LATE ON the afternoon of Oct. 4, at Rosecroft Raceway Bill Pfeiffer was a big winner, but he didn't know just how big at the time. There were no horses on the track, just a few grazing in a nearby field. There were hardly any people either. A few contestants, several judges, a spectator or two, just enough for Pfeiffer to win the local championship chili cook-off and become eligible for the world cook-off in California.
Last Saturday, Pfeiffer parlayed his Wild Willy's Chili, which he since renamed Capitol Punishment Chili, into $20,000, the grand prize at the 14th annual chili cook-off in Agoura, Calif.
Pfeiffer belongs to that subculture of chiliheads who spreads the gospel through an association newsletter. From the letter they learn where the local contests will be held, what the characteristics most likely to win the contest are. What's fashionable in chili changes every few years. Right now the meat must be chili grind, which is coarser than hamburger meat. The dish cannot be so firey that your tastebuds are numbed. The spicing should be subtle, the heat only part of the afterglow. And, of course, no beans.
Pfeiffer, a native of Houston, now a resident of Alexandria, is also one of four Zytron Corporation employees who entered the finals this year. They made up one-quarter of the entries. Last year's grand prize winner and defending champion works for the computer service company as does a previous winner who is a company vice president. For Pfeiffer, however, the Rosecroft contest, a benefit for the local chapter National Kidney Foundation, was the first. (It received so little publicity there were few entries and almost no spectators. The Kidney Foundation lost money on the event.) Pfeiffer decided at the last minute to enter and had no time to set up a booth with all the signs and decorations that are considered part of the constest. As a matter of fact he was so quiet the judges at Rosecroft couldn't even remember who he was when they chose his entry. He hadn't acted like a chilihead -- rowdy -- or dressed like a chilihead -- in 10-gallon hat, boots and fringed jacket. And he hadn't "violated" any of the 13 rules and regulations of all chili cook-offs. A few of the rules give you some idea of the usual atmosphere:
"Contestants should refrain from throwing foreign objects, such as beer cans, shoes, cigar butts, etc., into opponent's chili. Verbal abuse is, however, acceptable and highly encouraged.
"A cook may be disqualified for falling into his/her chili pot; falling into his/her opponent's pot; impersonating a judge."
The judges, of whom I was one, were almost unanimous in their decision: With or without showmanship, Bill Pfeiffer had the best chili. Apparently they thought so, too, in Caliifornia.
Pfeiffer is anxious to get "some chili contests going in the East." Now that we've got an East Coast winner I think we can show them it can be made here,too."
Pfeiffer was happy to share the prize-winner. CAPITOL PUNISHMENT CHILI 2 large onions, 5 or 6 inches in diameter, finely chopped 10 cloves garlic, finely chopped Kidney suet 4 pounds extra lean chuck, flank or round steak, chili gring 1 pound extra lean chuck, flank or round steak in 1/4 inch cubes 2 pounds extra lean pork loin, chili grind 1 (6 ounce) can tomato sauce 4 tablespoons beef bouillion granules 2 (12 ounce) cans or bottles light beer 9 heaping tablespoons light chile powder 1 tablespoon cumin 1 tablespoon ground oregano 2 tablespoons paprika 2 tablespoons monosodiu, glutamate (optional) 1 tablespoon sugar 1 teaspoon powdered mole 1 teaspoon powdered coriander 1 tablespoon masa harina
In an 8 quart stock pot simmer chili powder, cumin, oregano, paprika, msg with one can beer, water and bouillon granules. In a large skillet brown the meat in a little kidney suet, a little at a time until all the fat is cooked off. Transfer meat to pot after browning. Saute onion and garlic in a little suet in the skillet. When tender add to meat and mix well. Add remaining can of beer and tomato sauce. Cover and simmer 2 1/2 to 3 hours. During last hour of cooking add the mole, sugar and coriander. During last half hour make a past of the masa with water and stir in.
Note: The amount of spice may be changed to suit individual preference.