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End of the Road Recipes: Blonde Bombshell Chili

by Crystal Schlueter

Super Bowl Sunday is coming up, which means it’s time for a chili recipe.

Back in 2015, I heard about a chili contest with a $10,000 prize and knew I had to enter. The chili was to be paired with the sponsor company’s Lambrusco and a partnering sponsor’s tortilla chips.

I came up with “Blonde Bombshell Chili,” which is a spicy chicken chili. Chicken chili usually has a thin, broth base with no tomatoes. I decided to make my chili base more like traditional chili, but with yellow tomatoes and using the sponsoring tortilla chips as a thickener.

My chili was selected as a regional semi-finalist. Four other semi-finalists and I got to serve our chili at what was then called Sports Authority Field in Denver, CO, and we were told to bring a guest. The cook-off was judged by former NFL player Karl Mecklenburg. Karl played for the Minnesota Golden Gophers prior to being drafted by the Denver Broncos.

Karl is very blonde, in fact, his nickname during his football days was “The Albino Rhino.” I thought having a blonde judge was a good sign.

My friend and I, who are also blonde, had a great time dishing up chili and serving spicy comebacks to the many blonde jokes that were directed our way.

After all of the chili was tasted, the semi-finalists were told to sit down off to the side. Karl was at a table with his judging checklist. He got up and walked back to my chili, lifted the lid, and bent down to smell what was left in my pot. My chili was the only one he went back to, and I knew I had this one in the bag.

Shortly thereafter, it was announced that I won my region and would be going to the finals in Phoenix. After the cook-off, all of the semi-finalists and our guests were given tickets to the Broncos game.

My friend and I are not sports fans and were exhausted, but to celebrate, we made our way over to the stadium and up many flights of stairs to our seats. Soon after the start of the second quarter, a group of four blonde women that looked like cast members of The Real Housewives dropped their tray of beers on us. My friend and I reeked of chili and now beer was added to the mix.

I remember thinking I should have put beer in my chili (that is how the mind of a competitive cook works) and now I always add it. We then decided we had enough football and went home.

Later, I learned that another competitor and his guest hawked their Broncos tickets for $700 apiece. That would have been a fortune to my friend and I who were two broke 20-somethings. You live, you learn.

Unfortunately, I did not go on to win the final cook-off in Phoenix. That cook-off had two former NFL player judges and neither were blondes, so that probably didn’t help. However, the winning chili also used both sponsor products.

My competitor made a traditional beef chili but added the sponsoring Lambrusco to her tomato base along with cherry preserves, which was a prevalent flavor in the wine. She then took the tortilla chips and crumbled them atop of her chili, so you could actually see them. Well-played.

The best use of sponsor products usually wins the contest. It’s okay though, as the next year she and I were both finalists in a $30,000 sandwich contest. That time, I took home the win.

 

 

Blonde Bombshell Chili

Ingredients:

Chili:

3 1/2-4 1/2 cups chicken broth

12 ounces blonde ale (plus extra for serving, if desired)

4 cups yellow cherry tomatoes (or two 10 ounce containers)

2 yellow bell peppers, seeded and chopped

1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano

1 habanero pepper, pricked a few times with a fork

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large yellow onion, diced

3 large garlic cloves, minced

3/4 cup finely crushed yellow corn tortilla chips (crushed into pea sized crumbs)

3 slightly heaping cups shredded cooked chicken

2 (15.5 ounce) cans great northern beans, drained and slightly mashed

Several pinches of salt and coarsely ground black pepper

Juice of 1 large lemon

 

Garnishes:

1 1/2 cups shredded smoked cheddar (or your favorite cheese)

1 cup sour cream

2 tablespoons minced chipotle chiles in adobo sauce

1 1/2 teaspoons honey

1 pinch of salt

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves

Instructions:

Chili:

In a large pot, add 3 cups of broth with the ale, tomatoes, bell peppers, and oregano. Roughly mash the tomatoes with a potato masher. Add the habanero and bring to the boil uncovered over medium high heat. Meanwhile, in a dry skillet over medium heat, add the cumin and coriander. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until very fragrant, stirring often. Scrape the spices into the chili. Wipe out the skillet and place back over medium heat with the oil. Once hot, add the onion. Cook for 7-8 minutes, stirring often, until softened and starting to brown. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute longer. Add half of the onion mixture to the chili and reserve the remaining half. Once the chili comes to a rolling boil, cook for an additional 15 minutes or until the vegetables are very soft. Remove from heat and stir in the crushed tortilla chips. Let cool for 15-20 minutes then remove and reserve the habanero. Carefully blend the chili in batches until smooth. Add the mixture back to the pot. Stir in the reserved onion and garlic. Add the chicken, beans, salt and pepper to taste. Turn heat back to medium high and bring to a simmer. Adjust heat to maintain a simmer and cook for 15 minutes or until thickened, stirring often. Add an additional cup of broth if the chili is too thick. Stir in the lemon juice. Taste the chili and add extra salt and pepper if necessary. Blend the reserved habanero (remove the stem) with 1/2 cup of chicken broth until smooth. Stir 1/2 tablespoon of the habanero mixture at a time into the chili until the desired heat level is reached (I added 1 1/2 tablespoons).

Garnishes:

Ladle the chili into 6 bowls. Top each with 1/4 cup of cheese. In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream, chipotle chiles, honey, and salt. Spoon a dollop over each bowl. Sprinkle with cilantro. Serve with extra tortilla chips and blonde ale, if desired.

Yield: 6 servings

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