Monday, May 12, 2008

Chili on Cape Cod in May

Even though yesterday (Mother’s Day!) was barely warm enough to take a walk on the beach with my Mom, three of my kids and my granddaughter, today it was back to cold and gloomy. In fact, I’m sitting in front of a fire as I write this.

I can personally testify that it was pretty darn chilly on Cape Cod today because I spent several miserable hours outside. This was not by choice. A gust of wind picked up the table on my deck and slammed it down on its side about three feet from where it usually rests, turning my second floor deck (and the ground underneath it) into one great big glass mess.

Unfortunately these were not the shatter-proof little balls of glass that aren’t really very sharp. Oh, no. My sliced up knuckles are proof that one should never buy bargain patio furniture – or glass tables on Cape Cod.

On the Cape, the season of Spring really doesn’t exist, as far as I can tell. It goes from raw and rainy in December, to raw and rainy in April and May. But then one day, it miraculously warms up ever so slightly (like in mid-June!) and then before we know it summer is here and left hand turns require skillful planning and navigation. The fact that we have simply gorgeous Autumns to make up for it didn't comfort me today.

About an hour into my glass picking, I decided that the only thing I wanted for dinner was Chili. Even though I was far from done with the cleanup and realized that going barefoot in the back yard will now be impossible (picture a sad face here), the thought of Chili did make me happy, especially since I forgot what a production it is.

Making Chili should be a simple process, but not so much in my house where there is no such thing as one simple meal. Some nights it feels more like cooking in a restaurant than cooking for a family, and this was one of those meals.

My husband and I like traditional Chili – and we like it spicy. My daughters Jess and Julie will eat poultry and fish, but no red meat or pork. So I made an alternative batch with ground turkey. Then there is my son, Tommy, the boy who doesn’t eat anything. He hates beans, onions, peppers and spicy food. In fact the only thing he likes in Chili is the ground beef. So the third batch (yes, I made three different batches) was just ground beef, tomatoes and chili powder.

We serve it with grated cheddar on top and tortilla chips for dipping. Tonight Steve was inspired to make cornbread in our large cast iron skillet as well. He used a recipe he likes in the “Peace, Love and Barbecue” cookbook Julie bought him for Father’s Day two years ago. We’ve tried a lot of cornbread recipes and this is the best we found so far.


2 pounds ground beef
1 cup chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup chopped yellow pepper
1 finely chopped jalopeno pepper
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped habanero pepper
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 can cannelloni beans, drained and rinsed
1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon freshly ground Italian herbs
2 teaspoons kosher salt (or to taste)
1 teaspoon fresh ground cracked pepper

Brown ground beef until fat is rendered and drain. Add onions, garlic and all peppers and sauté until tender, about five minutes, stirring frequently. Add both cans of tomatoes and all the spices.

Simmer for one hour, adding a little water if the sauce gets too thick. Add both kinds of beans and simmer for about 20 minutes longer.

John Hudgin’s Skillet Cornbread

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/4 cups coarsely ground yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
1/2 cup of cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a 9-inch cast iron skillet with 1 tablespoon olive oil.

Mix the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, egg and the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil. Combine the wet and dry ingredients until just mixed.

Place skillet in the oven for about 3 minutes or until hot. Don’t allow the oil to smoke or burn. Remove the skillet from the oven and pour in the batter. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cut into wedge slices and serve with plenty of butter.

1 comment:

Scarlett and Annabelle Darling said...

That looks SO good! You're right about the weather - brrrrrrr. I've got a pashmina wrapped around me and am waiting to crawl into bed and get warm. Maybe I'll stay there until June.

Thanks for warming my spirits. Even if my fingers are cold I can dream of warm chili.
Candy xo