The first time the Lupus Foundation of America, Indiana Chapter dreamed up the wonderful idea to host a chili cook-off contest, executive director Phyllis Simko asked me if I would serve as a judge for this new charity event launch in Spring 2003
And at my side was Chef Terry Zych, in his starched white hat and uniform doing the same duties.
Chef Zych is the Hospitality Division Chair of Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana.
And I'm excited that after a decade later, he's agreed to reunite and serve as a fellow judge for this year's cause sponsored by Merrillville High School Key Club and the Lupus Foundation of America as they join together to host the 11th Anniversary Northwest Indiana Chili Cook-Off and Tasting Event from 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday at Merrillville High School, 276 E. 68th Place. This year's event is in the cafeteria and guests and contestants enter at Entrance J.
Joining us on the judging panel will be my Times columnist colleague Eloise Valadez, who writes our weekly Restaurant Scene column each Friday. This marks the five-year anniversary since Eloise last judged this event, when she was side by side with me and Chef Keith Peffers, the director of dining services for Purdue North Central University. Because Chef Peffers faced a scheduling conflict, Chef Zych will be this year's big return special guest judge.
Over the years, I've served with Chef Zych on many culinary judging teams, ranging from ranking pies and cookies to sampling and scoring fudge and candy.
On the subject of candy, last fall my parents cut fresh rhubarb from our farm when Chef Zych wanted some of this tart favorite to make one of his recipes for rhubarb candy confections.
I'm told a couple of contestant spots remain open and "it's first come, first served" for any last minute entrants who call in today or tomorrow.
Applications from individuals and organizations are accepted at lupusindiana.org. You can also contact the contest committee chair Carrie Bedwell at firstname.lastname@example.org to request an application or call her at (219) 650-5307, ext. 7115.
Contestants can begin set up at 2 p.m. and MUST be in attendance for a meeting at 2:30 p.m.
Contestants submit a $25 refundable deposit upon registration. The check will be returned at the event or may be placed in the voting tip jar. For contestants who fail to attend, the $25 is kept as a donation to the Lupus Foundation.
Each contestant should provide an ample supply of chili to serve samples. Last year, approximately 300 people attended. Chili should be prepared off-site and brought in a container suitable for keeping the chili warm. Each contestant should provide a tablecloth and theme items to enhance presentation.
The LFA provides taste cups, napkins, bowls and spoons. Condiments and spices must be provided by the contestant. A list of rules and suggestions is available on the LFA website.
Official judging is at 4 p.m. The Judges' Award a winner for the Best All-Around Chili and the People's Choice Award prizes are presented at 6 p.m.
Funds raised will be credited to each contestant's tip jar, and contestants can also donate their $25 deposit. Admission to the event is $5 at the door.
And of course, we also need plenty of hungry appetites for guests to come out and sample chili during this final week of winter weather. See you Saturday! Today's featured hor d'oeuvre recipe is from Chef Zych and was served at Sunday's Dine with the Chefs charity gala I emceed.
Fennel and Chorizo Strudel
5 ounces of butter (divided use)
4 ounces chorizo sausage, sliced thin, skin removed
1 (10 to 12 ounce) fennel bulb, diced
1 1/2 tablespoon minced tarragon leaves
1 1/2 teaspoon minced chives
7 ounces dry bread crumbs
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
6 phyllo dough sheets, thawed
DIRECTIONS: Heat about 1 ounce of the butter in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute them until they are translucent. Add the chorizo and allow some of the fat to render. Add the fennel and gently cook it until tender. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. Process the mixture to a coarse paste in a food processor. Add the tarragon leaves, chives, egg and enough bread crumbs (about 1 3/4 ounces) to light bind the mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside. Brush each sheet of the phyllo dough with melted butter and sprinkle evenly with 1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons of bread crumbs. Top this with another sheet of the phyllo dough and repeat process. When three sheets are stacked, place half of the chorizo-fennel mixture down the left side of the dough and roll the sheets over the chorizo-fennel mixture. Brush the top with butter. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling. Chill the strudel for about 30 minutes. Score the top with diagonal slits to divide the strudel into what will be 10 sections. Cook at 400 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes. Makes 10 servings.