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Chili was the first dish I ever loved enough to create on my own.  My mom didn’t make it very often, but they served it at school with those crazy good cinnamon rolls and it was my absolute favorite meal from the cafeteria.  When I was 13 or 14, I decided it was something I could surely figure out.   My dad helped me  with the shopping and I set to work figuring the ingredients and quantities.  When I think back on it, it makes me smile.  He was my guinea pig and ate it like a champ.  It must have tasted good enough to inspire me to keep trying.  It’s still a quest. 

Yesterday I made a big batch of my favorite “Texas” chili.   At the last minute, I remembered reading about cumin polenta somewhere, but where??  I tore through several cookbooks and my database before deciding it was in a magazine somewhere – lost for all eternity.  So I faked it – and it was fabulous!  I have a feeling this will be the requested side from here on out.  It was such a great combo!

My chili varies, but here’s what I used for this delicious batch.

Beef Chili

1 lb. ground beef  (I used organic, grass-fed)
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can pinto beans
1 can refried beans
2 cans of water
4 Tbsp chile powder
2 or 3 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
2 tsp chipolte chile flakes (this made it pretty spicy – cut it back if you want or use smoked paprika)
salt & pepper at the end to taste.

Garnish as desired.  Some of my favorites:  cilantro, raw onion, cheddar cheese, olives, avocado, black olives, sour cream, chopped hot pepper, bacon bits, fresh tomato,  etc. etc.

To prepare, simply saute the meat, onion & garlic.  Add the canned ingredients and seasonings – bring to a boil then simmer for 2-3 hours.   I use a cover and remove it near the end to thicken up the chili if necessary.  Also, sample the seasoning after it’s been simmering for at least on hour and tweak if necessary.

When the chili was almost ready, I chopped up some garnishes then started the polenta. 

Polenta:

1 quart chicken stock
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 cup yellow cornmeal (I used the coarser grind)
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup whole milk

Combine the stock and the cumin in a large saucepan on medium-high heat. When it boils, reduce the heat to low;  very gradually whisk in the cornmeal. Cook, stirring constantly, until it starts to thicken.  This took around 5 minutes.  Stir in butter and milk. Salt to taste.

To serve,  spoon a generous amount of polenta in the bottom of a flat bowl,  using the spoon to make an indentation in the center.   Ladle chili over the top and garnish as desired.  Call the troops and wait for the nods of approval.  This is sooo good!  Try it with your favorite chili recipe.

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