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Three cheers for chili and cornbread

Posted: January 11, 2011 10:15 p.m.
Updated: January 12, 2011 4:55 a.m.
Merry Graham adds a dollop of sour cream to her hot, hearty Italian artichoke chili, a recipe inspired by the recent, unexpected snowstorm in the Santa Clarita Valley. Merry Graham adds a dollop of sour cream to her hot, hearty Italian artichoke chili, a recipe inspired by the recent, unexpected snowstorm in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Merry Graham adds a dollop of sour cream to her hot, hearty Italian artichoke chili, a recipe inspired by the recent, unexpected snowstorm in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Graham adds some chopped herbs to her roasted poblano Anaheim chili. Graham adds some chopped herbs to her roasted poblano Anaheim chili.
Graham adds some chopped herbs to her roasted poblano Anaheim chili.
Eggnog cornbread can be made in a 12-muffin tin for convenient individual servings. Eggnog cornbread can be made in a 12-muffin tin for convenient individual servings.
Eggnog cornbread can be made in a 12-muffin tin for convenient individual servings.

When snow fell in the Santa Clarita Valley recently, what foods did you crave while mesmerized by the novelty of watching little white puffs floating from the sky? My tummy demanded chili and cornbread, so I made a very unique Italian artichoke chili and some eggnog corn muffins. (Hey, I had left over holiday eggnog that I had to use up).

The artichoke chili was an experiment, too, and turned out so delicious I made another pot the following day when four guests dropped by for lunch.

So what’s your favorite kind of chili?

I took a poll on Facebook, asking friends if they preferred red, green or white chili. I also asked what ingredient they had to have in their chili pot. Their answers varied so much I can’t claim a winning ingredient or the most loved style of chili.

Twenty-one friends mentioned as many different ingredients: cilantro, sour cream, black beans, red beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, hominy, chipotle, roasted chili, green pepper, cumin, allspice, cinnamon, chocolate, molasses, brown sugar, pepperoni, buffalo, shredded beef, onions and “something spicy” Next time I make chili, I think I’ll mix all their favorite ingredients and call it Facebook Favorites chili.

So what is chili? Chili is defined as a stew-like dish that includes meat, chili peppers and sometimes beans. One of the earliest definitions was written in 1926 by J.C. Clopper, “This is generally a kind of hash with nearly as many peppers as there are pieces of meat — this is all stewed together.”

Texas is credited with the first accounts of chili, followed by California and New Mexico. Records were found by Everrette DeGolyer (1886-1956), a Dallas millionaire and a lover of chili, indicating that the first chili mix was concocted around 1850 by Texan adventurers and cowboys as a staple for hard times.

Hollywood is listed in the chili history books as the location of the most famous chili. Dave Chasen (1899-1973), owner of Chasen’s Restaurant, was an ex-Vaudeville performer who exchanged his starring performances for cooking the most talked about chili. He kept his famous recipe a secret for years.

Every Sunday he would make a batch and not allow anyone to watch. He would freeze the chili for a week, declaring it was best reheated. Chauffeurs and studio people, actors and actresses, would come to the back door of Chasen’s to buy and pick up the chili by the quart. Jack Benny, J. Edgar Hoover and Eleanor and Franklin D. Roosevelt, sought the recipe but were refused. It is said that during the filming of the movie “Cleopatra” in Rome, Elizabeth Taylor paid $200 in shipping to have 10 quarts of chili sent to her. (The original Chasen’s restaurant closed in April of 1995).

Someday I’d love to create a secret recipe chili and make it at a chili cook-off. Currently, there are around 500 chili cook-offs a year in the United States. Chili cook-offs have gained in popularity since their debut at the 1952 Texas State Fair in Dallas.

But until I figure out just the right spicy concoction using my Facebook friends’ favorite ingredients, I’ll keep stirring up my own recipes for unique, tasty pots of chili. But let it be known, I’m not waiting until the next snow.

Italian artichoke chili
Serves five

1 package (16 oz) hot
Italian sausage
1 cup chopped red onion
2/3 cup chopped fresh
1 cup chopped red bell
1 can (14.5 oz) diced
 tomatoes, not drained
1 can (15 oz) Great North
ern beans or white beans,
1 can (15 oz) kidney beans, drained
1 can (14 oz) artichoke
quarters, drained
1 can (4 oz) chopped black
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 teaspoons garlic salt
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon
Garnish: 1/4 cup fresh
chopped basil, 1 cup
grated mozzarella cheese

In a large, high-walled skillet, begin cooking sausage, onions and mushrooms on high. Break up sausage with spatula and cook for five minutes.
Lower heat to medium, add red peppers and cook for three minutes or until sausage is no longer pink.

Add tomatoes, beans, artichokes, black olives, chili powder, ketchup, garlic salt and basil; stir and cook for five minutes.

Turn heat to low, add lemon zest and lemon juice and cook for 10 minutes or for as long as you wish. Ladle into individual pasta or chili bowls; sprinkle chopped basil and grated mozzarella cheese on top.

Kickin’ rib eye chili
Serves eight

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cups cubed rib eye beef
1 cup chopped red onions
1/4 cup chopped garlic
1 tablespoon fresh ginger,
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground
3 tablespoons ancho chili
1 tablespoon chili pepper
1 tablespoon smoked
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 cup beer
1 cup chopped celery
3 cans (14.5 oz per can)
tri-blend beans (kidney,
pinto and black beans), not drained
1 can (14.5 oz) diced
1/4 cup ketchup

In a large high-walled skillet, heat olive oil on high, sauté rib eye, onion, garlic, garlic, and ginger for four minutes. Add Worcestershire, cumin, cinnamon, ancho chili powder, chili pepper, smoked paprika, and salt, cook for four minutes.

Pour meat mixture into a slow-cooker, stir in beer, celery, beans, tomatoes, and ketchup and cook on medium for three hours, stirring occasionally.

Roasted poblano Anaheim chili
Serves five

2 poblano peppers
2 Anaheim peppers
8 whole cloves, peeled
1 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups boneless chicken
breast or thighs, cut in
1-inch pieces
½ cup chopped white
1 cup chicken broth
2 cans (14.5 oz) Great            Northern beans, undrained
1 can (14.5 oz) pinto beans,     drained
1 can (14.5 oz) white hominy, drained
1/2 tablespoons kosher
1/2 tablespoon ground
2 tablespoons ground

Cut peppers lengthwise, remove seeds and place on cooking sheet. Add whole garlic, and broil on high for five minutes or until peppers are blistered and garlic is turning a little brown.

Remove from oven and place a piece of foil over peppers to allow steaming; rest for five minutes, and peel.

Place garlic and peppers in blender and finely mince.

Heat olive oil on high in a high-walled skillet. Sauté chicken and onions for five minutes.

Add minced peppers and garlic; cook for three minutes. Meanwhile, in the same blender with bits of peppers and garlic, combine chicken broth and one can of Great Northern beans; puree until almost smooth.

Add to chicken along with remaining ingredients. Cook for one hour on low. Garnish with cilantro, cheddar cheese and crushed tortilla chips.

Tomato and chili cornbread with spicy chive honey butter
Yields 12 muffins

1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 1/4 cup all-purpose
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup freshly grated
 medium cheddar cheese
1 can (10 oz) diced toma
toes and green chilies
2 eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup melted butter
1 cup softened butter
1 teaspoon hot sauce
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line 12-cup muffin tin (or grease).

In a large bowl, thoroughly mix cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, soda and salt. Stir in cheese, separating any clumps of cheese.

Make a well in the center of the dry mixture; set aside.

In a blender, blend tomatoes and chilies on HIGH until smooth.

Pour one cup puree into bowl and whisk with eggs, buttermilk and butter.

Add remainder of the puree to any chili you are making. Pour wet ingredients into and stir until just mixed. Pour 1/3
cup of cornbread mixture into each muffin cup. Bake for 15-18 minutes. Meanwhile, blend one teaspoon hot sauce and honey until smooth; stir in chives. Remove muffins from oven; cool in tin for five minutes.

Run a knife around edges of each muffin and gently remove. Serve warm with plenty of spicy honey chive butter.

Cranberry upside-down cornbread with marmalade mascarpone
Serves eight

1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup brown sugar1
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 1/3 cup unbleached
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup white sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 whole eggs
1¼ cup low fat milk
1/3 cup melted butter
8 ounces mascarpone
Italian cheese
3 tablespoons orange

Adjust oven rack to center of oven. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Over medium-high heat in a 10-inch cast iron skillet melt butter. Sprinkle brown sugar and cranberries, set aside. Whisk flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk egg, milk, and butter; pour over flour mixture and whisk just until mixed. Spoon batter on top of cranberries; bake for 22-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean when cornbread is poked in the center.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, thoroughly mix mascarpone with orange marmalade.

Allow cornbread to cool in pan 3 minutes. Loosen sides of cornbread with a knife and invert onto a large serving plate.
Cut into individual servings.

Serve cornbread with a dollop of orange mascarpone and a spoonful of orange marmalade. Serve warm. 

Eggnog cornbread
Yields 12 muffins

2/3 cup oil
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2-cup all-purpose
3/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup eggnog
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease 12-cup muffin pan. In a bowl, cream oil and sugars. Beat in eggs and salt. Mix in flour, cornmeal, and baking powder.

Stir in eggnog and mix batter just until smooth. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until tops of muffins are lightly browned.


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