Get ready for the cold with a Big Pot of Chili and a wedge of terrific Cornbread.
We’re bracing for an Arctic blast here this weekend. And nothing says “Let’s make a big pot of Chili” like an overnight drop below freezing. Now there are a couple of chili recipes on Chewing the Fat that are awfully good. There’s Monte’s Bourbon Chili and Texas Beef Brisket Chili, the latter of which comes with song lyrics begging you not to use beans when you attempt a real Texas chili. You’ll find links to those recipes right after the recipe for this one. But always anxious to try something new, I thought I’d dig deeper and see what I could dig up. Almost immediately, I came upon a recipe for “American” Chili Con Carne. It was from the UK which led me to believe it had likely nowhere near the heat content thought desirable in this country.
Kid-Friendly, this Chili is a bowl that will warm everyone up.
I was certainly right about that. I was hard-pressed to see how they called it “Chili”. But since my first forays into Chili making were truly adult affairs with their Bourbon and spice quotient, I was looking for something more kid-friendly. That led to a batch of Con Carne that tasted as bland as unseasoned chopped meat. I did quite a bit of doctoring to the original recipe. In my chili, for some variety in texture and deeper beef flavor, I add flank steak cut into strips. I also put big chunks of sweet red and yellow peppers in my chili. It adds another dimension in texture. I was judicious in using any heat-inducing additions and ended up with a terrific bowl of chili. Our grandson Mason pronounced it “Not spicy at all, just really good tasting”. Need I say I was so pleased I thought I’d send it out to you.
And you thought Chili Con Carne was Mexican? Why Mexicans don’t think so…
You would think that “Chili Con Carne”, consisting entirely of Spanish words would have come to Texas from Mexico but oh no…. in Mexico, Chili Con Carne is found in only a very few restaurants that cater to American tourists. In fact in a book called Diccionario de Mejicanismos, Chili Con Carne was defined as “detestable food passing itself off as Mexican, sold in the US from Texas to New York”. So there!
The first Chili Con Carne comes from deep in the heart of Texas.
The earliest versions of Chili Con Carne were made by very poor people in the state of Texas. A writer named J.C. Clopper wrote the first description of the chili he encountered in San Antonio, TX : “When they have to pay for their meat in the market, a very little is made to suffice for a family; this is generally cut into a kind of hash with nearly as many peppers as there are pieces of meat—this is all stewed together”. Note Mr. Clopper never even used the word “Chili”. San Antonio was the capital of chili. In the 1880s chili stands were set up in the city market from which chili or “bowls o ‘red” were sold by women called “Chili Queens” A ‘bowl o red’ set you back ten cents which included a glass of water and a piece of bread. Its fame spread and featured at the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893, the dish was a major attraction.
Chili Parlors literally kept people alive during the Great Depression
By 1900, there were chili joints all over Texas and by the 1920s there was hardly a town that didn’t have a Chili Parlour, most of which were very simple affairs often just a shed or room with a counter and some stools. Credit is often given to chili joints for meaning the difference between starving to death and living through the Great Depression: Chili was cheap and the crackers it came with were free.
And don’t forget the Cornbread!
We’ll get to our chili recipe but first, nothing goes better with Chili than a wedge of the best cornbread I have ever eaten. Andrew found Alex Guarnaschelli’s recipe for Cast Iron Skillet Cornbread and put it together in under an hour’s time. The sweetness of the bread is a great contrast to the flavor of the chili. And because it’s cooked in a skillet a nice crust develops which separates this recipe from any pan-baked cornbread. The recipe follows the one for the Chili.
Cooking Advice for your Chili
Chili is one of those dishes that benefit from very long cooking times. So it’s a great time to call in the Instant Pot. You can, of course, use a slow cooker. But my objection to Slow Cookers is simply this: I have never seen a slow cooker recipe that involved meat that did not require sautéing the meat first. So cooking in the Slow Cooker always calls for some early morning preparation that, quite honestly, I don’t know how people find time to do. The Instant Pot has a saute function to brown the meat before pressure cooking it to perfection. At that time I add the final ingredient, big 1 ½ inch squares of red and yellow peppers. Here is the recipe:
American Chili Con Carne
A delicious take on a Texan classic that's kid-friendly yet still full of rich robust flavor
- 1 ½ lbs. ground beef 80 percent lean
- 1 ½ lb. Flank or hanger steak cut into strips 3 inches long and ¼ inch wide.
- or 3 lbs. ground beef 80 percent lean
- 2 large sweet onions, peeled, in large dice
- 4 carrots, peeled, diced
- 5 tbsps. Chili Powder
- 1 tsp. dried Thyme
- 2 tbsps. Ground Cumin
- 2 tbsps. Ancho Chili Powder
- 16 oz. Beef Stock or Broth
- 1 28 oz. can of Whole Tomatoes in Purée
- 3 tbsps. Tomato Paste
- 1/2 tsp. Red Chili Flakes or to taste
- 3 whole Red and/or Orange Sweet Peppers, cut into 1 ½ inch dice.
- Kosher Salt
- Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- For serving:
- Sour Cream
- Grated Cheddar Cheese
- Scallions, white and light green parts, thinly sliced.
- Step 1 Prep the onions and carrots.
- Step 2 Put a little olive oil in the bowl of an Instant Pot. Add the chopped onions, carrots, and beef. Thoroughly mix the entire combination and cook using the Saute function until the meat is completely browned.
- Step 3 Add the chili powder, thyme, cumin, ancho chile powder. Season with black pepper and salt. Saute a further few minutes. Add the beef stock, the tomatoes, purée and tomato paste. Set the Instant Pot on Pressure Cook and the timer for 25 minutes.
- Step 4 Release the pressure. Then add the peppers and cook on Saute until they are softened. Mind that you don’t burn the chili. Taste, correct the seasoning.
- Step 5 Serve in bowls with Sour Cream, Grated Cheddar Cheese and Scallions at the ready.
Alex Guarneschelli's Cast Iron Skillet Cornbread
A wonderful accompaniment to Chili Con Carne and just a great allround take on Cornbread
- 1 1/4 cups coarsely ground cornmeal
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/3 cup whole milk
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- Step 1 Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and place a 9-inch cast-iron skillet inside to heat while you make the batter.
- Step 2 In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
- Step 3 Whisk in the milk, buttermilk, and eggs. Whisk in almost all of the melted butter, reserving about 1 tablespoon for the skillet later on. Carefully remove the hot skillet from the oven. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees F. Coat the bottom and sides of the hot skillet with the remaining butter. Pour the batter into the skillet and place it in the center of the oven. Bake until the center is firm and a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 to 15 minutes and serve.