Over the past week, I had a new, nagging conundrum stuck in my head that kept me awake at night, and that conundrum was how I was going to make chili look sexy. It’s a real Catch 22 folks, and after a lot of research, Pinteresting, and going through Bon Appetit’s archives, I came to the conclusion that it can’t be done. However, don’t even worry, because at the very least, chili can be made to look at least presentable, and dare I say, appetizing (?), even if you have to cover it with lots of cheese and cornbread and bright jalapenos. ALSO, I think that Superbowl may be coming up which means I actually posted a holiday-appropriate recipe before said holiday occurred?!? *wow*
The original plan was to make this recipe last weekend, but then I unexpectedly came down with this strange, 24-hour flu that kept me in bed all of last Sunday. I think it worked out though, because not only was my recipe far better developed over the week, but it finally got cold in Reno, and chili was the answer! The clouds came out and made some perfect lighting for taking photos. It was so nice. I wish I could have cloudy days for photo-taking every week. It didn’t snow all that much in Reno itself, which is kind of a bummer, because I love when the city looks like a snow globe. But at the very least, it actually kind of feels like winter, and I may even have to wake up a little earlier tomorrow to scrape frost off my car windows! Imagine that. The lower temperatures made for some excellent cozying-up weather that forced me to lay on my couch eating pizza and watching Skin Wars most of yesterday and today, so I’d say I had a pretty kick-ass weekend. Is anyone else here really obsessed with Skin Wars and willing to admit it so that I don’t feel like a garbage person for watching almost an entire season this weekend?? Pls?
Part of the problem I’ve found with living in colder temperatures is the resistance to want to do anything outside, even if it’s just taking a walk or going to get coffee. On one hand, I get super stir-crazy and a little frustrated at myself for not being able to achieve the motivation to make it to the grocery store, but on the other hand, it helps me develop some really excellent recipes that actually get made in real life and not just in my head. This chili felt weird to make, because I always use my mom’s chili recipe, which is so easy and can be made with either ground beef or turkey depending on my mood. Making a different recipe almost felt like I was cheating, and I just couldn’t get over that I was making chili without tomato sauce in it. However, when my cousins gave me some of their coarse-ground beef, I knew I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and try a new recipe and maybe throw some beer in there for good measure. So I did. And it was great. And there’s dumplings in it!!!
Beef + Porter Chili with Cornbread Dumplings
for the dumplings:
1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 c. stoneground cornmeal
1/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 c. milk
1/4 c. butter, melted
1/2 c. cheddar cheese
1 c. corn
for the chili:
2 Tbs. flavorless oil
1 yellow onion, finely diced
1 jalapeno, finely diced
1 lb. coarse ground beef
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 15.5 oz. can beef broth
1 15.5 oz. can petite diced tomatoes
1 12 oz. bottle Porter, or other dark beer
6 oz. tomato paste
1 15.5 oz. can chickpeas
1 15.5 oz. can kidney beans
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
2-3 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. oregano
A few turns of black pepper
Salt, to taste
Cheddar cheese, extra jalapenos, scallions, cilantro, sour cream, etc. for topping!
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the milk and butter. Mix in the eggs until just incorporated, and stir in the cheese and corn. Set aside, and heat the oven to 350* F.
In a large, wide pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and jalapeno, stirring until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the beef, breaking it up with a spoon until no longer pink. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the beef broth, tomatoes, Porter, tomato paste, beans, and all of the spices. Bring it to a gentle simmer, and remove the chili from the heat.
Using an ice cream scoop, drop the cornbread batter around the top of the chili until there are 6 dumplings (you may have a little bit of leftover batter than can be baked up). Place the chili in the oven for about 25-30 minutes, or until the cornbread is set.
Ladle the chili and cornbread dumplings into bowls. Top with cheddar cheese, jalapenos, sour cream, or your other favorite toppings.
*Notes about this recipe*
- This recipe is best eaten day-of. Like most dumplings, the cornbread tends to fall apart in the fridge. I personally like the texture of cornbread mixed in my chili, but if you do not, I recommend baking the cornbread separately in a 8×8 pan at 350*F for about 25 minutes and placing the cornbread on top.
- I find that coarse-ground beef has a similar texture to stew meat. If you cannot find coarse-ground beef, I would recommend using stew beef, although regular ground beef would also be delicious.
- I used 1 Tbs. (3 tsp.) of cumin in my chili. However, I would start at 2 tsp. and add more as necessary depending on your preferences.
- If you don’t want to use beer, just use another can of beef broth!
This chili was made using Sanford Ranch Beef, a ranch in Northern Nevada that raises all-natural, pasture-fed, hormone-free cows! Their meat is affordable, healthy, high-quality, and I definitely recommend them if you live in Northern-Nevada. Check them out here or on Facebook!
xo Sara Lynn
*Song of the day: For You by SALES
A few years ago when I was in college, I worked at a restaurant called The Cheeseboard, which makes the best soups and my all-time favorite grilled cheese sandwich. When I worked there, we would essentially just make a giant pot of soup with whatever we had laying in the fridge. Some of my favorites included our potato soup which I would top with absurd amounts of cheddar and the tomato soup with I would obviously pair with the grilled cheese. One time, the chef made a stew with beef, wild rice, and all kinds of vegetables, and it was one of the best beef stews I ever done had. It also happened to be one of the days that I didn’t help make the soup, and I had no idea what he did, AND to top it all off, he never used recipes. SO I decided to make my own version, and I wrote a post about it, and it was good, but it wasn’t one of the best stews I ever had. After that, I pretty much just forgot about beef soup until approximately one week ago when I found a package of stew meat in my freezer.
After a few years of learning more about food, and re-reading my original beef + wild rice stew recipe, I realized I had done some cooking techniques that made little sense, and the ingredients were a little off for my tastes (3 years will do that to you I guess?). So I decided to remake the recipe with some different ingredients and some updated techniques, and I have to say, I think this maybe is one of the best beef stews I’ve ever had. Yay!!
For starters, I learned that a good quality stew meat + broth makes a big difference in taste! I used stew meat from Sanford Ranch Beef which my cousins own, but you can use whatever good-quality meat you can find. Also, try to find a nice wild rice mix without any added seasonings or preservatives – those will affect the overall flavor of the soup. For veggies, I use a mire poix with some squash, but next time I may add turnips or leeks! Basically, whatever you have in the fridge. Also, I serve the stew with either a mixed salad or charred broccoli and fresh, crusty whole-wheat bread!
The stew lasts well in the fridge and can even taste better after a few days. The rice usually soaks up some of the broth, so try to have extra on hand for leftovers!!
Beef + Wild Rice + Vegetable Stew
3 Tbs. olive oil
1 lb. beef stew meat, cubed
2 carrots, sliced
1 large celery stalk, chopped
1 onion, diced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. red wine
4-6 c. low-sodium beef broth*
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. marjoram or thyme, chopped
1/2 tsp. parsley, chopped
1/4 tsp. hot sauce or cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 c. wild rice
1/2 c. frozen peas
1 zucchini, diced
In a large soup pot, heat 2 Tbs. of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the beef and brown on all sides for a few minutes. Remove the beef with a slotted spoon, and set aside. If necessary, add the remaining oil and saute the carrots, celery, and onion cooking until soft. Add garlic, and let it cook until fragrant.
Lower the heat, and deglaze the pan with the red wine. Stir and let it cook for a few minutes. Add the beef broth, bay leaf, marjoram (or thyme), parsley, hot sauce, salt, and pepper. Stir in the wild rice and cover the pot with a lid. Simmer the stew for about 45 minutes or until the rice is tender.
When the rice is cooked, add the peas and zucchini. Cook for about 10 minutes or until the squash is tender. Serve with lots of crusty bread!
*I used 4 cups of broth which made a very thick stew. The rice soaked it all up for leftovers, so I had to add more liquid. If you like a brothy stew, add 6 cups!
xo Sara Lynn
*Song of the day: Piazza, New York Catcher by Belle & Sebastian