It’s rainy and chilly already here in Maine. September is in the air, with all that that entails. The tips and tops of trees are bursting red, school has started, everywhere new endeavors are being taken up as the season begins to wind down. It’s the perfect cozy day to curl up with a book – I’m reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Just Kids – and cook up a pot of comfort food. I’d been wanting to do a turkey chili for some time, because we lately love, love ground turkey, but I fear it has a real inferiority complex, and with good reason. Ground beef makes a deep, dark, earthy, hearty chili. White chicken with green peppers becomes a lighter and picante stew. Is there a place for the other poultry in the realm of kettle cooking? I think so.
The other part of today’s experiment is cornbread, a completely foreign object to me. I always like cooking something that holds no meaning or magic, no nostalgia factor or familiarity and judge it solely on its merits. This one is packed with heat and cheese, how could that be bad? I had wanted to improvise and my original idea was to make a jalapeno upside down cornbread and add kernels of fresh, sweet corn, but I was intimidated. How do you approach a new dish, strictly adhering to a recipe or improvising? I generally am a risk taker, a non-measurer, a real Coltrane without all the drugs and genius. But not today. I didn’t want to mess up. I wanted the bread to be perfect, or at least as close to that ideal. What would you have done?
Adapted from a recipe on Epicurious
- glug of vegetable oil
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 1 red Anaheim pepper, minced
- 1 large red bell pepper, diced
- 3 grated garlic cloves
- 1.3 lbs ground turkey (85/15)
- 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
- 1 large fresh tomato, seeded and chopped
- 1 teaspoon tomato paste
- 2 cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
- kernels from two ears of corn
- 1 can Mexican beer
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 square semisweet dark chocolate, grated
- salt and pepper
In a large Dutch oven, I heated oil and cooked the onions, peppers and garlic on high until glistening and golden, about ten minutes. Then I added the turkey right into the mix and browned. Then went the beer, tomato products, beans, corn, broth, chocolate, salt and spices. I brought it to a boil and turned down the heat to a simmer, where it sat on the stove, bubbling for three hours. It’s there now, reducing, thickening, getting good.
Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread
adapted from an Ina Garten recipe
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 cups milk
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 sticks unsalted butter
- 3 cups grated cheddar cheese
- 3 chopped scallions, plus 1 more for the top
- 3 tablespoons minced jalapenos
- spray oil to grease the pan
I combined the dry ingredients (flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt) in one bowl, the wet (butter, milk and eggs) in another, and in a third bowl two cups of the cheese, scallions and jalapeno. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry, until just moistened and mixed through, then add the cheese and veggies. Allow the mixture to sit for twenty minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 and grease a 9 x 13 inch pan. (I only have a 9 x 9, so I reserved some of the batter). Pour batter into the pan, sprinkle with remaining cheese and the chopped scallion. Bake for 30-35 minutes, then cool and cut into squares.
I just came home from dance class and had a huge, juicy piece of cornbread. This stuff is good. Really good. Moist and rich, as you might expect from a cake with two sticks of butter and three cups of cheese. The chili is nice and spicy, but not burn your guts hot. Served with a dollop of sour cream, a squeeze of lime, and a slice of avocado, this is going to serve us well all through the wet and rainy second week of so-called autumn. I hope you like it. What are your favorite fall chili recipes?