Spouse vs Spouse: Chili cook-off
November 25th, 2011
02:45 PM ET
Share this on:

Welcome to round four of Spouse vs. Spouse, a series in which a couple of married food freaks, CNN’s Brandon and Kristy Griggs, square off in their Atlanta kitchen for culinary bragging rights – and invite you to weigh in too.

In each installment, Kristy and Brandon will each cook a creative variation on the same ingredient or dish – everything from pasta to seafood to cocktails to desserts. We’ll serve both versions anonymously to our friends, who will then judge which one they like better and why. We’ll walk you through our kitchen process, bring the husband-and-wife smack talk and, of course, keep score. We’ll also share our recipes here so that you can try them for yourself.

Our theme: Chili

KristyKristy: A couple of weeks ago, as I was thinking about what sort of chili I wanted to make for our cook-off, I received some divine inspiration. It was like I was Kevin Costner in "Field of Dreams," except the voice in my head said “deconstruct it, and they will eat.”

So that very day I cooked up a batch of "deconstructed” chili – sliced filet mignon nestled on a bed of Cincinnati-style sauce, with a side of rice and beans and roasted veggies, all arranged artfully on a plate - and presented it to my speechless husband. And after he tried it, his face said it all: He was going to lose, and lose badly.

brandon griggsBrandon: Hey, I wouldn’t go that far. But being constantly surprised by the creative workings of my wife’s brain, I did wonder how she came up with that dish. It looked great and was really tasty. I’ll admit it: I was impressed. But concede defeat? Never.

KristyKristy: Hah! He practically begged me not to make the deconstructed chili. That’s how scared he was.

brandon griggsBrandon: I knew she’d probably beat me on originality. But I thought if I could hang with her on presentation and taste, I’d have a shot. Instead of another beef-based chili, I opted for a Southwestern turkey version, with corn and black beans for color and texture. I’d never made anything like that before, and I had no idea what I was doing. My practice version the week before our cook-off turned out OK, but it didn’t have a ton of flavor. I was in trouble, and I knew it.

KristyKristy: In the meantime, I tested my recipe again. After we both ate it, Brandon seemed to have his tail between his legs. He said he wasn’t even going to bother doing another test run of his chili. I encouraged him to give it another try - to be honest, I wanted a challenge - but he just shook his head. Coward!

brandon griggsBrandon: That’s because I’m sneaky. And I knew she was getting overconfident. On the day of the cook-off I tried to improve my chili by dicing extra jalapenos, roasting my tomatoes before I threw them in the pot and adding white hominy – a last-minute decision - which Kristy, no doubt feeling sorry for me, agreed to pick up at the store. To make my dish more interesting, I also laid out toppings that judges could use to customize their chili: diced avocado, diced jalapenos, fresh cilantro and pepitas, or roasted pumpkin seeds. (I know, that’s a lot of stuff. But I had to do something.)

The judging: As we expected, our guests/judges, Jessica and Ed, were wowed by the originality of Kristy’s deconstructed chili, which they called a “risk-taker” and “a ballsy, ballsy move.” But they also praised the “clean and fun” presentation of Brandon’s turkey chili, along with its “interactive” condiments. We tied on taste. Suddenly, this was looking like a surprisingly close contest.

Winner: After we tallied the scores, we ended up with...a tie. We tried to get Jessica and Ed to reach a consensus – threatening to sequester them, jury-style, in our apartment until they reached a verdict – but they couldn’t agree on a winner. (And they weren’t just being nice.) So it’s official: We have our first tie. And since nobody likes ties, we clearly need to improve our tiebreaker system.

Overall score to date: Kristy, 2-1, with 1 tie

Parting thoughts:

KristyKristy: OK, I was disappointed I didn’t win. To his credit, Brandon’s chili really came together in the end. But come on - I made deconstructed chili! Turkey chili is hardly a revelation.

brandon griggsBrandon: If yours was so great, why didn’t you win? Deconstructed chili sounds like something dreamed up by postmodern scholars. People don’t want to have to reconstruct their food.

KristyKristy: Well, if it hadn’t been for your precious presentation - I didn’t buy special little bowls for my chili - I would have won. So I’m going to fix that: For our next challenge, I’m serving my food nestled in a bowl of exotic flowers on gold plates delivered by softly cooing doves.

brandon griggsBrandon: I’m speechless.

On to the recipes!

Brandon’s Southwestern Turkey Chili (serves 4)



1 lb. lean ground turkey (6% fat)
4 fresh tomatoes, preferably on the vine or from a farm or garden
1 red bell pepper
20 ounces chicken broth
1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained
1 can (15 ounces) white hominy, drained
10 ounces flash-frozen corn
4 garlic cloves
1 whole yellow onion
2 jalapeno peppers
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon allspice
2 bay leaves
1/4 tablespoon red pepper flakes
1 large avocado (ripe but not mushy)
1 bunch fresh cilantro
6 ounces roasted pumpkin seeds
8 ounces soft Oaxacan cheese or sour cream (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Chop garlic, onion and 1 jalapeno. Saute them together on medium heat with a tablespoon of olive oil until garlic and onions are slightly brown, then add to large pot.

Brown ground turkey in the same pan until barely cooked through and add to pot. Slice tomatoes and red pepper into large pieces, array in baking pan and drizzle with olive oil.

Roast at 450 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until edges start turning black. Chop into smaller pieces and add to pot, along with all remaining ingredients except for avocado, cilantro, the other jalapeno, pumpkin seeds and cheese/sour cream.

Simmer on low heat for two hours, stirring frequently and adjusting spices to taste.

Serve in individual bowls with condiments – diced avocado, cilantro, chopped jalapeno, pumpkin seeds and grated cheese or sour cream - on the side. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

Kristy’s Deconstructed Chili (serves 4)


Chef’s note: The rice and beans take the longest to prepare so I made them the day before. The other three components can be made at the same time, but begin with the sauce and let it simmer while you prepare the beef and roasted tomatoes.

Rice and beans (based on an Epicurious recipe)

4 garlic cloves (minced)
5 bacon strips (chopped)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion (minced)
1 green pepper (seeded and minced)
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
2 cans (15 ounces each) black beans, not drained
1 3/4 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Heat olive oil in a pan and sauté garlic and bacon until lightly browned. Add onion and green pepper; cook for 10 minutes. Add bay leaf, cumin, oregano and rice until well mixed. Add black beans, chicken stock and red wine vinegar. Cook covered on medium-low heat, 35-40 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed. Fluff rice and set aside.

Chili sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion
2 garlic cloves
Two medium-sized tomatoes, preferably on the vine or from a farm or garden
1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
Dash red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
2 tablespoons semi-sweet chocolate chips

Heat olive oil in a deep saucepan and brown garlic. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, vinegar, pepper, salt, pinch of red pepper flakes, cinnamon, chili powder, cumin and chocolate chips.

Simmer until blended on medium heat.


2 medium-sized cuts of filet mignon
2 tablespoons cumin
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

Coat filet with cumin and lightly salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in pan on high heat, add filet and sear. Turn down heat to medium and cook until desired level (rare, medium or well-done). Slice into strips.


2 heirloom tomatoes (thickly sliced)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place sliced tomatoes on roasting pan. Drizzle olive oil over tomatoes, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in preheated oven and roast for 15 minutes or until lightly browned (not mushy).


Scoop rice and beans into small bowl or ramekin and pack firmly. Place bowl upside down on a large plate and wiggle bowl off so that a mound of rice and beans remains. Array roasted tomatoes on the second third of the plate. Spoon a half a cup of sauce onto the remaining third and lay slices of filet on top. Top rice and beans with sour cream and a sprig of cilantro.

Previously - Elizabeth Taylor loved chili and Lunchtime poll – your chili preferences (and the "false hunger" of Jim Backus) and Chilly weather means chili weather

Posted by: ,
Filed under: Challenges • Chili • Cooking • Dishes • Make • Soup • Spouse vs Spouse

soundoff (31 Responses)
  1. Paige

    Deconstructed chili is not chili. I think she should be disqualified.

    November 29, 2011 at 9:28 am |
  2. Captain Kathryn Janeway

    That ain't Red Alert Chili! Fire Quantoum Torpedoes at these two b00bs!

    November 29, 2011 at 7:56 am |
  3. Jerry Mmmman

    That ain't chili...WTH?

    November 29, 2011 at 7:39 am |
  4. Chilli Smack Down

    If my spouse made either of these, I would deconstruct her.

    November 29, 2011 at 5:46 am |
  5. shawnl

    Sorry, neither of them look good. Chilli should have beef, simmered in a chili sauce, and things like beer, coffee, chocolate, and various peppers to make it richer and deeper flavor. And not to be cruel, but that meat in the deconstructed chilli looked like cat food.

    November 29, 2011 at 1:04 am |
    • kgriggs0207

      Fair enough; my picture was terrible. :) But, you're wrong about the dish. It tasted really, really good. Personally, I'm glad that people get inventive in the kitchen. If they didn't, we'd all be eating the same thing over and over again. A little variety and creativity goes a long way in my book. A good picture, too. I must work on that.

      November 29, 2011 at 11:12 pm |
  6. Brenda Stewart

    What in the heck is this sort of recipe for chili? That goop is definitely not Texas chili. Lady Bird Johnson published her own recipe of Pedernales River Chili, which was quite tasty. And, it tasted like CHILI. That stuff you describe won't pass for chili in Texas!

    November 28, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
    • jcck

      For sure this is not chili , not Texas chili. Chocolate in Chili ? .... Somebody get a rope !!

      November 29, 2011 at 5:07 am |
    • kgriggs0207

      If we were having a "Texas" chili competition, then I could see your point.

      November 29, 2011 at 11:07 pm |
  7. Josh

    Where's the chili? It's not supposed to be fancy froo froo food. I'd take a pass on both.

    November 28, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
  8. Tom R.

    Neither of these sound like "chili." I'd pass on both.

    November 28, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
  9. Dano

    "Deconstructed" chili? What is this garbage?

    November 28, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
  10. Chuck

    These people certainly do have a knack for making the simple very complicated. This is almost as bad as their pasta mess. Chili is a simple thing born of simple people from simple times. This is simple farm food, not haute cuisine. It does not need 27 ingredients.

    November 28, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
  11. Usher73

    You article is not about chili.

    November 28, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
  12. bristoltwit palin... America's favorite dancing cow

    Chili gives me gas. I love getting gas. Mmmmmmm... gas

    November 28, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
  13. Russ

    Both are losers. Every (Texan) knows Chili has NO beans.

    November 28, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • Say no to hillbillies...

      Nothing good has ever come out of Texas... except chili...

      November 28, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
  14. Texas T

    If I had to eat this so called chili-I would be having a deconstructed BM....just sayin'.

    November 28, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
  15. Anthony

    Totally disappointing article for someone wanting to read about chili. Neither of you "get it" at all. Imagine if I advertised the "Ultimate PB&J" and then described an artfully-plated cornmeal souffle next to a smear of lingonberry chutney and a dollop of toasted almond slivers? Well, you'd rightfully say "That is not a freakin' PBJ!" Seriously, it seems like you aren't up to the challenge of making real chili so you pandered to the "edible foam and peruvian rock salt" crowd.
    I've got a pot of venison, mole, and ancho in the fridge and even that is really pushing the boundaries but at least most people would call it chili. Leave the beans out of it!

    November 28, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
  16. KeithTexas

    You should be able to tell from my screen name that neither recipe was chili.

    The Polvo Caldo was good and the bistec was a interesting presentation with good flavors. The rice and beans were fun and the Chili sauce was interesting, sort of Mex-Tex but still not chili.

    November 28, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
  17. Mark S

    Those were not chili dishes! Now these are chili recipes: http://www.chili.org/recipes.html Just made the 1991 Championship recipe and it's awesome!

    November 28, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
  18. Carla Vazq

    Vegetable sopa!

    November 28, 2011 at 11:17 am |
  19. Steve C.

    Rename your product to something other than chili. I came to the site to read about a "chili". What I got was a good chuckle. One of you should have put out a simple chili.

    Ortega was correct in saying you trashed the farm fresh tomatoes.

    You get 2 stars. One for attempt and the other for using the word chili and getting me to come to the site to get the laugh.

    The Tack Room (5 stars when open, now a condo!)
    Tucson, AZ

    November 28, 2011 at 11:08 am |
  20. Gene

    geeeezzzzz, iffin ya don't know how to make Chilli ( 2 Ls, its an Illinois thang ), just say so.

    November 28, 2011 at 11:02 am |
  21. OrtegaM

    Forgot! If you can't get Hatch chilies find something you like from Mexico, Arizona or Texas.

    November 28, 2011 at 10:48 am |
  22. OrtegaM

    Love the way they use great tomatoes from the farm and then trash them with canned veggies and frozen corn and then put a dish out that they call chili. Duh... If this was served to me as chili in a restaurant it would be returned to the kitchen and I would demand my money back. The most important item going into chili is "real chili powder" from Hatch, NM. Chili begins with a base sauce. That sauce consists of chili powder from Hatch, NM, water, olive oil, garlic and a little salt. You must build the chili from that base item.

    You can get that same Hatch powder from the little red chilies that you see hanging on a string in the restaurant or sold by street vendors. Removed the seeds from the chili put it in a food processor and presto! Now you have the most important ingredient of chili. When eaten you should be able to taste the fantastic chili. If you can't, it just isn't chili.

    November 28, 2011 at 10:35 am |
    • jj

      Rather than Hatch chili powder, why not use fresh chiles from Hatch. The world's best!

      November 28, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
  23. BobD

    This isn't close to chili. Idiots! Want chili, go to Reno Nevada for their cook-off.

    November 28, 2011 at 9:54 am |
  24. Carn E. Vore

    Kristy can call her meal whatever she wants, but it ain't chili.

    November 28, 2011 at 8:42 am |
  25. Conrad Shull

    Deconstructed chili? It's cooked ingredients until it's all mixed in a bowl, then it's chili.

    November 28, 2011 at 8:34 am |

    6 qt . Crock , institutional size diced tomatoes ,& 2 Alarm chili mix ,& a few jalapeños & onions – & ground beef . I'm happy with that .

    November 26, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
| Part of