City Girl Hopes Matchmaking Pays Off in Chili Challenge (N&R 1.25.12)

Ouch! Correction in today’s print column – the Greensboro Farmer’s Curb Market Chili Challenge is this SATURDAY, January 28th from 10am to 12noon!

This month, the folks at the Greensboro Farmer’s Curb Market matched up a city girl with a local farmer to compete in their first annual Farmer’s Market Chili Challenge. I’m no stranger to matchmaking but must say this is the first time I’ve been connected  to a social-media-loving lamb farmer via the Interwebs. Garland McCollum, of Massey Creek Farms, is just that, a family man who returned to his roots, dedicating his time topreserving his family’s 200 year-old farmland in Rockingham County with his wife, Ruby, father and two children. He’s a new generation farmer, sharing his farm with the world through social media and reaping the benefits of a diverse following.  This connection—from farm to city—is the real “match” made in this story.

Garland immediately charmed me. We swapped ideas through Facebook on how we could champion the chili challenge and best highlight his farm-raised and grass-fed lamb through my love for Greek food. I accepted an invitation to his 400- acre farm to meet his family. I convened my entourage of food-loving girlfriends, set the GPS for Madison, NC, and  left the city for a hayride, hike, and a peek into the history of  the farm and old “buzzard cave” above the slow and steady Massey Creek, which winds its way through the land.

While we did stop to swoon over a baby lamb, Massey Creek Farms is a working farm, full of Golden Bluff chickens, pigs and Katahdin lambs. Each day, Garland’s family collects around 1,600 eggs to sell at various markets and restaurants in the Triad. In addition to eggs, they sell naturally nurtured pork and lamb to markets and for menu specials.  Garland knows his customers by name (in person and online), whether they  stop by every Saturday at the Market or are the restaurateurs he invites out to the farm for research and play. For a city girl with a big appetite for food and family heritage, Massey Creek Farms is what makes our city so rich and delicious.

I’d like to say that the Chili Challenge isn’t about winning but Garland and I are more competitive than that. My girlfriends came back over to Mendenhall the following Sunday to taste-test our recipe for award-winning lamb chili. I needed all hands on deck and relied on both the novice taster and one of Greensboro’s most talented chefs to put together the perfect balance of flavors. We came up with our own blend of chili powder full of Greek hints and spices – oregano, rosemary, cinnamon, cumin, cocoa powder and plenty of kick from heaping spoons of ground ancho chilies.  It sure takes a village to make a recipe.

Our competition is steep, we’re up against this community’s finest farmers, cooks and elected officials making their versions of chili with locally sourced meats from the Market.  You’re the judges, so come on down to the Curb Market and try our Massey Creek and Mod Meals Lamb Chili yourself.

The Greensboro Chili Challenge is this Saturday, January 28th at 501 Yanceyville Street. Tastings begin at 10 a.m. and conclude with an official tasting and crowning by Mayor Perkins at noon. Remember, voting is by every dollar donated to the Greensboro Farmer’s Curb Market.

** Special thanks to my friend Mary James Lawrence for help putting the chili recipe! She is a master in the kitchen and I owe for perfecting this recipe!

** Check out the spices at our new Savory Spice Shop in Friendly Center for the freshest (and inexpensive) spices for this recipe!

Mod Meals and Massey Creek Lamb Chili

  • 3 LBS. MASSEY CREEK GROUND LAMB
  • 4 CUPS ONION, CHOPPED
  • 3-4 TBS. OLIVE OIL
  • 1 LARGE SPRIG ROSEMARY
  • 1 BAY LEAF
  • 4 TSP. GARLIC, MINCED
  • 2 TSP. JALAPENO, MINCED
  • 1 to 1 1/2 Tablespoons GROUND ANCHO CHILIS
  • 1 Tablespoon COCOA POWDER
  • 2 TSP. GROUND CUMIN
  • 2 TSP. DRIED OREGANO
  • 3/4 TSP. CINNAMON
  • 1/4 TSP. CAYENNE POWDER
  • 2 TSP. SALT, taste for seasoning
  • 1 CAN, 28 OZ., PETITE DICED TOMATOES
  • 15 OZ. TOMATO SAUCE
  • 4 TBS. TOMATO PASTE
  • 2 15 OZ CAN  RED KIDNEY BEANS (do NOT drain)
  • 1 BOTTLE AMBER BEER

Yogurt Feta Topping with Orange Mint Gremolata:

  • 1 cup crumbled FETA CHEESE
  • 2 cups GREEK YOGURT
  • 6 FRESH MINT LEAVES
  • 4 SCALLIONS
  • ZEST OF 1 ORANGE
  • ½ TSP. KOSHER SALT

In a large heavy bottomed dutch oven, sauté onion until translucent.  Add lamb, rosemary, bay leaf, garlic and jalapeno.  Cook and stir until lamb is broken into pieces and  cooked through.  Add the spices and salt.  Stir and cook, coating well.   Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, beer and kidney beans.  Simmer for 20 minutes.  Serve with topped with Yogurt Feta Topping and Orange Mint Gremolata.

Topping:  Crumble feta into yogurt then using a hand  mixer or immersion blender, blend until smooth.  Set aside.

Slice scallions into thin slices. Place mint leaves on cutting board over scallions, zest orange overall.  Add salt and then using your chef’s knife, mince until fine.

To Serve:  Spoon hot chili into bowls.  Top with yogurt mixture then orange mint gremolata.

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