Wahoo! Tonight is the start of the NFL Football Season! We’ve missed watching all year and we’re happy to have it back, but darn it, now we lose the sports fans in our lives until January when they surface again, slightly dazed and befuddled.
Fall is the perfect time to have comfort foods, sloppy, cheesy, fatty, ultimately indulgent foods. Meals that remind us of our childhood and tailgate parties of years past. Now that the football season starts so early, it’s a little harder to justify the heavier cold weather dishes, at least for a month or two, but what the heck, let’s pretend for tonight!
And what better food is there to eat while watching a football game than a big bowl of spicy chili. Full of meat, tomatoes, and peppers, it warms every corner of your soul, no matter how cold it is outside. Throw everything together in one pot then forget about it for hours. You can have this all made ahead and relax during the game.
You may be surprised to see the addition of cinnamon and chocolate in this recipe. That is an homage to Mexican chocolate and mole. You will never know they are there, but everyone will be asking, “What is that flavor? I can’t quite figure it out.” Professional chefs do this all the time – throw in an ingredient that you don’t normally expect in a savory dish, making it tantalizingly complex.
Most chili recipes contain kidney beans. Mine doesn’t. I love the purity of the chili flavors. I serve black beans on the side and let people add them if they want to. Feel free to add beans to yours as it cooks. A recipe is only a guideline – make it your own!
And to go along with the chili is the best cornbread you will ever have. The subtle sweetness complements the spiciness of the chili and helps cool off your mouth. The Executive Pastry Chef for Wolfgang Puck’s Spago restaurant, Sherry Yard has created a dream concoction of cornmeal, eggs, milk, sugar, and butter. Then she tops the whole thing off with a honey glaze. Your eyes will roll back in your head when you taste this cornbread!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
When we were in New Mexico, every restaurant served Sopapillas with sage honey. We fell in love with the native “donuts” and wondered why they were so prevalent. It turns out that sweet things, and honey in particular, cuts the heat of capsicum, allowing you to eat hotter food than normal. Aha! Wonderful and healing, honey – the miracle food.
Kitchen Skill: Browning Meats
Why: Browning caramelizes the natural sugars in foods, creating deep layers of flavor that enhance the overall meal. Beef tastes
How: Start with a cold pan and heat a little oil over medium-high heat. Don’t get the pan too hot. You can’t rush caramelization; it takes time to develop the deep color and flavor. When working with proteins, a hot pan sears the outside surface, trapping the juices inside. If you try to move the meat before the sear is complete, you will tear the surface. Leave it until it releases naturally, and you have a perfectly browned piece of meat. Nature is a wonderful thing.
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 cups chopped onions
- 6 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1 red bell pepper, cored and chopped
- 1 lb mild or hot Italian sausages, casings removed
- 2 lb sirloin or London broil, cubed
- 2 stalks celery, trimmed and chopped
- 1 carrot, scrubbed clean and chopped
- 3 tbsp ancho chili powder
- 2 tsp chipotle chili powder, or to taste
- 3 tbsp ground cumin
- 2 tbsp dried oregano
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp baking cocoa powder
- 2 cups beef broth
- 12 oz tomato paste
- 2 (28 oz) cans fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
- 2 cups red wine or beer
- 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 cup finely ground cornmeal
- Shredded cheddar cheese, chopped green onions, sour cream, lime wedges, sliced jalapenos, fried tortilla strips, etc.
- 2 to 3 cans black or red beans, cooked separately
- In a large Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Sauté onions, garlic, and bell peppers until softened, stirring often, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove vegetables and reserve. Add meats to the pan, about 1/3 at a time, and brown well. When all the meat is done, return the cooked onion mixture to the pan. Add the celery, carrots, and all meat to the pan. Stir to combine.
- In a small bowl, combine ancho and chipotle chili powders, cumin, oregano, cinnamon, and cocoa powder.
- In a large bowl, combine the beef broth, tomato paste, tomatoes, wine, and Worcestershire. Stir in dried seasonings. Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. Add more chili powder or cayenne pepper if you want the mixture hotter. Just remember that it will get hotter with time so don’t add too much now.
- Pour tomato-chile mixture into pot with meats and cook over low heat for 1 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until the meats are tender and flavors have blended. Skim any accumulated grease from top and discard.
- Sprinkle the cornmeal over the top of the chili and stir in, breaking up any lumps. Simmer, stirring until thickened, about 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add a pinch of sugar if it is too acidic.
- Portion into bowls and pass garnishes. Allow people to add the black beans if they want (they help cool it down) or they can eat them on the side. Garnish the bowls with lime wedges for a pop of color and splash of bright flavor. Add a hunk of cornbread and you are ready to go!
- For cornbread
- 1 cup yellow cornmeal
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup cake flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 tbsp baking powder
- 1-1/2 tsp salt
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 3 oz (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- For glaze
- 3 oz (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/3 cup water
- Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9-by13-inch baking pan with aluminum foil and spray foil with pan spray.
- Sift together cornmeal, all-purpose flour, cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt two times. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs. Whisk melted butter into eggs in a slow stream. Whisk in oil, milk, and buttermilk. Whisk in dry ingredients just until combined.
- Scrape batter into the pan and bake for 30 minutes. Spin pan from front to back and continue to bake for 10 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
- To make the glaze: While cornbread is baking, melt butter in a medium saucepan. Add honey and water, and whisk until blended.
- When cornbread is done, remove from oven and poke holes all over the bread, about 1/2 inch apart, with a toothpick. Brush with the glaze and cool.
- Yield: (makes one 9-by-13-inch pan)