There is really only one rule for the annual Brooklyn Regional Underground Chili Extravaganza (BRUCE) and, in the email sent out to contestants, it reads as follows: "Chili comes in a pot, pot does not come in the chili." The rule, which offers a tantalizing hint of scandals past, pretty much sums up the feel of the event held every November at Barcade, a Williamsburg establishment dedicated to microbrews and vintage arcade games.
I entered the competition this year with a general fondness for chili and no recipe. I've made chili before, sure, maybe once or twice from Food Network recipes scrounged in a college hangover but I certainly didn't have a list of secret ingredients or a simmer-time trick. So I did what any first-time competitor would do: I did everything.
Into the dutch over, I threw an Essex Street Market bag full of porky black magic: pork shoulder, pig's feet, ham hock, bacon, and pig's liver--which Luis, the butcher, scoffed at my question "Is it okay?" saying, simply, "Delicious." Along with the meat, I added papaya, roasted tomatillos, roasted poblanos, diced serranos, dried anchos, red beans, cilantro, and an afternoon bender's worth of Six Point Bengali Tiger IPA.
The resulting stew had a thick pork presence but was missing some funk (where were you on that one, liver?) and thus I was a bit nervous in the cab ride across the East River, warm Crockpot in my lap. I ended up finishing in fourth place--no prizes, just fodder for next year.