Welcome one, welcome all, to the first edition of the 101 Achievements Great Chili Cook-Off of 2016!
As part of our general focus on cooking more at home, we’ve decided to prepare and compare five different chili recipes, each drawn from a different source. Throughout the year, we’ll be making recipes from:
- The Food Network
- Cooking Light
- Betty Crocker
- The International Chili Society
- The American Woman’s Cookbook
(That last one is a hundred-year-old cookbook that is unavailable online.)
First up: Chicken Chili, as presented by Ina Garten of the Food Network.
We made this recipe pretty much exactly as-is, though it took us a little less than the proscribed 35-40 minutes to cook the chicken in the oven. Also, it yielded 8 servings for us, rather than the suggested 6.
After cooking, we subjected the chili to a highly rigorous six-point grading system. Here are the factors of that grade, each worth a maximum of one point:
1) Hands-On Time: Can you cook this on a whim? Is it an all-day affair?
2) Aroma: How does it smell? Do you want to eat it straight from the pot when it hits your nostrils?
3) Presentation: How attractive does it look in the bowl?
4) Flavor: How complex is the flavor profile? Are the individual ingredients detectable? Are they balanced?
5) Sauciness: What is the consistency? Is the sauce-to-solids ratio appropriate?
Now, I said there were six factors, and there are six factors. The sixth factor is a special one — one that’s new to any cooking challenge we’ve ever done; one that represents a new level of rigor and intensity in our food judging endeavors. We’re calling this last factor…
Long story short, to evaluate each chili, we’re bringing on a special guest judge to award the final point: Shawn. He’s a Texan with a pro-taster-level palate and a keen, unforgiving regard for subpar chili. If any chili is to come out on top, it must survive the meticulous and merciless gauntlet known only as: The Shawn Factor.
But let’s start with Fox’s and my more layperson-like thoughts, first. We can begin with the hands-on time.
While there was a good deal of chopping involved, and the chicken had to cook separately for half an hour, it was easy to double those tasks up. The simmer time on the recipe wasn’t too long either, meaning that while you can’t just whip this dish up in a hurry, it’s manageable and doesn’t require you to get up early to have it set for dinner time.
As for the aroma, we found it very enjoyable. The smell of the simply seasoned chicken roasting in the oven filled the house, and the good smells from the kitchen only blossomed further when we started simmering down the veggies and garlic. We only wished that Shawn were around during the cooking to give us a more nuanced take on it all.
On the presentation front, this was an easy dish to make look good. The garnishes of green onion and cheese added some nice color contrast. We hoped it would hold up until the next day, which is when Shawn would get to do his thorough evaluation.
The flavor was flat-out excellent. It was spicier than expected (when cooking we’d been worried that it would turn out on the bland side), and it paired very nicely with some olive-oil brushed toasts and also tortilla chips. It’s not too salty on its own, so these pairings helped to draw out the vegetables and make them pop.
As for the sauciness, though…that was a bit of a weak spot. The consistency was thinner than we’d have liked, though the chunks of vegetables and the chicken remained firm enough that it wasn’t soup. Still, it was not ideal. I only hoped that Shawn wouldn’t eviscerate the chili wholesale due to this one flaw. On the whole, we felt like it was pretty good.
The next day, we brought a serving of chili to Shawn for analysis. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to capture the entirety of his reactions just by transcribing, so I got them on video for the full effect. Let’s see the results of…
There you have it, folks — expert analysis that you can only find here, at 101 Achievements. You’re welcome.
Let’s take a final tally:
1) Hands-On Time: 0.8
2) Aroma: 0.8
3) Presentation: 0.8
4) Flavor: 0.9
5) Sauciness: 0.6
6) The Shawn Factor: 0.8
The final score of this Food Network Chicken Chili recipe is: 4.7 out of a possible 6. So far — well, by necessity — this is the chili to beat. Tune in for the next edition when we (and Shawn) take on a chili recipe ripped from the pages of Cooking Light magazine!