lanier.

So when Lanier called Coonrod to tell her that her neighborhood wouldn't have chili because the person expecting to prepare it had fallen ill, Coonrod called church deacons searching for a fill-in cook.

Ezzard Robinson, a former armor bearer for Bishop Kevin Adams at Olivet Baptist Church, came to the rescue with his poblano chili with three meats.

He couldn't make it to the district meeting, but he had the chili there when Lanier showed up.

Lanier said she was even more shocked when the judges called her neighborhood to win third place.

"[Coonrod] pulled that miracle together for us because she wanted to make sure we weren't left out," said Lanier. "Giving out of herself for her neighborhood. I know that's what was going on because I received it."

Lanier described the recipe as "good church chili. You know you got a little kick in it, but it wasn't too much. You can savor it."

Poblano peppers made it unique, said Robinson, also known as "Chef E."

Most people cut up green or red bell peppers, but the mild poblano pepper gives it a more Tex-Mex taste, he said. And instead of using only ground beef, he used ground beef, ground chuck and rib-eye steak.

And fourth place, the last trophy given, went to Foxwood Heights, represented by Gloria McClendon.

Coonrod had brought only three trophies, but the judges insisted that there be a fourth place because they said the chili was so good, she said.

Coonrod had two teenagers, 15-year-old twins, to serve as judges.

Each winner got photos and bragging rights until the next Chili With Coonrod.

Contact Yolanda Putman at or 423-757-6431.


White Bean Chili With Chicken 

Jan Edwards, wife of Bob Edwards, said this is the basic recipe she started with from the Panning the Globe website. It won first place for the Missionary Ridge Neighborhood Association.

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 1 hour

Yield: 6-8 servings

3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons chili powder, divided

3 tablespoons cumin, divided

1 teaspoon salt, divided, plus more to taste

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste

3 cups chopped onion (2 medium)

3 tablespoons minced garlic (4-5 large cloves), or more if you love garlic

3 (15-ounce cans) white beans, drained

2 (4-ounce) cans chopped green chilies (hot or mild, depending on your preference)

2 teaspoons oregano

4-6 cups low-salt chicken broth

6 cups shredded cheese (half Monterey Jack, half cheddar), divided

2 cups sour cream, divided

For garnish:

Chopped scallions

Chopped cilantro leaves

Favorite hot sauce

Sour cream

Shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese

Spice and roast the chicken: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spread chicken out in a roasting pan. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil, and season with 2 teaspoons chili powder, 1 tablespoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a pinch or two of cayenne. Roast for 30 minutes. Shred or cut into bite-size pieces. Set aside.

Cook the chili: In a large pot, heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Sauté onion and garlic over medium heat for 5 minutes or so, until tender. Add beans, shredded chicken, chilies, oregano, 2 tablespoons chile powder, 2 tablespoons cumin, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne (or more to taste). Add 4 cups of chicken broth, reserving the rest for thinning the chili to desired consistency. Stir to combine, and simmer gently on low for 20 minutes. (To keep the chicken tender, do not let the pot boil.)

Remove the pot from the heat, and let cool for 5 minutes or so before proceeding. With the pot still off the heat, stir 3 cups of cheese into the pot, 1 cup at a time. Then stir in 1 cup of sour cream. (Or for richer, creamier version, add all 6 cups of cheese to the pot and 2 cups of sour cream) Bring the pot back to a gentle simmer over low heat (to keep the dairy products from separating, don't boil). Simmer the chili for 15-20 minutes, adjusting with additional chicken broth, if you like. For added texture, use a potato masher to mash half the chicken and beans. Then stir to combine with the rest.

Serve chili in bowls with garnishes on top or on the side.


Foxwood Heights' Chili Recipe

Foxwood Heights Neighborhood Association President Gloria McClendon submitted this recipe. She says it's good over rice, pasta or as a standalone. It's a quick and easy recipe and very good for a cold afternoon, she said.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes

1 pound ground beef chuck

1 medium yellow onion, diced

1 package chili seasoning mix of your choice

1 (15.5-ounce) can chili beans

1 (15-ounce) can red kidney beans

1 (15-ounce) can light kidney beans

2 (14-ounce) can diced chili-ready tomatoes with juice

2 small cans tomato sauce

1/2 cup of water

Jumbo hot-dog wieners, sliced (optional)

In a large pot, brown the ground beef with onion. Drain as much of the grease as possible.

Add seasonings, beans, tomatoes, sauce and water to the pot, and stir. If it's too thick, add more water until you reach desired thickness

If using, add sliced wieners last.

Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer 5 to 8 minutes.