Northshore Magazine

July 2012

Northshore magazine showcases the best that the North Shore of Boston, MA has to offer.

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cook. He loves to riff on the classic bowl of chili, making it a launch pad for other flavors. Chili that tastes like you've just taken a bite out of a cheeseburger? Sure. How about chili with turkey and cranberry sauce that tastes like Thanksgiving lefto- vers? Definitely. Currently on his mind is whether he can make a chili version of Thai food. "I think it could work…." he says, his voice trailing off. Being creative with his chili recipes re- quires Harvey to experiment with flavors and ingredients until he captures perfectly whatever food he's trying to recreate. His Buffalo wing chili, for example, contains chunks of chicken tenderloin, powdered ranch dressing, Buffalo wing sauce, and celery and carrots that are roughly chopped and added near the end of cook- ing. Not to mention the "other hidden things in there that I wouldn't ever tell you," he says. It's that kind of creativity that gets With the intensity and thoughtfulness of one who contemplates the night sky, won- dering what it means to be human, Dean Harvey ponders the chili cook's existential quandary. BEANS OR NO BEANS? It's a subject that "Mean" Dean—Harvey's chili cook-off nickname—can debate end- lessly. Does chili have beans? The purists say no. But the average guy on the street says yes. If most people expect beans, then what is chili when it's beanless? It's like wonder- ing about the tree falling in the woods. "I am a twisted man to have this much thought about chili," laughs Harvey, 43, a Gloucester resident who, while he's not working at his day job as an accountant, has made a name for himself competing in chili cook-offs around New England with the International Chili Society. In 2011 alone, he racked up six second-place fin- ishes in a variety of categories and placed third and fourth in two others. Harvey is nothing if not a restless Harvey "mocked by some of the purists" and adored by chili cook-off attendees. He says he tends to do well in the competi- tions' People's Choice category because his chili stands out from the endless bowls of straight-up ground beef and beans. "I always get a lot of votes just for being dif- ferent and creative," he says. Participating in chili cook-offs has also made Harvey feel like he's really found his place in the world, surrounded by other hard-core "chiliheads" who are as obsessed with chili as he is and who love to debate the merits of different types of meat or the minutiae of chili powder. He's even gotten into arguments about salt. "Salt!" he repeats, incredulous and de- lighted. "Chili can be whatever you want, and that's kind of what's fun about it." CHILI-MAKING TIPS: USE THESE TIPS TO MAKE YOUR CHILI SCORCH There's really just one chili-making rule: "If [you want] to make really good chili, you want to use good product," says "Mean" Dean Harvey. 1. Don't use store-bought chili powder, since this actually already contains a blend of other spices. Instead, opt for pure chili powders from purveyors like All Things Chili, Pendery's, or Mild Bill's Spice Company. 2. Try making a chili sauce by rehydrating dried chilis, blending them smooth, and pushing 116 them through a sieve. 3. Using ground beef from the grocery store will make your chili taste like "spicy baby food," Harvey says. Instead, use chunks of tri- tip or another tough, inexpensive cut of meat that can stand up to the long cooking process. If you're working with a chili recipe that calls for ground beef, ask your butcher to grind the meat for you using a coarse grind, such as a chili grind. 4. The heat of a jalapeño can vary from pepper to pepper, so Harvey has a trick for controlling the fire: Make four slits along the sides of the jalapeño and float it in the pot of chili to extract the flavor and heat. Remove the pepper when it tastes hot enough. 5. Remember your definitions: When it comes to competition chili, the International Chili Society says Tradi- tional Red Chili is made with red chili peppers, and Chili Verde is made with green chili peppers. In each, beans and pasta are "strictly forbidden." Red or green chili at chili cook-offs is made during a timed cooking competition; those entries are eaten and judged by a panel. People's Choice Chili isn't part of the timed competition; it's eaten and voted on by cook-off attendees and must contain beans. learn more at

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