Ah, football season! The air is crisp; the spirals are perfect; the Mary’s are hailed! I could hardly tell you what the difference between a runningback and a tailback is, but my friends, I can really get into watching a game if there’s some good gameday tailgate food to be had. When football was on the roster in my house growing up, that meant a huge pot of chili simmering away on the stove all afternoon. And if we were having chili, you can bet your sweet spirited you-know-what that we were having cornbread with it. This chili is one of my all-time favorite comfort foods: hearty but not heavy; just the right amount of spicy; a perfect base for tons of toppings. Whether or not the game is on, a big batch of chili is always the right call.
1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin olive oil
1 lb ground chuck or ground round beef
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 28 oz can (or two 14 oz cans) chopped Roma tomatoes
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
2 cans (15 oz) kidney beans (or, a combination of kidney, pinto and black beans for 3 bean chili)
4 Tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 Tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste
1-2 cups water (optional)
1 jalapeño, seeded and finely minced (optional)
Shredded cheddar cheese
In a skillet or, preferably, cast iron Dutch Oven, heat the oil. Add the beef and cook, breaking it up with a spoon, until the fat has cooked off and the meat is able to brown. Next, add the onion and bell pepper, and cook until tender. Add the garlic, stirring to incorporate and making sure it doesn’t burn, about one minute. If you’re planning to add a jalapeño, now’s the time. Quickly stir in the tomatoes, kidney beans and seasonings. Bring the mixture to a boil and add the tomato paste. If the mixture looks too thick, add the water, one cup at a time. Allow the chili to simmer for 30 minutes to an hour, adding additional water until it reaches the desired consistency. Serve topped with all the fixin’s you like, alongside some hot buttermilk corn muffins.
Buttermilk Corn Muffins
1 1/4 cups yellow stone-ground cornmeal
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil or melted butter
1 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 425°. Make sure the eggs have been allowed to come to room temperature. Whisk together all the dry ingredients. Measure out the buttermilk, cracking the two eggs and whisking them together to combine, along with the oil (if using melted butter, add it directly to the dry ingredients). Slowly pour the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients, stirring together to make a smooth batter. Try not to over-stir. Using an ice cream scoop, measure out level scoops of the batter into a greased muffin tin, until each well is approximately 2/3 full. Bake 12-15 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a toothpick inserted into the top of a muffin comes out clean. Serve immediately with plenty of softened butter and a nice honey for drizzling.
Alternately, instead of muffins, you may pour the batter into a greased 8”x8” dish and bake for 15-18 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned and a toothpick comes out cleanly. Slice and serve immediately.