I entered Discovery Creative's 1st annual Chili Cook-Off with this recipe from Bon Appetit and substituting pumpkin for the butternut squash. Since I had never made the recipe before, I had a trial run on Sunday before the Wednesday cook-off, and am really glad I did. We had company for dinner and no one like it. It was way too hot (two diced chipotles in adobo and 1/2 tbsp of chipotle chili powder replacing 1/2 tbsp of regular chili powder) and lacked flavor. It simply didn't smell or taste like chili. The general consensus was to reduce the heat and enhance the flavor with salt and pepper and more chili powder. On Monday I made another batch leaving out all chipotles and adding both onion and garlic salts and regular pepper.
On Monday night we heated up both pots - the new no-heat version and the leftovers from Sunday. Andrew, the Hub and I had small bowls of the new version, then added ladlefuls of the hot stuff until the heat was perfect (three ladlesful). It still lacked something, but we decided to leave it alone in the flavor department since it was an improvement from Sunday at least.
On Tuesday, someone asked me if I toasted my cumin, and like the proverbial light bulb going on - I knew exactly what was missing.
My chili did not win, but I never thought it would. (I didn't vote for it.) It was the only vegetarian one though so it allowed the office herbivores a chance to play especially since some of the carnivores refused to even taste it.
I've never been to a chili cook-off before but I thought this was especially well thought out. Here's the line you went through to read about the chilies and pick up eight cups of chili with their corresponding numbers on the bottom of the cup. After narrowing it down, you could go back for more of your favorites to help you decide.
And here is the winner, Chris Morrison (first from the left). He deserved to win; his chili was excellent. He roasted the chilies and made his own chili powder, and is working on a second career in competitive cooking.