Chili and Cornbread

Monday, November 7, 2011

For this first post I thought I would share the black bean chili that I made on Halloween. I wouldn't call this chili amazing - well, certainly I wouldn't call it amazing - but I would call it good. This is your basic black bean chili with subtle chili flavor and not too much heat. (Though I did not add any chili powder, which I noted as optional depending on one's personal preference.) The inspiration for this chili came from a short rib chili that I saw Giada make on TV. I liked how she pureed her own chili sauce from dried chilies and I especially liked that she grated bittersweet chocolate over the chili as a garnish. Perfect, I thought for Halloween. Obviously I wasn't about to make short rib chili, so I did what I often do, and used her recipe for inspiration combined with a bit of chili research and a little of this and that from a handful of chili recipes to created my own. I wrote up this recipe, made it, and thought, this is worth sharing but I won't claim it's jaw dropping amazing. (Jaw dropping amazing was the salted caramel that I made for caramel apples. Recipe soon to come.) It's good, it's hearty, it's flavorful. Oh, and the grated bittersweet chocolate -honestly, a major factor to why I wanted to make this chili in the first place - I left it out. In the end, it just didn't go. What it needed was a bunch of toppings. It's really all about the toppings - grated cheddar cheese and sour cream are musts. I also add diced tomatoes, sliced green onions and on leftover night I added some diced jalapenos for heat. And of course, what better to go with chili than a big slice of cornbread.
Like the chili, the cornbread is your everyday, easy-to-make, basic cornbread. It's moist, fluffy and really easy to get down. It's called Cheddar Cornbread, but the cheese is very subtle. If I didn't tell you there was cheddar in it, you probably wouldn't even know. You could certainly spice it up a bit, but I like it as-is. The recipe comes from tweaking a little of this and that of my old cornbread muffin recipe. The changes were definitely appropriate, and I will be making this recipe from here on out.

Black Bean Chili

Serves 8

This recipe incorporates three different types of chilies: Ancho chilies, which are dried poblano chilies and are mildly spicy and bit fruity; dried guajillos chilies, which are quite spicy but also slightly sweet; and fresh jalapenos, which are spicy yet fresh and clean. This basic chili can be served southwest style with grated cheddar cheese, chopped scallions, sour cream and perhaps a big slice of cornbread, or Mexican style with lime, fresh cilantro, avocado and tortilla chips.

1 1/2 pounds dried black beans
2 dried ancho chilies
3 dried guajillo chilies
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or chili powder (optional)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
fresh ground black pepper
1 twenty-eight ounce can crushed tomatoes
4 cups vegetable stock or vegetable stock and water combo
1 bay leaf
1-2 jalapenos peppers, stems and seeds removed, finely diced

Soak the black beans in water overnight or for at least 8 hours. Drain the black beans. Set aside.

Lightly rinse or wipe off the ancho and guajillo chilies. Heat a large stockpot over medium heat and toast both side of each of the dried chilies for a few minutes until fragrant. After roasting, remove the chilies and carefully slice open and remove the stems and seeds. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil. Add the dried chilies and turn off the burner. Cover and let steep for 5-6 minutes, or until tender. Transfer the chilies and the boiling liquid to a blender, let cool slightly, and puree until smooth. Set aside.

In the same large stockpot heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and a pinch of salt and sauté, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes or until translucent. Add the minced garlic, ground cumin, chili powder, a pinch of salt and pepper and cook 1 minute more. Stir in the crushed tomatoes and their juices, as well as the chili puree. Add the stock, bay leaf and drained black beans. Bring everything to boil over medium/high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat and simmer the beans, stirring often, until tender, about 2 hours. Add the jalapeno after an hour or so. Add more water if the beans get too dry. Season well with salt and pepper. Serve the hot chili in individual bowls with desire toppings.

Cheddar Cornbread

Serves 6-8

This is your basic cornbread that is great as-is, or can certainly be jazzed up a bit. Switch up the cheese, add herbs, jalapenos, caramelized onion, or whole corn kernels… No matter how you make it, definitely serve it with soft butter or better yet, honey butter.

1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, pepper and baking soda. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and set aside. In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs and buttermilk, and pour into the center of the flour mixture. Whisk together until combined. Add the cheese. Finally, add the melted butter and mix everything together until combined. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for approximately 25-30 minutes, or until the tops are slightly golden and a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cornbread comes out clean. Let the cornbread cool at least 15 minutes before cutting. Serve warm or at room temperature. This cornbread will keep covered at room temperature for up to 1 day.

Variation: Substitute pepper jack cheese for the cheddar.


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