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Simple Chili and Moist Buttermilk Cornbread

January 4, 2010

It has been cold here in NY, like much of the country. Dry and cold. A lot like home (Fargo) actually, only with trees and temps that are not 100 degrees colder than the interior of your house is (supposed to be). Around here, the outside is only 50 degrees colder than inside (70 degrees).

At any rate, I had some ground beef that needed using up and a carton of buttermilk resting in my fridge, so I sprang into action! I actually worked fairly late tonight, but the meal, including washing a few dishes, was done in less than an hour and was essentially made from scratch, with a few “cheating” shortcuts.

Here are the recipes:

Simple Chili:

1 lb. ground beef
1/2 a large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can dark red kidney beans
1 can black beans
1 small can (8 oz.) tomato paste
1-2 stalks celery, sliced (optional, but I think it adds a nice crunch)
1 packet chili seasoning mix (I used McCormick’s mild chili seasoning because I am a wuss when it comes to spicy foods)

Optional Toppings:

shredded cheddar cheese
sour cream
Tabasco sauce

Brown beef in a pot and drain fat (if you want to dirty up another pan, do it the easy way in a skillet, or, if you’re lazy like me, do it the “easy” way – straight in the stock pot and spoon out the fat). Add onions and saute until translucent. Add undrained beans, tomatoes, tomato paste, seasoning mix, and celery. Simmer until “done” or heated through and thickened. Serves 4-8 (depending on hunger and ability to digest large quantities of meat and beans).

Moist Buttermilk Cornbread:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow corn meal
1/4-1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup heavy cream (I used half & half) OR 1 cup packed shredded cheese
2 large eggs
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter melted and cooled slightly

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter an 8×8 pan. Whisk all dry ingredients together to blend. In a separate bowl, whisk wet ingredients to blend (if your buttermilk or cream are very cold, your butter will likely solidify slightly, don’t worry, it’s not curdling). Add wet to dry and stir until just incorporated. Do not over mix. Some small lumps are okay, they will absorb the liquid during cooking.

Bake 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick or paring knife inserted into center comes out clean (that last bit is important, even if it looks done, test it! It has a tendency to stay wet inside). Serves 6-9.

There! It was a fabulous dinner. The chili was not too spicy but was nice and tomato-y. The recipe on the seasonings packet called for just the beef, one can of kidney beans, either two small cans of tomato sauce OR a can of diced tomatoes, and the seasoning. BORING! I’m so glad I doctored it up a bit. Especially adding the tomato paste. It would have been totally lifeless without it!

The cornbread is also delish. It is definitely not sweet (despite the amount of sugar added) and is not dry and grainy either, like some cornbreads can be. It is quite dense and very, very moist and smooth. It’s the dairy. So good! I had mine with the very last droplets of our bottle of pure maple syrup. It’s a habit I picked up as a child after reading Laura Ingalls Wilder. Maple syrup is like, 8 million times better than molasses as a topping anyway.

What’s that? You want to see a picture? Okay!

You can’t see it in this picture, but I’m actually holding the plate. Why? Because yes, my kitchen table was that messy.

The boy and I walked to the library after dinner. I returned “Little Women,” which I finished reading just before New Year’s in Ohio. I also picked up a few more books, food-related this time. Ruth Reichl’s Garlic and Sapphires, From Hardtack to Home Fries: An Uncommon History of American Cooks and Meals by Barbara Habler, and a very interesting-looking one from 1977 entitled, The Seasonal Hearth: The Woman at Home in Early America by Adelaide Hechtlinger, which looks fascinating. I’m starting with that one. Right now. : )

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