She calls it Liberty House Chili, but maybe Susan Palmer should rename it Threepeat Chili.
That’s because Palmer’s chili won Best Chili for the third time in the past four years at the Chili & Chowder Cook-Off on Camano Island. The contest marked its 23rd year Nov. 10.
Twenty-four contestants competed for the titles of Best Chili and Best Chowder on Camano. A record-breaking 1,761 people — including this reporter — voted for their favorites. The top three chilis and chowders were awarded trophies. The Camano Chamber of Commerce hosts the annual cook-off.
Best Chowder went to the Tulalip Resort Casino and YMCA Stanwood-Camano. The team also won for its chowder in 2017. Chef Perry Mascitti’s Pacific Northwest Seafood Chowder is made with crab and lobster stock, crushed tomatoes and five kinds of seafood.
“The crushed tomatoes add a touch of complication and sweetness,” said Mascitti, executive chef at the Tulalip Resort Casino. “The fact that I do not use potatoes to water down the seafood flavor I think is unusual.”
Palmer, who named her recipe after a Statue of Liberty on her Camano Island property, was the only contestant not tied to a local business. Her tried-and-true spicy stew is mostly meat — sirloin, bacon, pork, sausage — with a healthy dose of hot peppers that are charred to add a smoky flavor.
I thought the Liberty House Chili had just the right amount of heat. I enjoyed the smokiness from the charred peppers.
Palmer said she makes the chili spicier for her family. She dialed down the recipe for the cook-off so it appealed to more people.
“From a flavor perspective, it’s got a nice balance,” she said. “It’s really hearty, and it’s got a nice little kick to it.”
My personal favorite was Windermere Real Estate Stanwood Camano Island’s Crab and Clam Chowder.
Mother-and-daughter team Beth and Izzy Newton, who are both real estate brokers, made the chowder together. I wouldn’t be surprised to be served this at a fancy seafood restaurant.
Izzy Newton, of Camano Island, said the “wow” factor comes from the seafood and butter combination.
“It’s not just the clams, lobster, halibut or crab, but everything together that makes it very rich and diverse in flavor,” she said.
Though Windermere didn’t place for its chowder, it gets an honorable mention from me.
Evan Thompson: 425-339-3427, firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @ByEvanThompson.
Here are recipes for the top-scoring chili and chowder, plus my honorable mention chowder.
Liberty House Chili
Susan Palmer’s spicy and smoky chili is made with a medley of meat (sirloin, bacon, pork, sausage) and hot peppers (poblano, jalapeno and habanero). Add your choice of peppers if it’s too hot or not hot enough.
4 slices diced bacon
1 pound diced sirloin/stew meat
1 pound chorizo
1 pound hot Italian sausage
1 to 2 garlic cloves, diced
1 medium onion (white or yellow), diced
1 small habanero
28 ounces crushed tomatoes
½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon cayenne powder
½ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
⅛ teaspoon dried basil
⅛ teaspoon dried oregano
Juice from 1 lime
You’ll need two pots and pans for this recipe. A cast iron skillet and 12-quart stockpot is recommended.
Cook bacon in skillet, drain, crumble and toss in stock pot; reserve fat in skillet.
Dice sirloin or stew meat into ¼- to ½-inch cubes. Sear in skillet (in reserved bacon fat) until brown; and toss into stockpot.
Cook chorizo and Italian sausage until brown, then toss into stockpot.
Char poblano, jalapeno and habanero peppers, then remove the skin and dice medium.
Saute onion in skillet, add garlic cloves for the last minute or 2, then toss in the stockpot with any juices left in the skillet.
Add tomatoes, chili powder, cayenne powder, cumin, crushed red pepper, dried basil, dried oregano and lime juice into stockpot.
Simmer at least 3 hours on very low temp (longer is better), stirring now and then — check that the bottom isn’t burning — to reduce and get the flavors all melding together. You really can’t overcook it. It will taste better and a spicier the next day. It also freezes well.
Note: You can easily alter the level of heat/spiciness by switching out the types of peppers. Palmer likes the poblano, jalapeno and habanero combo, though, because each pepper has its own characteristics.
Makes 12 servings.
Pacific Northwest Seafood Chowder
Chef Perry Mascitti’s chowder is made with crab and lobster stock, crushed tomatoes and five kinds of seafood: manila clams, shrimp, salmon, lobster, plus your favorite clams. The tomatoes make this chowder stand out in a crowd of cream-based recipes.
For the roux:
1¼ cup all-purpose flour
1¼ cup butter
For the chowder:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons fresh garlic, chopped
2 cup onions, small diced
½ pound bacon, small dice
1 cup celery, small diced
1 cup sherry wine
3 cups San Marzano Tomatoes, small diced, no juice
½ cup concentrated lobster base to make ½ gallon lobster broth
1 quart heavy cream
½ tablespoon black pepper (course cracked preferred)
1½ quarts water
1 pound your choice of clam meat, ½-inch diced
¼ pound fresh salmon, ½-inch diced
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined (50-60 count)
¼ pound basil, fresh leaves, minced
2 pounds manila clams, fresh, live (optional)
Salt to taste
Melt the butter in a small sauce pan and add in the flour. Stir and cook until the roux is light brown. Set aside and let cool.
In a large pot, melt butter on medium heat in a 6-8 quart sauce or soup pot, add onions and bacon and cook until onions are translucent, then add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add sherry, tomatoes, lobster base, reducing sherry by half.
Reduce heat, add roux and mix in until smooth. Add pepper, water and heavy cream. Heat mixture until it simmers, then add all seafood plus basil. Add manilas clams if desired. Simmer for about 10 minutes.
Thicken with roux by whipping it in, then bringing the pot to a boil. Adjust the amount of roux to taste. Salt to taste.
Makes 12 servings.
Crab and Clam Chowder
Windermere Real Estate Stanwood Camano Island’s buttery chowder is made with clams, crab, lobster and halibut. What’s that seasoning you taste? It’s Johnny’s Garlic Spread & Seasoning.
½ pound butter
1 cup finely chopped onions
8 tablespoons flour
1 gallon half-and-half
3 tablespoons Johnny’s Garlic Spread & Seasoning
2 cups cooked clams
2 cups cooked Dungeness crab meat
2 cups cooked lobster tails
1 small cooked halibut fillet
In a stock pot, cook onions over low to medium heat in butter until translucent, or about 10-15 minutes. Add garlic seasoning, followed by the flour to make a roux. Continue to cook on medium heat for another 10-15 minutes, stirring constantly.
Slowly stir in half-and-half. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce to low heat; the mixture will start to thicken. Once the chowder reaches a desired consistency, add the clams, halibut, lobster and crab. Heat seafood thoroughly, for about another 5 minutes. Serve immediately.
Makes 16 servings.