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Chili and cornbread: hot food for cold nights. January 16, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes.
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Silence Dogood here. Our friend Ben loves chili and is always begging me to make it. I like chili too, but given a choice, would rather make black bean soup or refried beans for Mexican Night. Yum! Still, when I asked OFB what he’d like for supper last night and piteous pleas for chili emerged (sort of like the dog in the Beggin’ Strips commercial we saw yesterday while watching the Purina dog agility trials), I figured it had been a month since the last pot of chili and was about time.

Now, normally, when I make chili, I make my wonderful Pumpkin Chili (you’ll find the recipe by typing “Weird, wonderful chili” in our search bar at upper right). I admit, it sounds horrendous, but it is the richest, most luxurious chili you’ll ever treat yourself to, I promise. However, I was planning to make pumpkin bread today, and, well, enough pumpkin is enough. So I decided to go for a more traditional version, and one that would come together quickly, since certain people were apparently starving, or at least, starving for chili. Here’s what I did:

             Silence’s Quick Spicy Chili

1 40.5-ounce can kidney beans (dark red, light red, or plain red are all fine)

1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes

1 large fresh tomato, diced

1 large green (or red) bell pepper, diced

2 large sweet onions (Vidalia, WallaWalla or 1015 type), diced

6 cloves garlic, smashed, peeled and chopped

extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons chili powder

hot sauce (we like the smoky flavor of Tabasco Chipotle in this)

1 tablespoon each dried oregano, basil, thyme, and rosemary

Trocomare or salt (we like RealSalt) to taste

cracked black pepper to taste

Pour a generous amount of olive oil in the bottom of a heavy Dutch oven or other capacious pot (I love my LeCreuset Dutch oven for this). Saute the onion and garlic in the oil until the onion clarifies, then add the dried herbs, Trocomare or salt, pepper, chili powder, and a few generous splashes of hot sauce. Next, add the chopped fresh tomato and green or red pepper. When the pepper starts to soften and the tomato liquefies, add the canned diced tomatoes, stirring well, then the kidney beans, again stirring well to mix. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the chili is very hot. Serve in bowls, topped with shredded white Cheddar cheese or sour cream, if desired. This will serve four to six people, depending on how many insist on seconds or even (shriek) thirds. 

I wish I could tell you that some secret ingredient or technique had made this chili so good, but it really was as simple as it sounds. Easy and delicious works for me! And it was ready so fast, I had just enough time to make the cornbread. Try it and see what you think.

I’ve always found hot-from-the-oven cornbread to be the perfect accompaniment to chili, black bean soup, and lentil stew. It’s so easy to make and cook while the chili, etc. is maturing, so you’re not trying to be a kitchen Shiva, using all six arms to frantically toss everything around at the same time. Just be prepared for the entire pan to disappear by meal’s end!

Being from the South, I’ve eaten a lot of cornbread in my life, but I’ve never found a better recipe than my own super-easy version. (I plan to make a different kind of cornbread in the bread machine my friend Delilah gave me for Christmas this very afternoon, so stay tuned for a future report. But I’ll always make my standard version to go with soups, stews and chilis.) Here’s the recipe:

                 Silence’s Best Cornbread

1 1/2 cups white cornmeal

3 tablespoons unbleached flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup milk

1/2 cup sour cream

1 egg, beaten

3 tablespoons salted butter

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Melt the butter in an 8- or 9-inch round ovenproof glass pan (such as a Pyrex cake or pie pan), swirling the melted butter around in the pan to coat the sides. Combine the cornmeal, flour, and baking powder in a mixing bowl. Add the milk, egg, sour cream and melted butter to the dry ingredients, and mix thoroughly. Pour the batter into the hot pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. To serve, cut in pie wedges, split and butter the wedges, and serve very hot.

And there you have it! If you’re looking for a delicious, fast, satisfying meal for a cold night, or a crowd-pleaser for Superbowl Sunday, this combo will definitely do the trick.

            ‘Til next time,

                        Silence

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