Thursday, January 6, 2011

Chili-bottomed cornbread

I won the lottery this week. That $350 megamillion jackpot was just too tempting.  My first time playing, and I walked away with 150 big ones. On the downside, I am cursed now.  I played Hurley’s numbers from LOST and I’m not sure if the curse was worth the payout.

Luckily, I made this chili before the blight was laid upon us.  Winter is the time for stew and spice, so chili certainly fits the bill. Plus, ever since the caterer for our “It’s chili” ugly-sweater holiday office party fell through, I’ve been feeling the saucy beans. Side bar bonus: This is an ingenious way to get side and main into one dish—veggies, meat, beans, and cornbread all in one pot.  Miraculous! (Props to Martha Stewart, yet again.)

I packed my chili with a bunch of fresh vegetables (what up, all you resolution-laden readers!).  Keep in mind that the sauce doesn’t get as thick and tomatoey with the fresh stuff.  Mom had a problem with that aspect of my dish; I told her it was “deconstructed” and that seemed to make her feel better. 
Another plus: the beef can be substituted out for a leaner meat, such as turkey, or you could easily do away with the con-carne concept and swap in a can of kidney beans.  Regardless of the chili base you use, what makes this dish a standout is the cornbread baked on top.  This sweet dumpling is a classic complement to the hot chili—and sharpness from the melted cheddar doesn’t hurt, either. 
So we dined quite well on this humble feast, not knowing then that it was our last meal in what was once domestic bliss.  We are slaves of our own greed now, weighed down by our regrets.  The curse has us in its dark clutches.  Everything is black. 

I mean that literally. I’m writing this in the glow of my laptop’s battery-powered screen because Alex blew one of two fuses in our home trying to move his 27-inch supercomputer into our bedroom so we could watch the netflix like sultans perched on purple velvet pillows.  We have since lost power to the bedroom, bathroom, dining room, and kitchen.  The extension cord that normally feeds my laptop has been repurposed to keep our all-important ice cream from melting. Alex is running around the house in his underroos, cranking our charge-and-go lantern and whittling pencils into electrician tools.  At least he stopped vacuuming the socket.  In the meantime, all extraneous electronics have been decommissioned so as not to overpower the one working breaker—we will fight this curse for as long as we have energy… in our limbs.
Lucky Chili with Genius Cornbread

For the cornbread (from
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 cup chopped scallions
¼ cup sharp cheddar cheese

In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients: cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the wets: buttermilk, oil, egg, and scallions.

For the chili:
¾ of a pound of ground beef
1 shallot
4 scallions
2 ribs of celery
1 big carrot (3 small carrots)
3 plum tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1.5 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon cayenne
2 cups chicken stock
1 can black beans (drained)

Brown meat in Dutch oven.  Remove and set aside.  Add shallot, celery, and carrot. Season with salt and pepper.  Let soften about ten minutes.  Add scallions and tomatoes. Cook about five more minutes until the tomatoes break down.  Add chili powder, paprika, cayenne, and tomato paste, stirring until combined.  Add stock and browned beef, scraping the bottom of the pan.  Simmer for half an hour.  Stir in beans and top chili with cornbread batter. Finish with shredded cheddar.  Bake in 400 degree oven for 20 minutes.


  1. Wow. I hope you spent that money on something fabulous and enjoyed it while you had the chance.

    The chili looks delicious. I especially love the photo of your colorful ingredients. Very pretty.

  2. Thanks for the vegetarian twist! Great and simple call. This looks tasty!

    This post cracks me up, probably because I can picture it so well in actuality. Hope your power is back! And please don't let a meteor kill me. I also do not want a ankle broken in however many places.

  3. Hanzi, I think Sarah has a point. If you're cursed, I'd get that money out of your savings account and put it toward something that will get you some much needed good karma. Buy your mom lunch.