Monday, November 16, 2009

B.R.U.C.E. Chili Competition

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.