White chili gets top honors
Written by KAREN NADLER COTA Sentinel Lifestyles Editor
Tuesday, 29 January 2013 10:44
PERRYSBURG — Chili cook-offs are a popular fixture around the county during the winter months, but Perrysburg Commons had not hosted one before Thursday.
|Melissa Ault, activities coordinator at Perrysburg Commons, serves her chili. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
Their inaugural chili event, with awarding of the “golden ladle,” was a competition between staff members of the senior assisted living community on U.S. 20 just east of the Holiday Inn French Quarter.
Walking away with top honors was Melissa Ault, Perrysburg Commons’ director of activities.
She may have done it by standing apart from the crowd.
“I knew white chicken chilies were popular, but I was the only one who made one” out of the 11 chili submissions in the competition. “So that was surprising,” Ault pointed out.
“The residents all got to taste all the chilies and make comments. Quite a few of them were spicy,” she said of her competitors.
“Mine is not so much spicy. I would say more ‘cheesy.’ There was a lot of cheese in it.”
Ault also included chunky salsa “to give it more flair, and a lot of cumin and a lot of garlic.”
Several outside judges were invited to help choose the winner and one of them, Perrysburg Township firefighter Eric Schmidt, told Ault afterward that he makes a white chicken chili himself but it doesn’t taste like hers.
At Schmidt’s request, “I shared my recipe with him on his way out the door.”
In addition to the inclusion of salsa, cumin and garlic, “I use a can of the cream of chicken soup in there and it gives it a heavier texture.”
Ault, a Petersburg, Mich. native who took over as director of activities in December 2011, has a medical assisting degree “and I also work with our in-house physician.”
She started her career at Perrysburg Commons two years ago when she was hired as assistant director of activities and chauffeur.
“I got to know the area that way, for which I was grateful. I didn’t really know Perrysburg before then.”
She’s become a firm believer in cooking contests for building rapport between residents and staff.
“Everybody who participates, really enjoys it. There’s no rules,” just good fun.
“We’ve had a salad cook-off, a soup cook-off, and we had a dessert cook-off with different types of pies. We had a resident win that one — Rose Biscard for her pineapple chiffon pie.”
The soup contest was also a win for Ault. “I made a cheesy potato with ham,” she said, admitting she likes to cook with cheese. “You can’t go wrong with that.”
For the salad contest she was in at the finish with her potato salad. “I make a sweeter potato salad” which found lots of fans.
The staff and residents at Perrysburg Commons are developing such a reputation for good cooking that they’ve decided their next project will be putting together a cookbook of their favorites.
The chili contest “is the first time we’ve had outside judges.”
Ault rates her white chicken chili as “really easy to make, a three on a scale of 1 to 10.”
“The ingredients it calls for are very simple ingredients.”
She started with a recipe from her mother’s “favorites” recipe box. “I thought ‘Oh good. I can make this change and that change,’” including the addition of the mild salsa and some green chiles, as well as upping the called-for amounts of garlic and cumin.
“I’m not a fan of jalapenos. They carry too much heat. So we had to get the spice and the kick from somewhere else.”
Ault says she has “a lot of passion for cooking” and as a single mom of a 13-year-old son “I cook all the time.
“With my family, I’d rather have the family dinners at my house, where I can cook.”
White chicken chili
¼ cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped green pepper
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 can (15 ½ oz.) great northern beans
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted
2/3 cup of 2% milk
2 Tbsp. of chopped green chilies
3 garlic clove, minced
½ tsp. ground cumin
1 cup diced chicken breast
2 cups Mexican blend cheese
Small jar of chunky salsa
Salt and pepper to taste
In large saucepan, sauté onion and green peppers in oil until tender. Stir in the beans, soup, milk, chilies, garlic, salt, pepper and cumin. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Stir in chicken and salsa; heat through.
Garnish with more cheese, sour cream and tortilla chip strips.