Goshen News, Goshen, IN

February 7, 2013

Tasters pick best chili in chilly LaGrange

By DL PERRIN
THE GOSHEN NEWS

LaGRANGE — In the freezing cold, tramping through the slushy streets of LaGrange, Feb. 2 were dozens of intrepid chili tasters. Groups of men in stocking caps leaned into the wind, hands deep inside their pockets. They trudged from café to store to café around downtown to have a taste of savory chili from 25 different local chili makers. It was FOCUS LaGrange’s second annual Super Bowl Chili Shuffle.

A groundhog even showed up to celebrate his famously cold shadow chase with a warm scoop of chili.

Four merchants opened their doors to accommodate the chili cookers in their annual competition to win the vote and a nice fat check for having the best chili in LaGrange.

“This year we had over 148 tasters and voters,” said Cheryl Albergo, chairman of the cook-off and owner of Chicago Joe’s restaurant. “It was much bigger than last year and everyone seems to be having a great time.”

Chicago Joe’s, Courtside, Our Place and Carney Decorating were the four host sites. There was a crowd at each location. One woman was feeding a spoonful of chili to her little girl. It must have been good because the child grabbed her hand and drew it back to her mouth.

“Really, this chili is so good and it is so cold outside, I’d love to get a big bowl to go and take it home to eat at my house,” said Elizabeth Bontrager as she offered another spoonful of chili to 16-month old Gaia, who responded with a big grin.

Mickey Mouse

“I got this recipe from Mickey Mouse,” Jayden Boyd announced as he posed in front of his huge poster advertising his chili and his favorite place, Disney World. “It is the personal recipe of Walt Disney. I read it in my ‘Chef Mickey’ cookbook. I love to cook. I am a freak for Florida — so I chose the Dolphins as theme team for my chili,” Jayden confessed as he passed out another sample cup to a taster.

“He cooks at home all the time,” said his proud mother Ann. “Last summer we had a teenage babysitter during the day and Jayden did all the cooking. He is a good cook.”

When asked about his favorite cuisine, he paused and smiled, “To be honest with you, I would have to say it is French cooking I like the best. This is my first year competing in the chili cook-off. It will not be my last.”

Jayden’s threats should not be taken lightly. He managed to come in second and won $150 in his first competition. Bob Brill came in third with his venison chili and said it was because his daughter Ashley insisted he enter. A former, professional caterer, Lori Fugate won $250 for first place with her white chili.

“My husband and I were tasters last year,” she said. “We had such a good time. I was thrilled to win this. It was a lot of fun. I was glad my husband talked me into it. My recipe is for chicken, but I used turkey and it worked!”

Lori’s winning White Bean Turkey Chili recipe:

1 lb. turkey breast, skinless, boneless, cut into 1/2 cubes

1 medium onion, diced

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder

2 (15-ounce) cans Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained

4 ounces diced green chilies

1 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. pepper

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. dried oregano

1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 cup whipping cream

1 cup sour cream.

In a large saucepan sauté turkey, onion, and garlic powder in oil, until turkey is no longer pink. Add beans, broth, chilies and spices. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in whipping cream and sour cream.

Serve, garnished with shredded cheese, diced green onions and/or sour cream.