Tuesday, May 18, 2021

On Cooking Southern: Chili, Pico de Gallo, and Cornbread

Chili and CornbreadHearty Super Bowl eats for your training table

By Laurie Triplette

ldtriplette@aol.com

SOUTHERNISM OF THE WEEK:

Big ol’: A classic Southern descriptive prefix to just about any noun. As in Bubba’s big ol’ truck threw a rod on Highway 7 last Saturday night; or as in Pop left us a big ol’ mess when he dropped dead without writing a will.

SUPER BOWL SUNDAY

This week is the senior prom for fans of professional football. Super Bowl XLVII is coming up on Sunday, February 3, in the Big Easy… right in the middle of Mardi Gras parade season. To my great sorrow, we won’t be seeing a Manning quarterback or a Triplette zebra on the field this year. Nevertheless, the Magnolia State will be well represented in the Super Dome clash between the 49ers and the Ravens because Ole Miss’ Michael Oher and Miss. State’s Pernell McPhee are Ravens, Ole Miss’ Patrick Willis and Miss. State’s Anthony Dixon are 49ers, and Oxford’s own Steve Freeman will be the alternate back judge.

For many of our readers who aren’t trekking on down to the Crescent City, Game Day will be all about the Super Bowl parties, the food, the commercials, the half-time show, and those unofficial side bets with our local amateur bookies. That’s why the Old Bride considered devoting this week’s column to tasty tailgating-oriented party recipes. You know the foods; they include hot wings, pizza dip, BBQ sliders, roasted red pepper tapenade, etc. But whom would I be kidding? In my household, Super Bowl game-day food is no-frills, including only simple, all-in-one dishes and scoop-snacks. According to the Old Bride’s personal NFL ref, this day is ALL ABOUT THE GAME and the OFFICIATING. … Period.

Therefore, I cook up a big ol’ pot of chili, chop up some pico de gallo, ice down some locally brewed craft beer, and consider our culinary obligations complete. Then we settle down to watch the game. No talking allowed, except during half-time.

Hotty Toddy, y’all!

LAURIE’S CROWD CHILI

2 lb ground beef, combining 85% with 90-93% lean
1/2 c extra light olive oil or 1 stick butter
3 green bell peppers, chopped fine
3 large yellow onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
Four 28-oz cans of chopped or diced tomatoes
6-oz can of tomato paste
1 c water
3 T chili powder, or more, to taste
1 T ground cumin, or more, to taste
Cayenne pepper, to taste
1 to 1-1/2 tsp table salt
1/4 to 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 Bay leaves
1 T cocoa powder
3 cans of red beans (NOT kidney beans), drained
Tabasco to taste, OPTIONAL
Fiesta-blend cheese, grated for topping
Green onions, chopped, for garnish

Brown ground beef in olive oil or melted butter on medium heat in a large skillet. Stir continuously to prevent clumping. Drain off oil and fat. Add chopped onion, garlic and peppers. Continue cooking until onions are transparent. Turnout into stock pot and add the tomatoes, Bay leaves and spices. Combine tomato paste with a cup of water, and stir in. Bring back to a simmer and stir in the red beans. Lower heat and continue simmering, partially covered, about 2 hours. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking to bottom of the pot. (NOTE: Tomato paste contains sugars and will tend to scorch if not stirred.) Ladle chili into large soup bowls or cups; garnish with a sprinkle of cheese and green onion. Season to taste, if desired, with hot pepper sauce. Serve with a slice of chili corn bread, which also is tasty crumbled over the chili. YIELD: 10-15 servings. Freezes well.

PICO DE GALLO

4 medium-large Roma tomatoes, or 4 plum tomatoes, seeded, diced, and drained
3 to 4 ripe avocados, diced
1/2 c or more of diced white or red onion (I prefer red)
1/2 c chopped green onion
4  to 6 T diced yellow or red bell pepper, to taste
*1 Serrano or 1 large jalapeño pepper, carefully seeded and chopped
Pico de Gallo4 T fresh lime juice, or more, to taste
3 T chopped cilantro
1 T extra virgin olive oil, or extra light olive oil
Salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in a glass or stainless steel bowl. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving. Recipe keeps up to 4 days if sealed. Serve with hot tortilla chips, or as a salsa with salad greens and strips of smoked chicken.
*NOTE: Wear gloves when cutting, deseeding and slicing the jalapeño. Remove all the seeds, which are the heat source. Use milk and lemon or lime juice to remove all the pepper capsaicin from skin.

SOUTHWEST CORN BREAD

Chili and Cornbread1 c butter, softened
3/4 c white granulated sugar
4 eggs
1 c of all-purpose flour
1 c plain yellow or white corn meal (not self-rising)
2 T baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 can of cream-style corn
(or a can of cut corn pureed, with half the can liquid replaced with cream)
1-1/2 c diced green chilies (two 7-oz cans)
1/2 c Monterey jack cheese, shredded
1/2 c sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded

Cream butter, sugar and eggs in a large bowl. Sift dry ingredients together and mix into batter until smooth. Add creamed corn, chilies, and cheese in this order. Mix well. Pour batter into a greased 9-by-12-inch baking pan. Bake at 350˚F in preheated oven on lower rack for approximately 30-45 minutes, or longer, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove to rack to cool. Cut into squares in pan and serve with your favorite chili or entrée.

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