Cold-Weather Supper – Chili and Cornbread

by Celia Hayes

On those few days in South Texas when the weather is cold, dank and rainy, our thoughts for what to have for supper turn to something solid and warming: chili, which goes with cornbread like chocolate and peanut butter, like popcorn with the movies, and like salsa and corn chips. Over the years, we've experimented with various chili recipes – there was one from the Sunset Favorite Recipe books which called for angostura bitters and beer, another rather good but strictly vegetarian one which featured kidney beans, fresh corn and zucchini squash – but the absolute best chili recipe we have discovered was taken from Ree Drummond's Pioneer Woman, which was showcased on the Food Network a few weeks ago, and which we experimented with by adding some of the alternate ingredients. It makes a good, meaty and flavorful chili, without much fuss.

Basic Winter Evening Chili

Brown in a large skillet or Dutch oven: 1-2 lbs ground lean beef and 2 cloves chopped garlic. When the meat is done, drain off any excess fat, and add: 1 tsp dried or ground oregano, 1 Tbsp ground cumin, ¼ tsp cayenne pepper, and 1-2 Tbsp chili powder, and an 8 or 14 oz can tomato sauce. Stir together, cover the pot and simmer for an hour or so. If the mixture gets too dry, add ½ cup water – but we used beer instead. While the meat mixture summers, mix in a separate bowl ¼ cup masa (corn flour) with ½ cup water. At the end of the hour, add the masa/water mixture to the chili, along with two cans drained red kidney beans, and a medium-sized can of Rotel diced tomatoes and chilies. Simmer together for ten or fifteen minutes, and serve with grated cheddar cheese and chopped green onions and cornmeal muffins on the side.

Cornmeal Muffins

This recipe comes from my ever-faithful Joy of Cooking 1975 edition, and we used real butter and Lamb's Stone Ground Yellow Cornmeal, (which is manufactured locally, just up the road in Converse) and baked it in a cast-iron muffin pan.

Pre-heat oven to 425, and lightly brush muffin pan surfaces with oil or melted butter. Put pan into the oven to heat also.

Combine together: 1 cup all-purpose flour, ½ tsp baking soda, 1 ½ baking powder, 1 tsp salt, and 1 Tbsp sugar. Yes, I know that hard-core Southerners consider sugar in cornbread to be an apostasy

In another small bowl or glass measuring cup: 1 ½ cups buttermilk or ¾ each cup water and yoghurt, 1 egg, and 3-4 Tbsp melted butter. Combine, and pour into pre-heated, sizzling-hot pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Made with Lamb's Cornmeal, the muffins came out with a crispy crust and a very tender center, and hardly needed anything else spread on them. The only cornmeal that made better was some stuff that I bought at Wimberley Market Days from a vendor who had a little portable grist-mill and ground corn and wheat flour on the spot – but hasn't been seen there for a year or so. HEB stores have Lamb's Corn Meal now; it costs a bit more than the usual, but it's worth it. Bon Appetite!