Front Range Flavor: Holy Smokes Cook-Off!

Front Range Flavor: Holy Smokes Cook-Off!

How excited was I to be invited to guest-judge a fantastic local food event this past weekend? Enormously.Holy Smokes Cook Off on

Tasting 12 different home-cooked dishes? For a good cause? Yes, please – anytime! I’ve never felt so fortunate to be a) opinionated, b) decisive, and c) have no food allergies, dietary restrictions, or food prejudices!

The Holy Smokes Cook-Off on LaughingLemonPie.comHoly Smokes Cook-Off is organized by Catherine Ballance and Executive Director Susan Lythgoe in addition to multiple volunteers, campus chapters, churches, and teams as a benefit for Flatirons Habitat for Humanity and families across the Front Range in need of affordable quality housing.

The Broomfield Enterprise was on hand to chronicle the event, taking lots of photos including an epic one of yours truly trying to wrap my head around the task at hand.

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Best presentation goes to Lutheran Church of Hope’s team.

As we learned at the 1st Annual Laughing Lemon Pie Chocolate Cake-off, perspective is everything – what tastes “good” or you think you “like” can change a lot when put head to head against something else or against several others of its kind. When you make one cake, pie, or dish it’s pretty great and you’re usually pretty pleased with the result. But stacking them against anything else? Well…then you have a cook-off!

Holy Smokes featured 12 teams vying for 3 honors – the award for Top Chef/Team based on best tasting dish, the Healthy & Delicious category, and People’s Choice based on dollar votes and most dollars collected. There was a range of items for the crowd (and myself) to taste – a couple different mac & cheese interpretations, a healthy sloppy-joe, pumpkin bread and pie, a Holy Roller (scrambled eggs stuffed into a sausage football and then woven with bacon slices – what?!), a muy muy interesante Cuban Beef Picadillo, vegan Sofritas Taco Bites, Holy Holy Smokes Cook Off on LaughingLemonPie.comMole Chili, a Mexican chicken soup, and a Chile Verde and a Green Chili neck and neck for the top spot.

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The two top tasting dishes! Atonement Lutheran’s Chile Verde on the left, and United Church of Broomfield’s Green Chili on the right (recipe below).

Coloradans can appreciate that on the face of it Chile Verde might seem synonymous with Green Chili, but oh the luscious differences. It took many many bites to parse out which tasted best – in the end it was “The Incredible Hulk” Green Chile made by Pasha Ripley for United Church of Broomfield that won the Top Chef/Team honor. We are lucky enough to reprint the recipe here, it has a lengthy list of ingredients – but that really showed in the depth of flavor. “The Incredible Hulk” was a standout combination of sweet and heat – the flavor held up over time, complex enough to be interesting all the way down to the bottom of the bowl. It is something you could eat a lot of, and be very glad you did.

Pasha Ripley for UCB's "The Incredible Hulk" Green Chili


  • 6 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 4 jalapenos, seeded and finely minced (remove seeds for milder flavor)
  • 2 yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely minced
  • 1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 bunch of cilantro, finely chopped (use the other half as a garnishing option)
  • Rendered fat/drippings from 8 oz bacon (use the bacon for some other purpose - BLTs anyone?)
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 2-4 T olive oil (divided)
  • 2.5 lb pork loin, slivered and diced (partially freezing the loin makes it much easier to handle, sliver, and dice)
  • 1 lb roasted Hatch green chiles - freshly roasted, frozen, or (in a pinch) canned
  • 10oz can green enchilada sauce
  • 16oz jar tomatillo-based salsa verde
  • 1/2 cup white wine (or equivalent of water or soup base)
  • 1.5-2 cups water
  • 1 T chicken Better than Bullion soup base
  • 1/4 cup New Mexican green chili powder
  • 2 T ground cumin
  • 1 T ground white pepper
  • 1 T agave nectar
  • salt to taste
  • green (jalapeno) Tabasco sauce to taste


  1. Chop the veg, garlic, onions, and cilantro - set aside.
  2. Fry off the bacon, leaving fat and drippings in pan.
  3. In a skillet over medium heat, mix flour into the bacon fat until it's blended and starts to bubble.
  4. Take off heat, scrape into a bowl, and set aside in refrigerator.
  5. In a large stock pot heat 2 tablespoons olive oil, then add and sweat the veg, garlic, onion, and cilantro.
  6. Meanwhile, back in the skillet, over high heat, drizzle the remaining olive oil.
  7. Sear pork briefly in skillet - this step will probably have to be done in batches to ensure that pork pieces make contact with the skillet.
  8. Add seared pork to the veg in stock pot.
  9. Raise heat under stock pot to medium-high, stir in flour/bacon fat mix.
  10. Then add wet ingredients (chiles, enchilada sauce, salsa, wine, water, soup base).
  11. Add remaining ingredients (dry spices, agave).
  12. Let simmer, stirring often, for 30 minutes.
  13. Taste and season with salt and green Tabasco sauce.
  14. Simmer another 30 minutes or so - if you think it is too thin, simmer uncovered to reduce. If you feel it's too thick add a bit of water and cover for remaining 30 minutes.
  15. Garnish with leftover cilantro, monterey jack cheese, sour cream, diced avocado, tortilla chips, and/or whatever else you'd like. Eat it in bowls, or use it to smother burritos - YUM.

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