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House Party Chili Cook-off

Every so often, the Party Cats like to show their competitive side. You may remember the great pumpkin battle Brian and I faced-off in back in July. It was a fun challenge, but there were a few problems with this concept. One, who cooks anything with pumpkin in July? It's a fall ingredient! Two, we never really established a set of rules for judging; we ended up watching the company stuff their faces with gooey, cheesecakey pumpkin desserts without determining a clear winner. You'll be happy to know that we've learned from our mistake. We tossed around the idea of having a chili cook-off with a clear set of rules and standards for judging. We figured we 'd get a lukewarm response from the office, three or four entries perhaps, but we ended up having ten! The great Houseparty Chili Cook-off of 2012 was born.

Our crockpot station for judging.

Judging was based on three categories: originality, overall taste and presentation.

As an extra stipulation, we set a price cap for ingredients at $20 per entry. If a participant spent over twenty dollars on ingredients, they'd be disqualified from the cook-off. This adds a really difficult layer to the competition and evens the field significantly. Personally, I spent over an hour at the store price crunching.

A panel of 5 judges voted on their four favorite chili's. Celebrity chef, Michael Psilakis, was kind enough to judge our entries and determine a winner. If you don't know who he is, here's a brief background:

Celebrity Chef Michael Psilakis


Executive Chef/Owner Kefi, FISHTAG, MP Taverna

Competitor on BBC America's "No Kitchen Required"

Two time Iron Chef America competitor

Bon Appetit's 2008 Chef of the Year

The competition was close; Psilakis had several tastings of each chili. In the end, there can only be one winner. Lisa Ebel, from the House Party creative team, took down the competition.

Lisa's Recipe: Ossining Farms pork & beef braised porridge:

Ingredients: Young Plum Tomato Jam, Tri-Colored Pepper Compote, Braised Sweet Onion, Purple Garlic, Black Bean Confit and Cayenne Red Pepper Essence

Dry brine meat in spices for 24 hrs, minus salt. Heat EVOO and brown meat slightly, in patches, until lightly crusted. Do not fully cook. Remove meat and cook until tender; saute tomatoes, peppers, onions and garlic. Season with salt and pepper for taste. Add meat back to vegetables. Mash black beans and crush tomatoes (including tomato liquid). Add to mixture. Cook on low flame for a couple of hours. Taste and season with salt if needed. Enjoy!

Runner-ups include: Presentation: Jerry Simon - recipe here Originality: Larry Vollmer - recipe here

Taste Honorable mentions: Brian and Danielle. Originality honorable mentions: Liz, Melody and Cheyne

Do you have a favorite chili recipe or cook-off story? Share it with us.

About the Author: Larry is a friend of House Party. Larry currently resides in the East Bay region of California. He enjoys all things wine related, and spends a lot of his free time in Napa and Sonoma learning about wine. Larry is also a Mixed Martial Arts enthusiast. He enjoys practicing, watching, analyzing and commentating on all things MMA. Larry also enjoys cooking, fine dining, entertaining and hanging out with Maximus, his Jack Russell Terrier.

Cooking with Larry: Harvest Moon Chili

October is Fair Trade Month!